Our social contract

We and wolves grew up together. They learned that if they stay close to us they get fed. We developed a symbiotic relationship. We fed the craps to the wolves. They got closer, more domesticated. This relationship developed slowly and trust was built.

I don’t think we have this relationship with a lot of the animals we eat. It’s not that we aren’t compassionate and empathetic for them, but their purpose is for us to eat them. They pose no threat to us, except the wild boar. For the most part they are not particularly vicious.

We domesticated them for food, not mutual benefits. We fed the wolves, they didn’t kill us, and later they helped us hunt. We evolved together. That’s why they are often referred to as “man’s best friend”.

Trust. They started to trust us and we them. They sleep at our feet, and we pet them. At some point the friendship became more than just a symbiotic relationship. It is now a relationship of trust. We could go days without them “doing things for us” and the bond would be just as strong. At the end we have built a social contract with them.

Alone time

I’ve spent most of my life alone. That’s not to say I’m a shut in. I find any excuse to go out in public and maybe have a chance encounter. What I mean by this is I don’t really have any close friends, and am not especially good at generally meeting people.

I spent a good amount of my college years at the bars, but most if the time it was just me and my book. I find this time stimulating and relaxing at the same time. There is an energy in a busy restaurant or bar that keeps me alert, focused. I feel it is a form of meditation, a skill that I seemed to have cultivated early in life.

When I was younger I used to sleep over at Nick’s house. He was and still is one of my closest friends. One of those people you could call and would bail you out of jail no questions asked. See, Nicks house as opposed to mine was a constant buzz. His mother was a foster mom who opened her home and her heart to any and all. The downside to that is there was constant noise and commotion. Especially early in the morning.

It was those mornings that I learned how to “drown out the noise”. I was a teenager then, and we all know teenagers like to sleep in. Most never wake before 10am, while the rest of the house has had breakfast, had a jog, and mowed the lawn by then. It was an imperative to kill the noise, me being a teenager and all. I don’t really know how I did it, but I did. I was able to somehow absorb the noise.

Throughout high school (at that point I went to Perkins not being able to drink and all) and into college I kept this practice of a spring the noise and funneling in into concentration. In college I studied not at the library, which was easily as loud and rambunctious, but at the bar. To this day I still go to a restaurant or bar to get my alone time. Its my way if alone time, but it’s better than drinking alone.

If you see me at a bar reading a book, feel few to say hey, but don’t be offended if I don’t carry a conversation. I’m meditating.

We Were Promised…

clean water,
safe food,
flying cars,
technology would solve all of our problems,
jobs,
education,
retirement,
house,
white picket fence,
car,
mobility,
love,
healthcare,
disneyland,
wife/husband,
kids,
happiness,
and all we got was

THE INTERNET.

Meet Your Meat

I was surprised to find how much trouble one simple question caused Sarah Agudo in her neighborhood of the Mission District in San Francisco. “Where does your meat come from?” In this era of Portlandia fanaticism of concern for ingredients and preparation, this little question caused panicked anxiousness.

I have worked in the industry for the last five years and it wasn’t until I moved to NYC and started working for Devon Gilroy that I asked that question of myself. Growing up in Dayton, OH meat came from supermarkets not butcher shops. These were things that existed on the coasts in big cities. Once I started asking the question I couldn’t stop. I educated myself on sourcing ingredients. I took Farm-to-Table 101, Michael Pollan’s book Omnivores Dilemma.

In this adventure of sourcing and understanding where my food comes from and how it affects the environment I became avidly aware of the impact of this question. Where does your meat come from? I jump at the chance to answer that question. It gives me a chance to share the story of our farmers, of our cows and pigs and lambs (oh my!). It’s not only important for me to use local animals, but local animals that are part of a biodynamic system of farms. Farms that understand that the grass fed cow isn’t the end result, but one part in a system of stewardship to the land. This is one of the ways that we can help secure our ability to keep producing food.

