Sep 27, 2013

To BLOG or not to BLOG
that is NOT the question

Photo: Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator

About 4 pm at any conference, I have had it.  Enough already I want to say.  I can't absorb another word.  I hung in there, because Amy Stewart was about to speak.  Her topic. "A Botanist Walks Into A Bar:  How to Turn Any Topic Into a Lively and Sharable Story."

Enriching the Gardening Community with New Media
September 22-24, 2013
Hours of listening to well-known bloggers and digital marketers cajole me into thinking that content, clarity, consistency, strategy and most of all Google Analytics were essential elements of any good blog, I was ready for the anti-christ:  Amy Stewart.

Amy responded to the experts with humor. She described her blog, Garden Rant, written by a quartet of women in the following way:.

The Things We Don't Do:
  •     We don't do DIY
  •     We don't avoid politics
  •     We don't avoid profanity
  •     We don't think about what our readers want
  •     We don't look at analytics
  •     We don't know what SEO
  •     We don't talk to each other
  •     We don't have a plan
  •     We don't make money
  • and we embrace controversy.
In the funniest way possible, Amy gave her assessment of what makes a blog worth reading: it tells a good story. What makes a compelling story: suspense, drama, conflict, characters, suspense, comedy and the unexpected.

Listening to Amy was like  drinking a glass of grappa. The warmth goes through your entire body. I temporarily felt better about myself and my blog.  This didn't last long.
Soon it was back to inbound marketing. 
  • I did not know that content was an opportunity to market.  
  • I did not know that creating content creates energy around "my business."  
  • I did not know that creating an editorial calendar was essential.  
  • I did not know that one should always tag images.  
  • I did not know that comments are a measure of a person's engagement with your site.  
  • I did not know to drive traffic is to build a community. 

Does the reader feel they receive value from your site? 
That was another one of those zingers.  It was time for a cup of coffee.

 I did know that in our current digital environment IMAGES are more powerful than words.  In fact, if you've received the New Yorker this week, you can see that the magazine, we all hoped would never change, has changed.  It's more visual.

 One of the most challenging questions asked at this conference: What am I willing to unsubscribe to?

I wasn't going to attend the Garden Bloggers Conference.  I felt disloyal to Garden Writers.  This conference unexpectedly was a kind of therapy.  It was an opportunity to take a good hard look at what I want from my blog.  I clearly fall into the Amy Stewart "column."   You will not find plant of the week, recipes, contests, tips or advertising.  You might find a good story.

Sep 19, 2013

Telling Stories

Thomas Woltz

A good looking dude with a powerful story to tell is a dynamic combo.  Thomas Woltz is a landscape architect that talks about narratives, not projects.  He is interested in relationships that last a lifetime, at least between people and plants. 

On Tuesday night at MetroHort, Woltz began his talk by warning the audience that he was going to tell  stories.  And these stories start by listening to the "voice" of the site; by delving into the what has come before in a landscape and how patterns of alternation can become the gateway to restoration.

Using residential and public projects, Woltz constructed his thoughtful  lecture as he would explore the layers of a site.  He asked questions. What is the ecology of this place?  What are the birds that would benefit from this garden?  What is the web of connectivity that this place has?   His language is rooted in the emotional bonds that people can forge with plants.

Woltz is as much philosopher as he is landscape architect.   When I think about what I find most compelling when talking with someone, it's usually their approach.  Woltz put his cards on the table Tuesday night.  It is a table I would like to sit down at and have a conversation. 

Sep 16, 2013

Birds Of A Feather
Hanging Together

I couldn't help myself.  The comparison screamed out at me.  7th century Peru / the color field painting of the 1960's?  The Rothko paintings have so much depth and texture as do the Peruvian hangings made from the feathers of the macaw. 

On the way to Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Met, a dozen of these hangings are on display.  These are just a taste of the 96 hangings discovered in the early 1940's inside 3 ft. high ceramic jars.
Site of the discovery of the feathered hangings, inside the ceramic jars pictured in the photograph.

