Author - Paul Schatzkin

More From Harvey:
The 1956 Medical Trilogy, Part 1

I surmise that anybody who’s been following this revival of my father’s writing has learned by now that Harvey died of cancer in 1958 at the ripe young age of 37.  Therein lies the tragedy and the origins of the personal trauma that I’m exploring now (while undergoing a fresh round of new personal trauma right here in 2018. But we’ll get to that later…).

We don’t really know a whole lot about his illness nor his death.  It came, frankly, as a complete surprise to my siblings and me, although I was only 7 years old at the time and my sister only 4.  My brother (also currently deceased) might have had more of a grasp of it, but even he was only 10 years old at the time.

Almost everything I ever knew about his illness (which is to say, nothing), was expressed in a poem I wrote a long time ago about the Little Green Boat our family owned while we still lived near the Shrewsbury River in Rumson, New Jersey.

What I do have in the archives that I’m rummaging through now are three short essays that Harvey wrote about his experiences in the world of mid-1950s medical care.  Herewith, then, are those three essays, starting with:

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A Visit To The Mayo Clinic – December, 1956

It’s peculiar that when reading the travel and resort section of the Sunday papers that I have never noticed any ads for Rochester, Minnesota as the ideal winter vacation spot. Much is written about Miami, Palm Beach, Bermuda, and the West Indies. But who is singing the praises of this happy little village nestled peacefully in the Zumbro Valley?  (named for its discoverer Sam Zumbro, who mistakenly thought he had found the Khyber Pass.) Read More

From Harvey, ca. 1940:
“The Parker Pen Letter”

Returning now too the subject of My Father and the things that he wrote during his relatively brief time on Earth:

One of the most “famous” of my father’s works (which is to say, famous within the family) is the letter that he wrote to the Parker Pen Company while a student at the University of Illinois in the fall of 1940.

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The letter was written in 1940, but I don’t have any photos from that era handy, so here’s one from the 1950’s.

December 6, 1940

The Parker pen company
Janesville, Wisconsin

Gentlemen:

As you can see I am writing a letter to the company that makes (by its own admission) the finest pens in the world – by using a typewriter.

I do  this not because I do not have a pen., No, gentlemen right here in my left hand I have a pen. Said pen is called in one of your ads which I just happened to read, quote, a Jewel of Pendom, unquote. However, if I were to attempt to write this letter with this pen, the pages would be so smudged up with ink that it would be totally impossible for you to read it. But allow me to explain the case a little more fully.

About two years ago (or possibly a few months less) I wandered into a bookstore on our campus – that of the University of Illinois – and purchased a Parker pen.  Since this memorable date, I have had nothing but trouble with the amazing instrument.

The trouble, to sum it up briefly, is that this pen leaks – leaks torrentially.

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“Guitar Mash” = “Music 3.0”

Remember when I was writing about “Music 3.0“?

Of course you don’t, that was almost 10 years ago, before I folded “celestialjukebox.org” into one of the archived elements of this CohesionArts website.

My idea of “Music 3.0” (there are others, but they’re not nearly as prescient or comprehensive… 😜) was the culmination of what I still occasional refer to as my “Grand Nebulous Theory of The Future of Music” – a concept both “grand” and “nebulous” because, while I think the historical trajectory offers some useful clues, I don’t really have a solid grasp of the ultimate destination.

Whatever the ultimate destination, I think I walked into a fresh landmark along the route this past Saturday when I spent the afternoon at the City Winery in Nashville for something called the “Guitar Mash.”

The concept is hard to describe, but is summed up in the project’s stated mission to “change the way you experience music.”  Follow this link to get a better idea of the concept (simplified version here).

As I wrote in a Facebook post the following day:

I got to be present for – and photograph – a rather extraordinary event yesterday at City Winery.

It’s called the “Guitar Mash.”

It starts with a “house band” of A-List musicians – like Jerry Douglas on dobro, Mark Stewart (musical director for Paul Simon, among other things), Victor Krauss on bass, Larry Atamanuik on drums and John Deaderick on keys.

As the afternoon unfolded, the band was joined on stage by featured players including the likes of Brent Mason, Keb Mo, and John Oates.

But the really unique feature is: the audience is encouraged to bring their own instruments and… ohmigod… play along with the stars! Chord-and-lyric charts are displayed on the video screens and “Chord Coaches” (from the W.O. Smith School) wander the audience helping the guests suss out what they’re trying to play.

There will be more to come after I’ve sorted through all the files, but this morning I want to share this one shot of MV Gauthier, as she performs Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and looks out at a venue full of people playing and singing along with her. Her reaction here captures the entire essence of the event. Long story short, it was a blast for every one.

