Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Musings

"Hope for the best! expect the worst!
some drink champagne! some die of thirst!
No way of knowing which way it's going
Hope for the best! expect the worst!"  Mel Brookes, 12 Chairs

"Hope for the best! Expect the worst!
Some drink champagne. Some die of thirst.
No way of knowing
which way it's going.

Hope for the best! Expect the worst!"
-- the opening stanza of the theme song from Mel Brooks's
The Twelve Chairs, written by -- who else? -- Mel Brooks
- See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2009/02/hope-for-best-expect-worst.html#sthash.Y4Qww8tp.dpuf
Recently I watched "Mel Brookes at the Geffin."  What a show.  I had recorded it last month and forgot all about it.  Mel always inspires: the silly, irreverent, deeply human foibles that we all have.  What a life he has led...and now he and his long-time buddy Carl Reiner have dinner together every night on t.v. trays and shoot the bull.  Wouldn't you like to be a fly on THAT wall?

We were given a project by Peter Turnley when we left Cuba:  find something, a project, to study and photograph.  Get to know someone, some thing, and know it deeply.  After hearing Mel talk about his dream to be in show business after watching Ethel Merman on stage when he was 9 years old, I want to take a leap of faith and ask Mel and Carl if I can hang out with them and photograph their dinners.  Why not?  I could reminisce with them about Broadway musicals (I'm an expert on productions of the 1940s, 50s and 60s) and laugh myself silly at their banter.  What a blast.

Anybody know how I can get in touch with Mel?

His song, above, he wrote for "12 Chairs" at the urging of his darling wife Anne Bancroft, made me think of the Cuban people (of course).  They have been dying of thirst for 50 some years.  No champagne for them.  Don't get me wrong, I am happy the dictator Batista was thrown out, he wasn't doing them any favors. But these people have had a very hard slog for an unbearably long time.  Yet they appear to be optimistic.  How is that?  Not all are, of course, but in general the people I saw and spoke to have a sense of shared struggle. 

Their grit and ingenuity have taken them far.  Their love of life, family and country has given them joy and perseverance. 

I wonder how U.S. citizens could handle such economic impoverishment?  Probably not well.

I wonder, and I worry, about the Cuban peoples' future.  What will an infusion of U.S. capital and influence bring?  How can we do it better than we did it last time?  Will the almighty dollar trump everything?  Cuba's (U.S. imposed) isolation has been catastrophic in terms of economic growth, but (from an outsiders point of view) perhaps its saving grace.  I don't want to romanticise poverty, but there is a certain, and deep, satisfaction from knowing that a people can tolerate and even thrive despite a mighty giant stepping on their collective neck for half a century.

I AM LEAVING BECAUSE THE EARTH IS NO LONGER MINE
Because my feet are tired,
My eyes are blind,
My mouth parched
And my body docile and light,
Ready to enter the air.
I am leaving because there are no paths left for me on earth.
I emerged from water, I have lived in blood
And now the Wind awaits to sweep me to the sun...
I emerged from the sea...and I will expire in the flames.
- Leon Felipe (a favorite poet of Che Guevara)

"Hope for the best.  Expect the worst.
The rich are blessed, the poor are cursed.
That is a fact, friends. The deck is stacked, friends.
Hope for the best.  Expect the worst."
"Hope for the best! Expect the worst!
Some drink champagne. Some die of thirst.
No way of knowing
which way it's going.

Hope for the best! Expect the worst!"
-- the opening stanza of the theme song from Mel Brooks's
The Twelve Chairs, written by -- who else? -- Mel Brooks
- See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2009/02/hope-for-best-expect-worst.html#sthash.Y4Qww8tp.dpuf
"Hope for the best! Expect the worst!
Some drink champagne. Some die of thirst.
No way of knowing
which way it's going.

Hope for the best! Expect the worst!"
-- the opening stanza of the theme song from Mel Brooks's
The Twelve Chairs, written by -- who else? -- Mel Brooks
- See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2009/02/hope-for-best-expect-worst.html#sthash.Y4Qww8tp.dpuf
"Hope for the best! Expect the worst!
Some drink champagne. Some die of thirst.
No way of knowing
which way it's going.