From a branding perspective farm-to-table has become the new “green” which is the new “black”. Right? Technically every restaurant is farm-to-table, the difference is the amount of steps removed from where the animal/vegetable was raised/grown until it hits the plate. I feel there are some restaurants that highlight a certain veg/animal from a farm, then supplement the rest of the menu with “normal” products. Consistency in a menu for a restaurant is an important goal for most restaurants. When patrons come in to certain places they want to know that what they ate yesterday is the same as what they are going to get today. This is at the crux of the farm-to-table restaurant. Nature doesn’t care, or even acknowledge, your preferences for what food you would like to eat today. Nature just is, and will produce certain food at certain times of the year, unless you live in an environment where your climate doesn’t vary too much. As for the rest of us, we are bound to the seasons. You want an avocado in February? You want an apple in March? Too bad! As as patrons we need to accept the seasons and not demand that our restaurants have everything we want all the time. In the winter enjoy pickled vegetables, and when the spring and summer comes those fresh vegetables will taste all the better!

Where does your meat come from? Is a question that opens a number ten can of worms. If all meat was sourced from local biodynamic sources the typical American would have to eat less of it. Yes, you would pay more. That price would be closer to the actual cost of producing that ounce of protein because the price would account for the unsubsidized cost of the energy used to raise the animal and the cost of environmental impact. Im not sure most americans are ready to give up a $1 hot dog, a $6 hamburger, or a $12 steak. Its a fundamental shift in our culture.

These are some of the reasons why “Where does your meat come from” is such a scary question. It could also be that they just don’t know, and it’s hard to admit that you don’t know something sometimes.

Line Cooks and Love

We don’t have Saturday off
We don’t have Sunday off
We come home smelly
We don’t make a lot of money
We often looks like we tried to kill ourselves multiple times
When we do come home it’s not until late
We don’t hang out with your friends
We don’t have normal friends
We are obsessed with details
We are come home elated
We come home wasted
We come home disgusted
We have one day off and like to sleep in
We have a particular sense of humor
We can be completely cold
We are crass
We love to talk about food
We argue ad nauseam about how to cook an egg

Despite all of this we have a deep passion. Something that crafts us. A passion that is sparsely rivaled in any other profession. Its that passion carries over into the ones we care about and love. As we age we allow ourselves to slow down to show it.

Why you should hire me. NOW!

I have a BFA. Everyone is saying that an MFA is the new MBA. They are partially correct. I didn’t start out as an art student, mathematics came first. Mathematics have me a way to look at the world in certain terms. It’s what I love about it. Theoretically is you knew all of the variable there isn’t a problem you can’t solve without mathematics. It gave me such certainty, until I started making art. Art was this silly world of feelings and emotions, at least that’s what I thought. I started my BFA the semester I got back from Denmark living as a pig farmer, but we will get to that. In my practice I learned that art is math and math is art (that’s a tautology).

Both art and math are governed by a base of assumptions. Math we have postulates, art we have history. Both grow from the pasts they have inverted and follow a logical progression and iterative process. The most wonderful aspect of both of these areas of study is that they can train the mind in finding solutions in not the most obvious places. That was my education, and I pushed that as hard as I could everyday I was in university.

Art was a way of receiving an assignment. Reading the instructions and limitations and bending them to my will. Most student would ask for clarification on exactly what they needed to do to fulfill the assignment. I would push and reinterpret the “guidelines” to allow me to create something outside of the usual scope of the object being created. One example of this would be a project I had in a fundamental 2d class. We had to use words to create a design. I built a flip book in flash, then wrote a program to export frames. Took each one of the frames to a printer and produced a flip book. No where I. The rules said I couldn’t, but everyone else in class had a static image.