While technology continues to disrupt the “virtual” music business, I felt like this was an indication of what’s possible in the “real” world of music: empowering more people to make music themselves. I kinda think Mary is catching that spirit in this moment and realizing what a wonderful thing that could be.

It oddly frustrates me sometimes when I go to a concert or a club, and there is so little for the audience to do.  The performers put their best effort into a song, and the rest of us sit there and repetitiously flap our hands together in appreciation.  Rinse and repeat.  I don’t know that there is any viable alternative to that, but here’s a venue full of people doing something other than waiting for their chance to applaud:

Digital Caveats re: the above slideshow: I’m having some issues with ZenFolio – my web gallery/service provider – over their continued reliance on Adobe Flash for these slide shows.  10 years after Steve Jobs wrote the epitaph on Flash, ZenFolio only lets me create an “embeddable” slideshow if I use Adobe Flash.  HTML5 has been the de-facto standard for nearly a decade,  but when I try to embed the HTML5 version of this slideshow in my WordPress post, only half of the images appear in an otherwise half-black screen.  I love ZenFolio, but this one rates a big WTFF?  I don’t have Flash on my new MacBook Pro, so I have no idea if the embed above works or not.  If not, follow this link to see the entire gallery; there is a button to display the HTML5 slideshow in the upper right corner of the gallery page.

 

My Name Is Harvey…

…as in the rabbit….

So began a letter that my father, Harvey Schatzkin, wrote to Macy’s in the winter of 1946 – four years before I was born.

He and wife Ellen were living at the time in an “inflated white house” in Milltown, New Jersey – building their lives together on the early fruits of America’s post-war prosperity.  For a vehicle, they owned a surplus Army Jeep, and as they assembled their household, they purchased a lot of stuff from Macy’s Department Store in New York City.

Problem was, Macy’s kept delivering their purchases to a factory on the other side of town.

So my father wrote Macy’s a letter.

Letter-writing was one of my father’s talents.  For decades now, I have been sitting on a trove of letters, essays and stories that he wrote.  All along I have been thinking I might one day do something with them. It seems that day has arrived.

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Speaking of Hogwarts…

(…which we were talking about three posts ago…)

While watching “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” I took particular note or the location where the words “the chamber of secrets is open” appeared in blood on a stone wall. What caught my eye was the extraordinary “fan vaulting” in the ceilings of what I tracked down to the Cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral in the English Midlands.

When I returned to the UK in the spring of 2017 to “Chase The Light in the Celtic Latitudes™,” I made a point to put Gloucester on the itinerary. I also made a point to get to the cathedral before it opened, so that I could be there before the crowds started showing up – Gloucester Cathedral is now a very popular destination for tourists, and takes some pride in its “Harry Potter” connections.

The Cloisters (an isolated quadrangle of corridors with access to a garden where monks and priests could retreat for solitude and meditation), did not disappoint. Although medieval gothic architecture originated in France and Italy, “fan vaulting” like this is unique to England, and Gloucester Cathedral is arguably the most elaborate expression of the form. (Henry VII’s Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey is pretty cool, too, but they don’t permit photography there at any time of day… )

Since I was there early the corridors were empty, and after a few minutes of wandering, I found this perfect angle capture the vaulting and some stained glass with a fisheye lens and five HDR exposures.

photo ©2017 paul@cohesionarts.com

Dispatches from the Outskirts:
Whither Facebookistan?

Bang bang, and here we go again… 

A gun goes off, people – children! – are killed and wounded, and the cycle of social media outrage – over the act, over the response or lack-thereof, over the unfathomable tragedy of it all – resumes, along with the meaningless deluge of “thoughts and prayers” that pours into the digital ether all over again.

The last time this happened (well, no, not the last time, because amid this week’s news comes the revelation that Parkland was, what, the nineteenth gun-related multiple-death incident this year?!?!),  in the aftermath of the Country Music Massacre in Las Vegas last October, I started to scroll through the countless expressions of futility and declared that “The Moment That Facebook Became Insufferable.”

Then I went into a self-imposed exile from “Facebookistan.”

It didn’t last.

Too much has already been written about the irresistible lure of our devices and the impact their mere presence has on our focus, our concentration – our very consciousness.

I can’t find the source now, but I’ve read several times about a recent study where one group was asked to leave their phones in another room while the other group kept theirs beside them; the group that left the phones outside demonstrated better focus and concentration because they were less inclined to glance at their gizmo in search of some random new input.  The other group’s attention was, how shall we say, more fragmented.

I know the feeling.