Hope for the best! Expect the worst!"
-- the opening stanza of the theme song from Mel Brooks's
The Twelve Chairs, written by -- who else? -- Mel Brooks
- See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2009/02/hope-for-best-expect-worst.html#sthash.Y4Qww8tp.dpuf
"Hope for the best! Expect the worst!
Some drink champagne. Some die of thirst.
No way of knowing
which way it's going.

Hope for the best! Expect the worst!"
-- the opening stanza of the theme song from Mel Brooks's
The Twelve Chairs, written by -- who else? -- Mel Brooks
- See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2009/02/hope-for-best-expect-worst.html#sthash.Y4Qww8tp.dpuf
"Hope for the best! Expect the worst!
Some drink champagne. Some die of thirst.
No way of knowing
which way it's going.

Hope for the best! Expect the worst!"
-- the opening stanza of the theme song from Mel Brooks's
The Twelve Chairs, written by -- who else? -- Mel Brooks
- See more at: http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2009/02/hope-for-best-expect-worst.html#sthash.Y4Qww8tp.dpuf

Friday, March 20, 2015

TGIF

After an exciting and busy week in Cuba, I have been delighting in a more leisurely pace. While away, I took approximately 1,000 photos each day. We had three review sessions and our fearless leader Peter Turnley had the task of picking our "best" and whittling them down to 15 per student. Several of my shots taken on the last photo day made the final cut. Did I get better or did I just not give a damn anymore? I was exhausted. But I also took Peter's comments to heart. This is the second workshop I've taken from a master photographer (thank you, Sean Duggan) and I'm looking forward to the next one. The learning curve is tremendous and it's not about camera equipment; once again, it's about learning to see

I'm glad it is Friday, but I still wish I was in Cuba. Adios muchachos, and have a great weekend.




Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Musings (On Cuba)


I have always been a timid traveler.  When friends were striking out at 18 to tour Europe, or India or Latin America, I stayed home.  It was partly a function of finances, but my timidity kept me from solving that problem and going anyway.  I knew people who would get jobs along the way in a foreign country to finance the next leg of their journey.  Me?  A drive 90 miles north to San Francisco was nerve wracking and required just the right circumstances (compelling art show or concert) to get me there.  Even low-key, friendly San Francisco was too much for my nerves.


photography by Tara Crowley

Imagine my surprise, then, when 40 years later my first overseas foray takes me to Habana, Cuba!  Land of revolution, heat and humidity, exotic music and food.  Habana is a teeming with life: 2.6 million people wake up there every day, rising in their small apartment room which serves as kitchen, sitting room, dining room and bedroom all in one.  I can’t imagine what they would think of our ‘tiny house’ movement, wherein we purposefully live in (and brag about) 200 square feet of space.

There is life on the street in Cuba.  Families and friends gather outside the front door (you can hardly call it a “stoop”) to banter and watch their neighbors go by.  Children, dogs, vendors and Pedi cabs share the dusty decrepit roads in a remarkable ballet.  A truck stops for a pup relieving himself in the middle of the narrow street: they’d mow down a pedestrian (a la NYC), but this constipated animal elicited compassion.

I woke up this morning in my 1,200 square foot home, listened to the breeze through the cedar tree (in my very own "parque" that surrounds my dwelling - oh - it's called a "yard") and marveled at the absolute quietude of it all.  Meanwhile….I know what’s going on  in las calles de la Habana.  Viva el pueblo!



Saturday, March 14, 2015

See You in C U B A

We're home.  And we urge you to go.  Here are just a small sampling of photos I took there.  More to come.






I'll post a link soon so that you may see all of the students' work from this past week.  Truly amazing photography, but then again, this place is a paradise for a photographer.  Our teacher, Peter Turnley, worked us hard and it paid off big time.  We had a rigorous shooting schedule, with late dinners and early mornings.  And that's what we were there for.  Even an old hand like me had much to learn from a master.  Thank you, Peter.

Moving Along

Well, hallelujah, it's only 71 degrees outside this morning.  We have been enduring hellish heat this summer, breaking records.  The air...