How come nobody told me!

PaintBar, Madison, Wisconsin, October 15, 2017

PaintBar, Madison, Wisconsin, October 15, 2017

The other night I parked in front of PaintBar. It's a place I've driven past a thousand times. Walked past it too without ever really looking inside. 

I assumed it was a community art center of some sort. I assumed they used the word "Bar" in the same way that Apple uses it in "Genius Bar." If you've ever been to the Genius Bar, you know it's not a bar at all. Nor is it especially genius. I'd have suggested "Apple Condescending Nerd Table" as a more accurate name but, you know, marketing.

Anyway, I was parked in front of PaintBar and I glanced in the window as I passed. What's that I spy? With my little eye? A bottle of Citradelic IPA next to an easel? Can it be that PaintBar is an actual bar? A woman saw me standing outside like a dope and waved me in. And just like that, my painting career was underway.

For 15 bucks they set me up with a canvas and as much paint as I wanted to slather. It was late, on a Sunday, so there were only a few of us there. I have to admit I was a little uncomfortable when the woman who got me started came back to see "my work." I am, I know, a shitty painter. (Or at least I was the last time I checked in middle school.) Her response? "I love how you're taking it in an abstract direction!" She seemed to think I had some sort of choice in the matter. But it made me feel good anyway, or at least good enough to continue.

The fact is, I really enjoyed painting. The whole time I was there, I kept thinking "How come nobody told me!"

Except: I've always known painting existed as a thing. And I knew PaintBar, based on the name alone, was probably worth some additional investigation. I just never gave painting, or PaintBar, a try.

The reasons are familiar: I was too busy to look into it. I was too cool to look stupid. I was too focused on what's next to look at what's right in front of me. None of these are good looks.

But long story short, I gave it a go. Now the world has one more shitty painter. I have one more thing I'm shitty at. And that all sits just fine with me.

Oh Eaux Claires!

I spent some magical time in Eau Claire, Wisconsin this past weekend. I wasn't aware that I needed a weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, magical or otherwise. But ho-lee-shit. As it turns out I needed a magical weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. 

Eaux Claires is the music festival Bon Iver built. In its third year, the Justin Vernon created/curated event is unlike any I've experienced. The musical portion, as you'd expect given the event's pedigree, was eclectic, cohesive, and stellar throughout. You want Chance the Rapper? Yup, he's a friend of the fam. How about five tenor saxophones playing a surprisingly moving 45-minute drone note in the woods? They got that too. 

Although the music was fantastic, the part that's stuck with me the most is the forest. Step away from the stages and you'll find a mulchy network of trails leading to all kinds of art installations and random whatnot. Some of the ideas fit in the woods perfectly: wooden sculptures, feather poetry, a box of crickets with a mic and a big-ass speaker. Other ideas didn't fit, also perfectly: a full Sconnie living room, for example, playing an old packer game on the hi-fi. Or a Mom's booth, staffed by Mom's who were there to offer sunscreen and life advice and games of Connect 4.

A little precious? Yes! Sometimes, though, a little preciousness works wonders.

Light Painting. Darren Pearson. Holy crap.

If you spend many nights outside, and I hope you do, at some point you'll try messing around with longer camera exposures.

20 years ago, that involved slow film, slow shutters, and lots of disappointing trips to the Fotomat. 10 years ago, it would take a digital camera with a good manual mode. Today, you can just use your mobile telephone/flashlight/camera/jukebox device!

If you're just looking to futz around and get a feel for it, I'd recommend the Slow Shutter app for the iphone. It'll put you back $1.99 but let you do pretty much anything you want related to long exposures. You'll need a tripod too. (I personally like the smaller Joby options but cheaper ones work fine, as does pretty much any stable area to place your phone.) Once you're set up, grab some different light sources and start messing around. And... this concludes the tutorial!

Now for inspiration, let's get to Darren Pearson. AKA Darius Twin. AKA a guy that's definitely not messing around. He creates the coolest creatures you could ever hope to see using nothing but light. In doing so, he also creates a momentary window into an achingly beautiful alternate reality that I so wish was real. 

Darren was originally inspired by Picasso's famous light paintings and it shows, in the most magical ways.

Just as impressive as his work, Darren's built a career, and business, around light painting. Another shining example of "do what you love, and the rest will come."

You can see more of his work right here yo.

The work of Dan Pearon, aka darius Twin.

The work of Dan Pearon, aka darius Twin.

Mesmerization and cracks in time

You may have noticed a dip in activity around these parts as of late.

I'd like to attribute it to several months at sea with only occasional wifi access. Or maybe an extended session with a purloined case of Plantation Pineapple Rum. But alas, no. Shit just got busy, as shit does.