These feathered offerings are the counterpoint to the large Met show, Interwoven Globe (The Worldwide Textile Trade 1500-1800). Upstairs at Interwoven Globe,  in room after room, one can see dazzling feats of craftsman, from amazing dying techniques to luxurious silk embroidery  Downstairs two simple squares of color convey power and artistry.  Take your pick.  My choice is obvious.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Feathered Hanging

7th-8th century
Wari culture
H 29 x W 83.7/8 in.
Believed to have functioned in some dedicatory
or supplicatory manner.

Sep 10, 2013

Surround SOUND
The Forty Part Motet

Is it possible to write about a sound installation?  A good writer can.  I am not one of those.  The best I can do is to urge anyone living in the New York area to make the effort to go to The Cloisters and listen to Janice Cardiff's piece, The Forty Part Motet in the Fuentiduena Apse.  

Copyright Peter Mauss.
I know it's a trek or so it seems when you think about it.  The #4 bus leaves you at the front door of the museum and the subway stop is just a couple of blocks away.

You might ask, what's the big deal?  I've been to choral performances... and so have I.   The Forty Part Motet was by recorded by Cardiff in England's Salisbury Cathedral in 2001.  Each part is recorded individually. 
Copyright Peter Mauss
When you walk around the Apse at the Cloisters, you see forty individual speakers., You can put your ear as close to the speaker  as you dare.   You can hear the music,  a sigh, a hum, even a sneeze.  The experience of the music is one of SOUND. 
Copyright Peter Mauss
Cardiff said she wanted the listener to "climb inside the music, connecting with the separate voices."  That is exactly what happens.  You feel inside the sound.  It's unnerving and wonderful all at the same time. 
Copyright Peter Mauss
This installation is the first contemporary presentation at The Cloisters. It's part of their seventy-fifth birthday anniversary.  It's a birthday present for anyone who makes the trip.  It is a little like "tripping."

Sep 6, 2013

Or is it?

I try to savor every bite.  I try not to stuff my face.  I try to appreciate the artistry and effort that went into most of what I eat, even if it's an apple.

The question of whether or not FOOD IS ART is not something I have not given much thought to. Thursday night at The New School, a panel attempted to answer that query.  The discussion centered around the word ART.  What is it?  This isn't the first group of people that have tried to parse that word. 

Fabio Parasecoli, Professor and Coordinator of the Food Studies Program at The New School organized the event.  Deliberately or not, he put together a group of people with extremely diverse points of view.  This makes for a good evening.

The anti-ART contingent was represented by Joe Grimm and Lauren Carter Grimm of Grimm Artisanal Ales. They passionately decried the formalism of traditional ART.  They put together a power point presentation composed of the work of early performance artists, as well as those artists, like Felix Gonzalez-Torres.  Torres was known for his mounds of hard candy. Viewers were able to take a piece. 

On the other side, was Michael Laiskonis,  pastry chef at Le Bernardin.  He represented haute cuisine.   Punctuation, texture, balance, color and structure are the metaphors Laiskonis borrowed from the arts, to describe how he thinks as a chef.  He  sketches out a new dessert on paper, before actually putting together any ingredients.  "I do not consider myself an artist." All I could think about was how much I wanted to be at Le Bernardin and taste one of his creations.

I am sure I missed something Thursday night.  My attention was diverted.   I was thinking about Is Food ART?  Are we really talking apples to apples?  Is Ferran Adrias' Parmesan and Porcini Forest Flower  as innovative as  Matisses' Red Room.  Is Rene Redzepis' Radish, Soil and Grass as memorable as James Turrells' Aten Reign?  Is Hestor Blumenthals' Salmon Poached in Liquorice Gel as creative as The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper? 

Feeling very old, I had to say NO; it's not the same.

Is Food ART?
Thursday, September 5, 2013
The New School for Public Engagement
Organized by Food Studies Program
SoFAB Center for Food, Law, Policy & Culture
New York University

Professor and Coordinator of the Food Studies Program at The New School, Fabio Parasecoli,
Visual artist and craft brewer, Lauren Carter Grimm and Joe Grimm
Food photographer, Nino Andonis
Le Bernardin pastry chef, Michael Laiskonis
Umami Food and Art Festival Director, Yael Raviv
President and Director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, Liz Williams, moderator