art, music, thoughts

the hands that wind the clock of fate

It makes sense to have a plan B. Good, practical, common sense, especially if your plan A involves making it as a painter, actor, writer, or singer. It’s what your parents want for you. It what you have to do, just in case.

But, in watching The Voice (TV) an oh-so-guilty pleasure, I’ve started to think about what it means to have a plan B. Most singers on TV are working, somewhere, somehow; they are all dreaming, and mostly they are really good.

It got me thinking, though, some people have a plan for when they fail and some people don’t. I don’t know if that’s more a function of stuff behind the scenes, like how much money they have in savings, if they have families that can support them or if it’s really about how much they believe in their own talent (and then, if they are delusional or not).

Of course, talent as we know, is just a small percentage of what you need to go the distance. Hard work, luck, good timing, these are the hands that wind the clock of fate. So having a plan B makes sense and yet a part of me has this feeling like if you really want it, don’t bother.

Maybe it’s a function of youth and how much time you think you have, and where you are before other responsibilities alter your priorities. I haven’t settled on an answer to which is the best way, but I do love to watch them reach.

Mathai on The Voice


“articulate speechlessness”

Defining what art is, or rather, what constitutes art (capital A), is an interesting challenge.

I took photography during my time at Columbia’s School of the Arts with Tomas Roma.  (An interview with him here. )  It turned out to be an extremely influential class, an experience I think back on a lot.

Tom was teaching us less about photography per se and more about how to attempt to make art.  He was trying to break it down, intellectually, but mostly by showing us what didn’t work with our own photos.  I was in the writing program, but this was one of the best classes I took.

He gave us this definition:  “Art reminds you of something worth remembering”–which I find to be true.

A few days ago, while reading one of the random issues of The New Yorker piled up next to my bed, I was introduced to the artist, Paul Chan.  I am quoting Calvin Tomkins:

“Certain works of art resist our attempts to interpret or explain them, Chan believes, and that resistance–what he calls their ‘articulate speechlessness’–is what gives them enduring power.”

My second solid definition for,  what is art?  Or maybe, how does art make you feel?  I love it!  And don’t get me started about how crazy I am for the current title of Chan’s new exhibit, The 7 Lights.

I probably took about a hundred photos in Tom’s class, all of which were critiqued.  Ninety-nine of them were worthless but one, Tom said, was almost perfect.  Tom could tell that I had just quickly turned around and snapped it, not taking time to make sure the framing was right (a few inches off, he said).  I had stepped into an off-track betting storefront in NYC, and I knew they didn’t want me taking photos in there.  The man in the center of the photo has an expression on his face that’s only vaguely hopefully and mostly disillusioned, as you might expect.  A man in the forefront is grimacing and another man off to the side reads with frown.

This little photo is not great art, but it does remind you of something worth rememebering, something you can feel somewhere in yourself but can’t quite express, hey, it’s 1 in 100.