To help stay sane during this stretch, I leaned heavily on a new ukulele. She's a real beauty, wonderfully figured willow, in the tenor size: a bit bigger than the itty bitty soprano most people think of when they think of a ukulele. To be clear, when it comes to the ukulele I'm not what you'd call "talented." Or even "a musician." I mostly just fall in love with certain chord progressions and loop them over and over. There's nothing fancy about it whatsoever. As Leonard Cohen put it: "It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift." But it's mesmerizing to me. And it can make 20 minutes feel like I just spent an entire weekend away.

The other thing I started dabbling with recently is meditation. I liked it from the start, combining the breath awareness of yoga (and freediving for that matter) with the blankness of driving four chords into the ground on a ukulele. In its own way, meditation is mesmerizing too. An hour spent meditating can feel like a lifetime, in the best possible way. 

It's an interesting word "mesmerize." One of those that sounds like what it means. It originated with Franz Mesmer who was a German physician (1734-1815). He had a theory of energy transfer between animate and inanimate objects that he called animal magnetism. In 1843, Scottish physician James Braid expanded the theory to include hypnotism which... ah hell, Wiki page here.  My main point: Mesmerization = Hypnotism. I'll move on. 

When we're mesmerized by something, it's like discovering a tiny crack in time – a place to explore, or just hide within, that's completely removed from the machinations of the day. Fly fishing, drum circles, laying on the ground and looking up at the trees...they've all provided me with spiritual hidey holes over the years. Places to expand or recover or just chill tf out. 

Invisible Oregon, the video below, did the same thing for me this morning. 

For the record, I didn't think I needed to see any more time lapse videos in my lifetime. Of course many of them are beautiful.  But at a certain point, I came to the conclusion that I've probably gleaned everything there is to learn from fast clouds and twitchy trees. I was wrong about that.

Invisible Oregon was shot by Sam Forencich using infrared converted cameras. They capture the infrared portion of the spectrum which produces amazingly ethereal imagery. It exists somewhere between conventional and thermal photography, both technically and visually (here you go nerds). 

But "hey, pink trees!" is far from the whole thing. Sam's landscapes are stunners, the edit is fantastic, and the sound design takes it all to a higher level. 

I truly find it, yep, mesmerizing. If you could use a little escape, I'd suggest full screen mode, some headphones, and seven uninterrupted minutes to climb inside. 

Here's to craftsmen

Oh I like craftsmen. Especially those who combine art and utility with a personal passion for some weird subset of something or another.

In the past I've written about a maker of musical ice instruments, a kayak builder who uses ancient methods, and I seem to remember some beautiful kooks who crafted an entire orchestra out of vegetables, although damn if I can find the link.

Today, we've got Mike Parris. He was a Carnegie Mellon robotics engineer working on Mars rovers (smarty pants!) when he decided it would be cooler to craft custom skis and snowboards for people instead. Today he runs Igneous Skis out of Jackson, Wyoming. They limit production to around 100 pairs a season which means these are some freaking beauties. 

Sea change: The photography of Sarah Lee

The earth is 71 percent water.

The human body is 60 percent water.

For the next several months, in my neck of the woods anyway, both of these things will be frozen solid. 

Before I get going here, let me just say that I'm a big fan of ice. Ice is one of the few things I like in my cocktail (other than the cocktail itself). I appreciate what ice has done for hockey. I enjoy cutting holes in ice and extracting fish. But goddamnit anyway. In the end, I prefer water when it's moving around. When it's pushing me this way and that. I prefer water when it's alive.

Case in point is the work of photographer Sarah Lee. She's born and based on the Big Island of Hawaii and her love of moving water comes through in every image. Her still photos are amazing. 

And the video at the top of this post? Yowza. It's a teaser for a short film she collaborated on called Kainos which, as far as I can tell, hasn't been released. But oh man I'd love to see it.

Earlier this year I wrote about freediving photographer Daan Verhoeven. His work, to me, carries serious weight. There's a stillness to what he does – an almost religious sense of gravity. It's stunning.

Sarah's work is stunning too, but in an entirely different way. It's an outright celebration of moving water – swirls of slivering beauty and brute force and the lucky ones that have found their place comfortably within it. 

Sarah was kind enough to let me share her images. Not only that, she signed off her note with "mahalo nui." Some people are just cool like that.

Check out more of her work, underwater and alongside it, on her site.

Let's dance. Yes?

I know what you've been thinking...

"Bring Limes" is okay I guess, but it could really use a few more Friedrich Nietzsche quotes.

Well, have I got just the thing for you!