Dozens of times every day – especially when I am trying to write something, or in the midst of editing photos, or learning/practicing something on guitar… I will fill a momentary void by flipping over to my browser; all I have to do is enter the letter “f” and Facebook appears…

When I went into my self-imposed Facebook exile back in October, I did two things that I thought would make all the difference: First, I removed the Facebook app from my iPhone; second, I  removed the permanently pinned “Facebook” tab in my browser – which was, until then, the first tab in the line-up of ten permanently pinned tabs I keep open.  That way (I told myself) I was keeping Facebook at arm’s length.  This, I now realize, was the alcoholic’s equivalent of locking the liquor cabinet but keeping the key.

Then I tried to adopt a routine of only posting things to my own website, and using a social media plugin to “toss” those posts “over the wall” into “Facebookistan.”

But jeez, who was I kidding?

Looking back over the past few months I realize how I let my weakness prevail: What I didn’t do was remove the Facebook app from my iPad.  I must have fooled myself into thinking that was safe because I don’t have the tablet with me all day like I do the phone.  But whenever I did open the tablet, like on a break at work, too often the first thing I did was open the damn Facebook app.

Turns out was my ‘gateway app.’

And while I no longer have the Facebook app on my phone,  after a few weeks I got into the nasty (and very inefficient) habit of opening Facebook in the phone’s native browser – all the while telling myself the compulsion was under some kind of control because I wasn’t using the app.  And as I said, even though the permanent tab is gone from my desktop browser, Facebook is still just one or two clicks and the letter “f” away…

There is a pernicious cycle at work here: even when something is posted “indirectly” as I was doing, the immediate impulse is “has anybody seen it?”  “Does it have any Likes yet?”  “Are there any comments that I can reply to?”  And before I knew it, the whole damn sickness had crept back into my life.

My favorite line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (of which I have been an inconsistent member for over 30 years) is the line that says,

“half measures availed us nothing.”

I took that mandate deeply to heart 30 years ago when I stopped puffing and sipping and snorting.   I probably owe my continued existence to my adherence to that one clause.

Now, to the extent that it is fair to say that the Internet/Social Media/Facebook engagement bears many of the qualities of classic addiction, I’ve got an even better sense or just what that “half measures” business is really about.

I tried “half measures” with Facebook – much as the alcoholic tells himself “hey, I can have a beer now and again” or “this glass of wine with dinner is no problem…” – and like that alcoholic, over the course of a few months, I now find myself once again lying face down on the floor of the digital saloon.

It is a strange time we find ourselves living in. In the 20th century, “celebrity” – a public persona – was the exclusive enclave of people who had achieved some demonstrably high level of achievement.  In the 21st century, anybody with a keyboard and screen has a platform and access to a potential audience of billions.  Before there was Facebook or Twitter, only the most deserving  (or the most notorious) lived in the fishbowl of celebrity. Now we all have a public persona.  Some are better developed than others.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an interesting email exchange with a friend with whom I also often interact on Facebook.  Let’s call him “Ken” (because, well, that’s his name..).

I shared with Ken my frustration over, “the effective integration of Facebook into my life” and this sense that it’s just a habit that can’t be knocked.  Ken wrote back,

I don’t struggle with FB quite as much. It’s a tool for me, one that I’m pretty good at using, and pretty good at staying away from when needed or warranted.  And I think I’ve gotten over the ‘likeitis’ wondering who or how many liked something witty.  At this point I know I’m pretty witty and folks are going to respond to it that way-and quite honestly I just don’t care anymore who or how many like anything I do or say.

That sounds much healthier than whatever is that I’m doing with Facebook.  But I also think I’ve come up with a clue why that is.  Bear with me, it gets confessional from here…

The word “struggle” in Ken’s message triggered the sardonic voices in my head, whispering “Facebook is life.  I struggle with life, therefore I struggle with Facebook.”

By ‘struggle’ I mean: I wrestle daily with fundamental questions about my identity, my abilities, and WTF am I doing here?  My father died at 37, my brother at 62, and yet, here I am at 67, still fumbling from one day to the next, trying to find some semblance of my own shit to hold together (and don’t even start me on the existential crises of the past two years, though I suppose they are all inter-related…)

I think Ken has the advantage of a much healthier perspective: He found his life’s purpose (he’s a brilliant instrumental guitarist) a long time ago and everything about his “public persona” flows from that.

I, on the other hand… still struggle to narrow it down, or even define my life broadly.  Consequently,  my “public persona” is a perfect reflection of that inner turmoil.

As as kid, I had all these creative things I could do: write stories, play guitar and sing, and at various times over the years make pictures (but only with the help of lenses – I discovered in the first grade that I had no talent for actual ‘drawing’, which is probably when my estrangement from the word “art” as a means of personal expression began…).