I was a pig farmer in Denmark. In my transition between math and art in university I had the opportunity to live in Denmark for six months as a pig farmer. I had never farmed before in my life. I really hadn’t ever been to a farm either. I had the opportunity and I took it. I arrived in Denmark in July. I settled in to my room on my uncles farm that night. I woke at 5am ready to start working. I learned how to go around and make sure the pigs had water, food, the straw was dry, and they were healthy and happy. I would be working there for the next six months with my uncle and his wife, or so I thought. Roughly three weeks after being there my uncle had informed me that I would be watching the WHOLE farm by myself for ten days while he and his wife would be on a cruise. A much needed break for them.

I was quite taken aback. Knowing that they had ready booked the cruise and I didn’t have any way out of it I accepted the responsibility, and decided I had all the confidence that I would be able to do it. There really wasn’t any other option. Those ten days went fairly well except for the automatic feed system getting jammed, which I had to fix while getting directions over the phone from another farmer.

Soon enough I was working a few days on another farm. A chicken farm. Usually at the beginning of the day I would get fairly vague instructions for the tasks that needed to be done that day and was set off on my own. I learned a lot of skills working on these farms. How to repair machinery, plow a field, mend various other items, back up a tractor with a trailer on it. No matter what the job was I faked the confidence to do it, because I had spent most of my life just figuring out how to do things.

Anyway, if you are a potential employer I have never worked in a true corporate environment. What I do have is the knowledge to figure it out. A previous boss would just say, “handle it, handle it”. This was code for I know you will figure it out just don’t care how the sausage was made (something else I know how to do). I have a breadth of knowledge, and a passion for what I am doing. Hire me already

Thank you potential employers.

P.S. It’s a prerequisite your company cares about making a difference in the world.

The Last Time.

I have never been terribly attached to material things in my adult life, just a few things. My blankey, which used to belong to my uncle until I inherited it at age four and hope to pass on to my child someday. My first watch that I bought in high school for $400 because my father insisted that I get a watch seeing that I was late all the time. The watch didn’t have any numbers so I was late a few more times until I figured out how to read it. The cross stitch with my birthdate and weight my mother made for me when I was born. My first Tonka truck, a big red fire truck with and extending ladder and detachable front.

For me its been the intangible that is hard to let go of, especially the knowledge of the last time. I would like to think I have become more of an optimist in recent years, but I’ve always been a romantic. My outlook on life shaped through the many romantic comedies I choose to watch. Yes Yes, I am admitting that I LOVE romantic comedies. In romantic comedies life is predictable. Someone is in a disillusioned state, starts to achieve, hits an obstacle, overcomes obstacle, a slightly low point follows, then a happy ending. Its never the last time in a romantic comedy, there is eternal hope. One might say that denial is the essence of hope, I disagree.

Hope is something that keeps me going, it assures me that if something is important that it will come around again and an even more important time. I don’t believe that any of us truly backtracks in our lives. I had a very smart professor in college explain life’s timeline to me once. He said that time moves in only one direction, but its our experiences and history that circles around that straight line. Ok thats a little abstract, imagine a straight line. Now imagine a spiral around that line moving forward with the line, kind of like a spirograph. Time moves independent of the spiral, but our lives are on the spiral continually moving in and out of sync, and even overlapping. Using this theory of a life cycle makes me believe that events in life a destined to overlap, the hard part is letting go and allowing the events to overlap.

Life is built by experience, and because of that there is never truly a last time for anything. Each new experience builds on the last. Each new experience has by definition a part of the past. Look at the art world, each new piece has the full weight of every piece of art created before it. It is how we have built this civilization, each old experience giving way to the next. I used to believe that there were last times, but now I don’t. Remember every experience in your life and use it to build new ones.

What Once was Normal

I grew up in one of the most midwest of midwest towns. Dayton, Ohio. I never used to think twice about hopping in the car for twenty minutes or so and going somewhere that was the routine. It’s one of those things that had been ingrained in my perception of reality. That’s what everyone did, and what I did.

