Vortex Confusions

Commonplace Capers, No. 9

A week to remember. Walking last Saturday from my place of employment to meet up with my spouse when she would get off of work. (We are a one car family).

The phone lit up: tornado warning! Texts started pouring in. Where are you?

Now mind you, it was not raining but the clouds did have an ominous feel, not green, but ominous.

Anyways, then Judith called, she was at the cafe in town where she waitresses. The fire department had just been through and told everyone to shelter in place.

Now mind you, I am simply walking the two miles I often do into town to meet her. Hmmm. This is odd, we are in the Catskills, not Kansas.

Then over my left shoulder I heard the sound, just as the preparation warnings foretell, it will sound like a freight train. And it did: but a freight train amplified x 10, and not at all mechanical, if that even makes sense.

By the time I registered the true threat over my left shoulder, it was gone. I did not have time to even consider jumping into a ditch. But the drenching began, and in seconds it was as if I had jumped into the deep end of the pool with all my clothes on. I was soaked to the bone.

The hard rains continued as I ran the last quarter mile into town, and found Judith unharmed, but shaken. The car unharmed, but shaken. No life was lost, the property damage, mild compared to the twisters down south and in the mid west. But barns were flattened, roofs were lost, and cars destroyed.

NOAA says it was a T2, 115 miles an hour winds. It’s path about 15 miles long, 300 yards wide.

All I know is it was scary as scary can be.

The confusing part from the experiential perspective was this. I thought it came over my left shoulder and headed into the town of Roscoe down the valley to were it also touched down in Callicoon Center. It turns out it was the complete opposite. I was at the tail end. It came up the valley from Callicoon Center, hit in Roscoe and bounced over the hill to my left. But because it was spinning counter clockwise, I experienced the winds heading back toward town, even though the twister was leaving and heading north.

So, yeah. Eyewitness accounts can get things totally backwards, without fault or blame .

Work Yet To Be Done

Commonplace Capers, No. 08

In his fascinating study of gardening, “Second Nature,” Michael Pollen proposes that our incessant fiddling with the soil and the plants is inherent to our species, not just as culture, but as an evolutionary survival strategy, one that has worked in our favor.

Of course, this incessant fiddling tendency of ours can be also linked to the horrific impacts our species is having on the planet. Is a bomb nothing but a gardening tool? (Pollen does not propose this, I do).

The impacts of the world wars last century on the landscape are a fascinating study waiting to be published, unless I missed it.

And our carbon discharge every time we drive to the store, is it not but an unconscious fumigation technique gone awry.

Man will never be above nature. Man is nothing but nature. Nature has little need of man.

Commonplace Capers, No. 07

I know some of you noticed I took a brief pause from my regular routine here this week. A sudden change in circumstances has me scrambling to kick-start my consulting activity. I’ve been doing freelance consulting work for over 20 years, and the focus of the work comes and goes depending on other financial factors. This week, I have turned back to it.

I support nonprofits, small businesses, and creativepreneurs with a menu of services: from strategic planning, to communications support, to fundraising campaigns. I just wanted to take a moment to share this with all of you. Heck, you never know who might be on a non-profit board seeking this type of support!

If you’d take a moment, I’d appreciate you having a look. I’m sharing my page for creativepreneurs, as each of you are certainly that!

Commonplace Capers, No. 06

Brave Women

The creativity I discover each day in the stream of posts from those I follow truly amazes me. What a cry to the cosmos, much better than the message slapped to the side of those early spaceships sent to nowhere.

I can not give kudos to everyone at once, but today I want to highlight three brave women.




I encourage you to engage with them and learn of their journeys. My life has been so enriched by the authenticity they each express and share in this agora. I believe yours will be too.

Of course, it would be a bit silly not to introduce all of you to my partner and best friend, Judith. Whenever cowardice creeps up and grabs me by the back of the neck, she calmly guides me to the true north star.

Commonplace Capers, No. 05

More Than Snacks

I wish I had the capacity to serve more here at Krater Café than the meager snacks I regularly dole out. Fortunately, I have encountered amazing content in this, our shared blogoshpere.

What I am about to share is because, only a click away, some superb substance awaits you. Just know, this content has been transformative for me. These two writers are teaching me daily in ways I could have never anticipated. So I share these blogs because if you do not know of them, I believe you should know of them.

Breadcrumbs by Stacey C. Johnson

sceadugenga by Michael Raven

In future posts of these Commonplace Capers, I will be continuing to spread the word of all the wonderful content I engage in daily in an attempt to better spread the word.

As a final note, just as these links will take you directly to both writers’ websites, I want to encourage folks to click through the partial rendering the WP reader provides of posts. Experience what bloggers spend so much time preparing. I know in my own case, the formatting of my posts never displays correctly in the WP reader, and often, when taking the time to visit your websites, it is so refreshing to engage the work as you intended it to be seen.

Commonplace Capers, No. 04

So, we paint the world as the systems fail and Mother Nature herself has trumped the Supreme Court to declare daily that of all the species she has fostered, we really have to go.

Whose idea was it to make car key carrying monkeys? It’s all Henry Ford’s fault, nothing to do with BP or Exxon?

Forgive the prelude rant, perhaps it brought some attention?

What I so love about being active in this space– the democratization of the printing press. What we have available to us, in these blocks and posts and sites is quite an exceptional thing, really.

Sure, we can complain about the rent, we can push it to see that the words find paper– but seriously, the flow that each and everyone is saying 24/7, saying what needs to be said…

It’s remarkable, no?

Postscript: blogging a bit like autobiography, not just the present tense, but in the present.