“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

So with no further ado, I present Matt Bray, this perfectly silly dancing guy that will make you happier than Nietzsche ever did, even during your angsty freshman year of college when all you did was quote him and Kierkegaard and Morrissey, like some goof-ass, when you could have been dancing instead.

Can't find the perfect island? Make your own!

Happy Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, July 18th, 2013

Happy Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, July 18th, 2013

A while ago I wrote about finding the perfect island to live on. One of the assumptions I made is that the perfect island actually needs to exist in order for you to live on it. Wrongo! 

In 2013 we spent some time on Union Island which is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Union Island is an island that actually exists. But out in the Clinton harbor sits Happy Island which didn't exists until one guy, Janti, decided to build it. He started in 2002 with a pile of conch shells, a couple small palm trees, and a cooler full of beers that he'd sell to passing dinghies. Today, Happy Island is considered one of the classic Caribbean beach bars and a must-stop destination for anyone in the area. It's really a helluva story.

But it's the kind of story I assumed could only happen in a distant corner of a distant sea. The Caribbean consists of 28 different nations and more than 7,000 islands. I figure nobody's going to get too worked up about a guy building one more.

But surely, building my own island in North America would be frowned upon and/or wildly illegal. Then I came across this video and now I'm not so sure! Freedom Cove is a Wonka-esque island/compound/sustainable-living garden built by artists Catherine King and Wayne Adams in a cove on Vancouver Island. One main difference between Happy Island and Freedom Cove, besides latitude, is the fact that it's entirely afloat. I'm assuming there's some legal reasoning for that. I'll definitely need to look into it before I officially unveil my island nation of Limeland.

You can read more about Freedom Cove here. But start with this video!

Blue Highways + Last Exit To Elsewhere

I haven't read Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. Clearly though, I better. It's a book written by William Least Heat-Moon in 1982 which chronicles his late '70s roadtrip across America.

For a taste of it, we've got this damn fine video called Last Exit To Elsewhere. It features VO taken from the book, paired with footage filmmaker Dan Sadgrove shot while on a recent 5,000 mile road trip of his own. 

The tone, of both the VO and the visuals, are entirely different than your typical roadtrip video. The piece doesn't culminate with tight tan bodies leaping from cliffs into the sea. There's no final call to action. There's no Go For It Bro! There's just this tone, throughout. Of searching and sadness too. 

The video culminates with a realization: "I still dream... but I'm not restless anymore." Is it wisdom? Surrender? A bit of both I suppose. I've come to the same understanding myself after extended time on the road.

I imagine one of these times the feeling might stick for me. But not quite yet.

Daan Verhoeven: Rising to new depths

I'm not a religious person. But the photography of Daan Verhoeven has got me thinking about it. He specializes in images of freedivers. But to my eyes it seems he's capturing angels – rising and falling both.

I first discovered Daan's work on Instagram. For context, my typical Instagram session is a sliding scroll through my brain: a discombobulated mish-mash of aggressively filtered rum drinks, bomb-ass Sprinter van conversions, and women in bikinis holding fish. As you might guess, there's also plenty of diving photography in the mix.

But when a @daanverhoevenfreediver image shows up? It stops me in my tracks every time. The quality of light is what hits me first. He shoots using only natural light which, at depth, can be ridiculously dramatic. (I'd mention Caravaggio here but ain't nobody coming to Bring Limes to hear about Caravaggio.) Next is his sense of composition: the relationship between the divers and the space around them. With the boat above or the bottom below. With water. It's no surprise Daan is a freediver himself. There would be no other way to capture the spirit of the thing the way he does.

Finally, his images exude the gravity of freediving. There's an understood danger here, especially at the competitive level which is mostly what Daan shoots. Depths routinely reach more than 100 meters. Breath hold times can push 8 or 9 minutes. Deep water blackout is always a risk, and usually catastrophic, even for the best freedivers in the world.

My version of freediving is an entirely different thing. It's me vs. fish. And since the fish around here are almost always shallower than 30 or 40 feet, so am I. Of course, there are risks in anything (e.g. shallow water blackout). Realistically though? The worst case scenario for me on any given day? No ceviche for Johnny.

But still. The sensation of being at depth, at any depth, is a peaceful important thing for me. I don't know if my connection to water is rooted in the primordial, the prenatal, or something less profound.

But I know it feels just like Daan Verhoeven's photographs.

Theo Jansen: Maker of Animals

I came across the work of Theo Jansen the way I come across most things. Randomly. But I'm so happy I did. 

Theo Jansen makes animals. Colossal beach creatures powered by wind and imagination and some of the most captivating engineering I've ever seen. Watch the first video below to see his creations in action and get a sense of what he does. 