I left Dayton for New York City some years after college. I lived in NYC for roughly three years, and it seemed that I would visit Ohio about twice a year for maybe a week or so each time. This last time was different, it was the holidays. I had to run an errand in Columbus, which is about an hour away from Dayton, and I had some time to kill so I went to the mall. For some reason I realized the insanity of the way most of the US goes about their day. Get in the car, drive, get out of said car, get back in; repeat. I am not taking on car culture in this post, though full disclosure I ride a bicycle almost exclusively. In that moment I realized I have changed from who I was.

Not to long ago I may have had a belief that at the core people really don’t change. I know that to be untrue for this specific case of my own. I can’t speak for other people, but I believe that if it can happen for one it can happen for most. I look back at how my outlook and attitude has been shaped formed over the last three years.

The idea of change is scary for most people (that is my belief) Change is hard and uncomfortable. For me change in environment came quick. Once I decided to move to NYC I was there with an apartment and job within a week. Truth be told I have always been fairly comfortable with a changing environment. The scary part of change for me is the emotional. It forces you to look inward. It forces you to see what you don’t want to see. To see inside of yourself and decide that you want change takes energy. The energy that needs to remain constant an unwavering. My emotional journey is what allowed me to have the reaction I did in the parking lot. That changed has been shaped by the people that have been in my life in the last three years. Those people were people that have let me into their lives and I have let into mine. Both scary propositions. These people have shown great patience with me, which has allowed me to reflect and grow.

I am no longer stuck in thinking certain things have to be a certain way. I am no longer stuck accepting the status quo just because it’s status quo. I have grown and continue to grow everyday because of people and places in my life. These are the things that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

What are you looking forward to in the new year?

Its the new year, we have just been through the holiday season where a lot of us took liberties to slothfully lay about. (don’t feel bad I did it too.) But now it’s the first blogoff of 2012, and lets face it we only have about 4 left before the world ends.

Anyway, what am I looking forward to in 2012? I am looking forward to this being the year digital died, music already died in 1959. Then Disco died (which really wasn’t music) in July 1979, then video killed the radio later that year in September 1979. Next to die, well its digital.

I look at what has been happening with a some of these technologies that have popped up to replace analogue entities, cd/digital downloads, ebooks, various ways to view works of art, polaroids ( anyone remember the magick of the polaroid??). Digital is really good at holding lots of data and being able to share everything very quickly. What it isn’t very good at is forcing someone to be in a place of reference of an experience. Though experiment… Think for a moment the last album you listened to on vinyl, do you remember where you were and how it made you felt?? Now think about the last thing you listened to on your iPod. Does it feel the same way? For me the process of sitting down and listening to music forces me to engage with the work, and give it meaning. It no longer becomes a simple consumable.

I am looking forward to 2012 and trying to find time for more analogue in my life, more meaningful experiences. Looking forward to meeting people for coffee, not talking on the phone/SMS; going to museums and spending time looking and interpreting art, not viewing pictures of art on the comp; buying physical books that if I want to read I must focus on the print and physically carry it around, not download it from the ether, where I got a discount, and hope to God that my privilege to read it doesn’t get revoked. (at least you have to pry a book from my cold dead hands.)

2012, To keeping the humanities analogue!

Thumbtacks

Thumbtacks are what hold ideas together on a designer/artist’s note board. For some reason when I am venturing into a new body of work, nowadays that includes building a menu or just gathering ideas about food, I need a space to just let ideas hang out and be visible.

Thumbtacks are really the only tool that allows you to do this easily and affordably. Think about it, you get a cork board and some thumbtacks. Thumbtacks are really the only tool; tape isn’t reusable like a thumbtack, post-it notes fall off too easily, and staples are plain annoying. These simple little items with which you simply apply pressure with your thumb to tack something into place. It’s the most unpretentious of ways to stitch an idea together.

I dunno, with the world becoming more and more digital I appreciate the fact that I can grab a thumbtack and poke my finger to know that I am still in the analog.

Click in case of digital meltdown