Commonplace Capers, No. 03

Reflections on the Art of Blogging

Three goals I have set out for my practice and hopefully your experience of Krater Café are now starting to come into focus.

Goal #1: Find a rhythm with posting that aligns with the regularity we all need to establish in order to feed ourselves, akin to the preparation of meals, recognizing that creativity, both in the making and the consumption, is a form of nourishment.

Goal #2: Approach the blog post as a primary art form. A blogger that uses poetry, digital imagery, video, audio, metadata, etc., instead of a poet or photographer that blogs. Let me quickly say, I love the work of poets and writers and photographers that blog, but I think of this perspective as akin to the admission of new sports into the Olympics (Have you heard the news, break dancing will be awarded a gold medal soon!).

Goal #3: Create a platform where repeat visitors return often because they enjoy what is being served, and, over time, build out a community that can undertake joint ventures to extend and support blogging as a primary art form.

I look forward to, and encourage you to share your thoughts on these matters.

(Postscript: blogs will always function in more ways than just a primary art form, but here I am simply making a claim that they can be viewed as such.)

Commonplace Capers, No. 02

Reflections on aesthetics, poetics, psychology, ecology, and/or techne and the influence they have on practice at Krater Café

Preface: On Practice

The pragmaticism of Charles Sanders Peirce and the pragmatism of William James both stress the application, the usefulness of ideas, theories, and beliefs. Application, the practice, is what focuses my creative engagement.

Practice in this sense is not to imply preparation for a main event as used in sports and the performing arts. The usage here as in a medical or law practice. It is simply the way of doing things.

This edition of Commonplace Capers will explore the image making practice used on this site.

Journey with image making

Before getting to the brass tacks, a quick survey of my journey with image making. My first conscious attempt to use a camera as a tool of creativity was a 3rd grade field trip to Hartford, CT. The automatic disposable camera had no adjustments possible, so my first lessons were focused on framing the shot. It would be hard to describe the level of excitement and anticipation that accompanied my waiting for the photos to return from the lab.

In high school, I was introduced to a black and white darkroom. This showed me the potential of developing an image, or what could be defined as image making. A little burn here, a little dodge there, and it became clear that images could manifest post the clicking of the shutter.

I’ve been fortunate to teach digital photography to students of all ages in the decades that have followed. In my teaching, I stress a spirit of playfulness. Very few classes go by where my foundational teaching advice has not been repeated: delete is your friend.

I am a fan of limitations. In photography, pinhole cameras get at the core of this principle. I built a camera obscura, which cannot take images, only place them on a glass viewing plane, to better understand the dynamics of limitation in image making.

I think this cut into my journey with image making might serve to illuminate the decisions and processes I want to discuss.

Smartphone as a dual instrument for imagery (techne)

More than 95% of the images, still and video, accompanying the posts at Krater Café are both shot and processed with my smartphone, a Motorola Moto G Stylus. The images are processed with three apps. Game Brain makes an image app called Comica and a video app called Comica Video. Both are available on Google Play. These two apps provide the two primary filters used to process my images. For the still images, I also use the Pixlr app to place a frame on most images.

Current Practice: Limitation and Freedom

While the smartphone industry has made great strides in the built-in cameras they provide, I would rate the model I use as average at best. That said, it suits my practice nicely. Why is that? I cannot think of one photo I have taken with this phone that raw, I would want to print and frame “as is.” This limitation in quality has opened a door for me to push into the digital processing, employing the apps mentioned above, to achieve results that fulfill my goals.

I approach image taking on the smartphone, much like the experience on that third grade field trip referenced above, focused on framing the image. I seldom use a cropping tool later on in the processing. I will employ the brightness slider and more often than not, I drop the brightness one or two steps. Then, click.

Bringing the images into the filtering apps for me is akin to the darkrooms of yesteryear (in fact, I will often do it late at night in a dark room, as this seems to focus my proprioception for the task at hand).

Image filtering apps are a mixed bag for the creative process in my opinion because the options can be overwhelming. Again, the guiding principle of limitation has helped me build an aesthetic that suits my goals. The Game Brain apps provide over 30 filters to choose from. I have limited myself to two for over 95% of my work: lucid and flow.

The lucid filter, like the reference to lucid dreaming, tends to make the images pop. The flow filter paints the images as a watercolor. I employ flow for images when I am seeking an exploration of memory or history, or to convey nostalgia. The lucid filter, my primary choice, is all about the intensity of creative engagement, analogous to those who practice lucid dreaming.

The Game Brain filters are not complex, but do demand a clear intent. Each filter has four adjustment sliders (image quality, contrast, brightness, and color intensity). Each slider has ten level settings. If my math is correct (I’ve never been a wiz at math), each image can be rendered 210 different ways. As my aesthetic has emerged with practice, I’m guessing I employ less than 20 of the options I could use. My images fall into a certain zone that, again, meets my intent.

Running the images through pixlr and adding a frame is a step I take in order to make the claim the image is complete.

Regarding the video clips I have been sharing, I confess, this is a new practice, and I am pretty much simply employing the choices made for the still imagery. It has been an unexpected bonus to be able to process the video clips with the same filters and aesthetic choices.

What is freedom?

Damned if I know, but what has been emerging for me here in this space in both image and text certainly feels like it.

Portrait of My Shadow


A note of thanks to those partaking in the offerings I am serving at Krater Café. As a reminder, your likes of my work also provide a potential portal to your world. Often, when trying to get to your site through the like function, I discover that your Gravatar profile does not include your blog address. Something to consider?