But for one reason or another that not even a lifetime of therapy has managed to unearth, those abilities languish, never fully developed or manifest. I still feel like there are all these things I can almost do. So I am probably not going to get an effective handle on any kind of “public persona” until, like Ken, I’ve got a better sense of what actual purpose I’m using all these “tools” for.

Until then, I rail against the futility of it all, particularly in the face of collective tragedy.

And so, like the Big Book says, I just have to admit that “I am powerless over Facebook and my life has become unmanageable…”  And then, I guess, seek the counsel of a Higher Power (or a new therapist?).

Meanwhile, we have come full circle:  another bullet-induced national calamity (deep in the midst of the broader calamity that befell The Republic a little over a year ago) and the cycle is back to its full, flaming, alcoholic fury: tens of millions of outraged citizens of Facebookistan spilling into their public personae while just trying to get a grip on imponderable madness.

But wait: Do I have any “Like”s yet?  Any comments??

Today in #TMITM: Nearer My God To Thee

I’m beginning to detect a trend here:

From Recode:

“The American car industry, in the 1950s, dominated the world,” author Andrew Keen said… “Twenty years later, the American car industry had collapsed because they produced cars which were death traps.”

“I think we’re at a similar time in the digital economy,” he added, referring to the prevalence of advertising-driven tech products. “Consumers will and are coming around to the realization that this business model is not in their interest…

…“I think Mark Zuckerberg has been rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic with these latest reforms at Facebook,” Keen said. “I’d like to see him really acknowledge the problem and deal with it directly and come up with radical solutions.”

And while I’m at it:

Keen argued that Apple is “in a better position than Google or Facebook” because its business is not dependent on collecting and monetizing consumers’ data, which he refers to as “surveillance capitalism.”

Listen to the podcast:

Or wait for the book.

Or, maybe somebody can please do the math, and figure out “how much would it cost 2-billion people to actual pay outright for Facebook to substitute for its ad-driven revenue?”

I might be willing to pay as much as I do for Netflix or Spotify.

Maybe.

The Photos That ‘Ended My Career’

Back in the early 1970s I saw a student film called “Hot Dogs for Gauguin,” written and directed by Martin Brest, who went on to have a notable film career.  He directed such memorable hits as Midnight Run, Beverly Hills Cop, and The Scent of a Woman before becoming a Hollywood persona-non-grata for directing a fiasco called Gigli in 2003; Marty’s IMDB bio ends there.

Oh, the humanity!

Hot Dogs for Gauguin” is about a photographer – played by a then-unknown actor named Danny DeVito – who wants to replicate the kind of acclaim that he thinks befell the photographer who shot the Hindenberg disaster (Oh, the humanity!).  DeVito’s character figures to achieve similar acclaim by blowing up the Statue of Liberty – and being on-hand to capture the moment with his camera. Suffice it to say it doesn’t end well…

This is a story about my own “Hot Dogs for Gauguin” moment.”

Or maybe it was more of a “Gigli” moment, if not quite on the same scale.

There was a period a couple of years ago when I was making a concerted attempt to market myself as a photographer, in particular of music-related subjects.

With some coaching, I’d set up a program at thejoyofmakingmusic.com (it’s still there) and created a couple of ‘packages’ for shooting stills during studio recording sessions.

Not long after I set all that up I was invited into a studio by an A-List, first-call musician, a side-player to the stars, who was recording her own album for an indie label, and had called on some of the town’s top A-List players in support.  I did not know most of the names, nor of the many-arms-lengths lists of credits they all carried.  I was a bit of a fish out of water.  They all knew each other, and I only barely knew the woman who’d invited me to the session (I’d met her when we worked together on another project).

I will mention just one actual name, because it was the effort to capture his thousand-watt smile that got me in trouble (I think). Read More

Today in #TMITM – Just Stop Whatever You’re Doing…

..and listen to Ezra Klein’s podcast interview with Jaron Lanier:

“The problem here is that as technology improves and as algorithms improve… the whole system is just trying to optimize itself… advertising turns in to something very different than what it started as. It turns into behaviorism on a global scale, it turns into feedback loops that modify peoples’ behavior by algorithm and for pay, and once you’ve gone over that threshold you really make society insane…”

You’re welcome…

 

Winter Footwear

I confess, I don’t quite get a lot of what passes for women’s footwear.

Which is what was going through my mind last Saturday at the Downtown Art Crawl, where I have a wall of my photography on exhibit at Erabellum,  a coop gallery in The Arcade.

The temperatures were in the low-20s that night, but one woman apparently thought that open-toed pumps were entirely suitable for the occasion.

Brr.

But what do I know about women’s fashion (or women, for that matter….)

Let’s hear it for sensible shoes.  And David Lee Roth…