Then, watch the second video to see how he does it, and more important, why. He shares some really interesting perspectives on life, art, evolution, and immortality. The things his animals have taught him.

I've always been fascinated by obsessives. Those blessed and/or cursed with the ability to focus on something, on one thing, for years or decades or a lifetime. Sometimes you look at the outcome of all that effort and you say "hm, well, to each his own."

Other times, you look at the outcome and you can't hardly say anything at all.

Morgan Maassen made a fine to-do list for you

Don't have your summer plans ironed out yet? Nothing nailed down for this weekend?

Fear not my indecisive one, photographer and filmmaker Morgan Maassen has about 4,000 ideas for you and he's compiled them all into one absolutely gorgeous video called "Motion."

I suppose "Things You Can Do If You're Bored" wasn't his intention when he put this together. But if watching it doesn't make you want to get out and do something (like right now!) I don't even know what to say to you.

Anyway, check it. The footage and the edit are fire and the music track by Kelpe drives it all perfectly. This kid is really really good. At 25, he's already shot for some of the biggest companies in the world. His work doesn't feel that way though which is about the highest compliment I can give.  

He's a good follow on Instagram too: here.

Do you realize?

Do You Realize is a pretty fantastic song by The Flaming Lips. If you're in a hurry, or if you're opposed to hippies singing in cemeteries, the video below probably isn't for you. But if you've got the time, this is quite gorgeous...

Do you realize? That you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize? We’re floating in space,
Do you realize? That happiness makes you cry
Do you realize? That everyone you know someday will die
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round

Gravity, momentarily defied

You ever balance a bunch of rocks? Me neither. It never even crossed my mind until this past weekend.

I've repaired cairns before, marking trails across slickrock. But that's more about stacking than balancing. There's an intended permanence to a cairn, and a clear utility. They're not art. 

(Which, as a side note, might be a good reason to ease back on stacking "cairns" by the thousands on every scenic overview. You don't need to plant your flag every time, Neil Armstrong! You're not the first brave soul to have ventured 75 yards from the parking area!) 

Balancing rocks though? This seems different. At least in part because you know it can't possibly last. Out of curiosity, I gave one a quicky try this past Saturday while wandering the shore. I have to say, even my hack-a-stack effort was crudely gratifying. But when someone knows what they're doing? It's art of the highest form, silent and spiritual and strong.

Over the years, I've seen some impossibly cantilevered towers and spires. They stand completely still, of course, but you can almost feel them vibrating with the impatient energy of the momentary. It's hard not to watch and wait for the inevitable: a return to earth of heavy things. 

Anyway, I think I discovered a new hobby perfectly suited for my strengths: An inordinate capacity for focusing intensely, but briefly, on fanciful endeavors. Coupled with access to rocks. 

Of course, with me it's amateur hour. Holy crap though, when done well? Check out Michael Grab in the video below. Check out his site too.  What he does is really something to behold.

The opposite of beauty is indifference

This couple collects beach trash and turns it into art. And they are awesome.

Richard and Judith Selby Lang live north of San Francisco. Since 1999, they've been walking the same 1000 yards of beach within the Point Reyes National Seashore, picking up plastic, then cleaning it, cataloging it, and turning it into art.

To be clear, they don't pick up ALL the plastic. Sadly, this would be an impossible task not only along the California coast, but along pretty much any coast anywhere. According to the video below, there are 46,000 visible pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean around the world. Nonetheless, I pick up what I can. As Richard says "The opposite of beauty isn't ugly. The opposite of beauty is indifference." 

These guys, though, go a step further. Yes, they've brought back tons of plastic over the years. But they do so with a curatorial eye. Since they can't possibly get it all, they focus on getting what they need. Free art supplies!

I'm really inspired by this. Artistically and environmentally, yes. But I'm also inspired by them as a couple. They just seem to have it figured out. Happily working together every day, making beautiful things while on a treasure hunt that never ends. 

You can learn more about them and their work here. 

But watch this first:

The Art of Lunch Hour

Lemme start by saying I don't draw.

While my travel journals include the occasional "illustration," I only do it so I look more artistic to others from afar. Up close, my "charmingly naive outsider depictions of everyday life" are quickly seen for what they are: "pretty shitty dude."

So as a rule, the only things I draw are the wrong conclusions. (Ba dum dum!)

But today at lunch I saw something on the information superhighway that caught my eye. A piece called "How To Draw A Wave." Holy moly!!!

Long story short, I spent 20 minutes eating a sandwich and drawing a horribly wonky wave. Clearly I wasn't the top student in my one man class.

But it got me thinking about what other stuff I could get done over a lunch hour. It turns out, lots!

Whatcha doing right now? I bet there's time for something extraneous.