The Art of Riding Buses

Jean Arnold of Salt Lake City rides buses and turns her impressions of moving through a city landscape into brilliantly colorful paintings. Her work is on display at the +Gallery through May 19th at 2350 Lawrence Street in Denver, one of the great arts destinations in the emerging River North Art District, a.k.a. the RINO District. The gallery's owner, Ivar Zeile, serves with me on the Denver Commission for Cultural Affairs.

I loved listening to Jean and another strong artist, Kate Petley, describe their creative processes. There were about 20 of us in attendance.

Jean in the top photo is standing in front of an accordion-like spread of pages from the journal she sketched and wrote in during rides on two bus routes in Salt Lake City. At right is one of her small paintings on display at the gallery, a 12"x12" cassein and ink on board titled "Holladay: Island." It's one of the works based on Jean's bus rides in Salt Lake. In the photo below, Jean stands in front of one of her large paintings, giving her artist's talk.

What I like most about hearing an artist talk about his or her work is the chance to see the rhythms of a life played out, how one hunch leads to another, how improbable it all is but how obvious in the final creation, as if it had to be thus. Accountants or dentists also follow hunches in their lives, and you might well ask them to speak for 15 minutes some evening, describing the arc of their work, how it developed from small inklings and how years of work brought them to whatever they have created. Maybe what makes an artist's story compelling is the sense that there were plenty of good reasons to abandon the quest and get a "real" job. So what you see is a tenacity on behalf of intuition and original vision that can inspire anyone to keep going. I felt that sort of inspiration from Jean's work and her discussion of it. It made me want to figure out how to get the audio clearer on my next podcast, how to make the cuts smoother, and how to ask simple questions that are forgetable because of the terrific answers they evoke.

The six-minute podcast is posted below, as well as here at my iWeb site under construction.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Isn't It Good, Bavarian Wood

Andreas Kuhnlein is a Bavarian artist who renders the human condition with a chain saw in wood. He's a gentle soul for all that, and I enjoyed meeting him yesterday evening at a reception in Denver. He spoke movingly of the violence he saw at the East-West border, and how this side of humanity is portrayed by the chain saw ripping into wood. The wood itself suggests the frailty and brief duration of life. So his artwork combines two very different aspects of what it means to be human.

Andreas's visit had a commercial dimension, because it was orchestrated by community leaders who have been working for 25 years on building an deeper link between Munich and Denver. They dream today of a direct flight between the two cities. I enjoyed the mix of arts types and business leaders at the reception, and how the power of one man's artistic creation helped make new connections across continents.

My M-Audio Microtrack scared me to death when it refused to play the recording I'd made of Andreas at the reception. Apparently it will not show more than 80 tracks. But when I got home and put the CF card in the Mac, the recording was there, safe and sound. This device makes high-quality audio, but it's a tricky little beast, and I never know when it's going to steal something precious from me.

Here is the interview with Andreas, about six minutes long:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rolling Down the New Pod Highway

Just before leaving Glenwood Springs, I created a podcast playlist for the three-hour drive down I-70 to home. It was the first time I'd prepared a playlist for a specific trip, taking advantage of a Volvo iPod add-on that cost more than the iPod itself but does a terrific job putting high-quality audio into the car's sound system.

Being a good husband, I did not pack the playlist with geek-roticia such as my favorite tech podcasts (MacNotables, C|Net's Buzz Out Loud, Mac Attack, Mac Observer's Mac Geek Gab, and Typical Mac User) or with podcasts about podcasting ( Today in Podcasting, the Podcast Pickle, and Podcaster Confessions).

Instead I led off with the latest two podcasts by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, whom I know Darlene likes to hear. Obama is one of a handful of politicians making savvy use of podcasting. His weekly offerings are informal, informative, and completely devoid of frills. It's as if he just called you up for a personal, one-on-one update from the Senate. As we drove down Glenwood Canyon, we listened to Obama's take on immigration reform and chemical plant vulnerability to terrorist attacks.

