In which the rogue becomes in officer and a gentleman.
Hello again gents and ladies, ordinary and otherwise.
Apparently my guest posts– here about consumerism, hope and happiness; and here about the (necessarily?) contradictory and frustrating aspects of government regulation – have been well received, and this collegial body has seen fit to invite me into its ranks. (There is a strange kismet about this; upon a time, and for a brief while, I produced and distributed work under the emblem Ordinary Films.)
As this is an introductory post, and with your indulgence, I’ll tell you a little about myself.
I am 45 years old. I live in Montauk, NY with my wife, our two daughters, a dog and a cat.
Up until very recently, and for all of my adult life, I have been a photographer and filmmaker. Subjects of my films have included love, sex, 9/11, indigenous fisheries, hurricanes, refugees, HIV/AIDS orphans, and visualization of God.
Whatever writing I have done has always been in service of my vocation as an image maker, whether pleading my case for a business loan, or pleading my case for my films. I have always seen my writing as a means to an end, but never as an end in and of itself.
But things change.
In the last decade the cultural and commercial environment has changed in ways that put independent artists who work in easily replicable mediums at a tremendous disadvantage; and after several years of meditating on how to respond, I decided that I needed to put my creative and financial resources into a venture that could not be easily replicated and distributed. (And also one where the state’s obligation to protect my property was taken as a given, rather than debated, or even mocked.)
So, a year ago this week I got my US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credentials, and last Summer began carrying paying passengers on our family’s sloop S/V Intemperance.
This work proved to be both profitable and personally satisfying, so we decided to go “all-in” and step up from the lightly regulated OUPV category (six-pack) to the vastly more regulated USCG Inspected Passenger Vessel category.
This winter, in a barn in Bridgehampton, NY, we are building a US Coast Guard certified catamaran, that, when finished, will rate for up to 30 passengers. (In fact, just yesterday I received our project engineer’s Structure and Stability Calculations, 16 pages of diagrams and equations that are the basis of our application to the USCG Marine Safety Center.)
The other thing that changed is I’ve found myself (burdened?) with a strange and unfamiliar urge, the urge to write for writing’s own sake, and this has left me feeling a little off balance. Write, simply to write, simply to express oneself and (hopefully) be heard? What an odd notion!
But perhaps it’s for the best. As much as I’ve criticized and lamented the effect of culture and technology on the independent professional, I also recognize that we are living in a true Golden Age of Amateurism. So long as the scope of one’s efforts are limited to what can be supported in one’s spare time, there is really no limit to what might be attempted.
And with that in mind, what better medium than the written word. No film to buy, no crew or actors to be fed, so little bandwidth to distribute. What better way to be a creative person in this new reality than to be a writer!
And so here I am.
A couple more things, and then I’ll close this post.
I hold three books in high esteem, and mark them as crucial in my intellectual development.
The first is Boats with an Open Mind by the late and much missed Phil C. Bolger. As it happens this out-of-print book has just become available on Kindle. The next is The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, by Michael Ondaatje. The last is the well-known Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. As I reflect on why these three books speak to me, I would have to say it’s because they are each excellent examples of practical orthogonal thinking, and subvert the (supposed) tension between theory and practice.
For the next several months I’ll be using our build as a fulcrum to explore issues ranging from the new (old) realities of employment, to sustainable design, to the (disappointing and hard to market) reality of the ongoing need to burn fossil fuel in a modern economy, to fragility vs. robustness and stability curves, and sometimes just providing a front row view of starting and running a business in a highly regulated industry.
Thanks again to Eric and the rest of the gents for welcoming me to their ranks, and thanks in advance to this blog’s readership. I’ll do my best to give you reasons to keep reading!
(I shot Fair Winds/Uncertain Future on Lake Victoria in 2003, using a wind-up Russian 16mm camera I bought on eBay from the Ukrainian mafia.)