Next I programmed in some lighter fare, My Marilyn, a sweet show all about Marilyn Monroe created by Melinda Mason, a fan and who clearly is from Canada, because we hear all "a-boot" Marilyn on her podcasts. I lucked out, because the episode I happened to download (number 21) was a half-hour recording (see Update below) of the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show from October 26, 1952. Marilyn Monroe was the special guest on the show, announcing her impending marriage to the dummy. It was a tightly scripted, hilarious tour de force, showing Monroe's comic genius, as well as Bergen's.

It was tough to top Marilyn, but the next podcast looked to be newsworthy in the podosphere, which of course meant more to me than to my civilian wife. A California podcaster named Dan Klass, host of The Bitterest Pill, which I've thought was only an average show, announced that henceforth you will have to pay two dollars a month to download his podcast. I've heard of only one other podcaster, Ricky Gervais in London, trying to "monetize" his show like this. Klass pointed out that you'll only pay 50 cents an episode for his show, adding, "Heck, you spend five times that every day on Starbucks!" The truth is, I fell for it until just now when I went looking for the link and found out it was an April Fool's joke. Very funny. I think I'll click on "unsubscribe" at the iTunes Music Store anyway.

I skipped over an episode of My Mac Guys that I'd snuck onto the play list and tried an episode of I Should Be Writing, a podcast by Mur Lafferty, an aspiring fiction writer who brings her listeners in on her creative process, rejections, and a few writing exercises. It's pretty good generally, but this episode didn't catch Darlene's interest, and neither did Senator John Edwards, who even with the help of his wife Elizabeth, is clearly no Barack Obama.

One of the big-time bloggers, Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, now has a podcast with his wife Helen, and the episode we listened to in the Volvo turned out to be a dull, awkward affair, even with a notable guest, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. It was slightly interesting, though, to compare Frist's cloddish comments about immigration with the nuanced, pragmatic and yet compassionate position taken by Obama.

Next up was a special edition of one of the first podcasts that I began listening to, Podcast 411 hosted by Rob Lowe. This is a deceptively simple show that is totally made up of interviews of other podcasters. Rob always asks the same questions, beginning with "What was your first computer?" The interviews are always fascinating to me, full of technical tips as well as guidance on content. The show I downloaded for the trip from Glenwood Springs, though, had nothing to do with podcasting. It was about Rob's new son, whose birth he'd turned into a contest. If you e-mailed a guess at the baby's arrival date and weight (which I did) you had a chance to win all kinds of podcaster goodies, totalling more than $1,000. I think I came very close on the weight, but in the end didn't win. We played the whole episode, which consisted of all the previous mentions of the baby on the show, including audio on his first heartbeat. I was amazed there was no recording of the delivery. Mrs. Podcast 411 must have drawn the line there.

By this time we were getting close to Denver, and I had Lessons 1 through 8 ready to play from the French for Beginners podcast. We listened to the first one, and it was pretty good, a woman giving an organized, precise and friendly overview of how to greet someone and say your name. Darlene is already hooked up with a real French tutor from Sheridan, Wyoming, so she was only mildly interested in the podcast lessons.

So there you have it. Our first personally prepared podcast driving trip. I'm not saying it's easy yet to create this sort of content for the road. But the result sure beats random channel surfing through the offerings of traditional radio. And the possibilities are endless for what you could program into your playlist for the next trip. You could throw in some of your favorite music for a change of pace. And who knows, someone out there may be driving down the interstate listening to the Mile High Pod Chronicles, telling his wife, "Listen to this. What do you think?"

Update (4/12/06): The link to the Edgar Bergen show episode misfired (honest, Mom and Dad, I didn't mean to lure you to the Barack Obama page under false pretenses), and I can't seem to find a permalink. So if you'd like to listen, you have to take these steps: 1) click here for the opening My Marilyn page. 2) Click anywhere on the black and white photo of Marilyn. 3) When you arrive at the next page, click on the link labeled "The Show" just below the photo of the iPod. 3) When you arrive at the next page, scroll down under Show Notes to Episode 21. You can't miss it; it has a photo of Marilyn getting smooched simultaneously by Edgar and Charlie. Click on the little link next to the date titled "MP3" to hear the fun. It may take a while to download.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

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