Your 15 Minutes of Fame

About 25 people turned out Wednesday night for the very first occurrence of Your 15 Minutes of Fame at the Florida Museum of Photographic Art. (Yea for more & more stuff going on downtown!) The idea for 15 Minutes was inspired by a similar event at a Miami museum and coordinated in part by yours truly. It featured six presenters who are given 15 minutes to introduce themselves and their work. (Museum membership is required to be a presenter, but not an audience member).

I don't have much of a photo background beyond having to take my own pics for my stories for CL, but I've always held the notion that photography can only help me with my videography. I was amazed to see the work of these six photographers; I love having so much talent in Tampa Bay.

They shared their views of the world through color, shape, a tiny moment, and the scope of different cultures. Influenced by painters as much as the great photographers, L.A. Moore's layered landscapes looked like storybook illustrations. Robert Neff used geometry and Kaleidoscopography to "take something and make it into another piece." Michael Conway showed us his way of "taking photos and ripping them up" into portraits of St. Pete artists. Sharma Shari used her Puerto Rican and American duality to show us who she really is. Chris Odom's lustrous photos of a Guatemalan mountain village showcased his years of anthropological study of the culture's traditions and changes. Jim Lennon presented his large collection of artists, dancers, musicians and more performing on various stages around Tampa Bay.

The Audience Choice award actually ended up in a tie, going to Robert Neff and Sharma Shari. The next 15 Minutes of Fame will take place at the museum on Wednesday, February 17th.


Ship Me to the South Pacific

When I first saw the movie South Pacific as a kid, I couldn't understand why some lady was upset that her boyfriend had "brown children." Last night as I settled into my seat at the Straz to prep for this weekend's audio description gig, I was looking forward to hearing the silly line I remembered from the movie. Shortly after the kids made their first brief entrance, however, my juvenile anticipation was spoiled by what I took as ignorance when an older gentleman behind me asked loudly to no one in particular: "Those are his kids?!"

South Pacific holds up well in the current era because of thinly veiled racism and our never-ending wars. I am a little surprised such a story was written 60+ years ago...but perhaps not so surprised that we sadly face the same problems today.


I Saw God Today

On Sunday, the white overcast sky and biting cold seemed to threaten snow in Southwestern Florida. My mom and I took a drive to the country to visit my brother, loving the scenery: plowed fields, birds in creeks, open-topped trucks filled to the brim with oranges. My brother CG is the reason we see a lot of Florida. He's lived up in Lake Butler, down in Belle Glades, and is now a bit closer to us in Bowling Green, where they say "Life is more relaxed."

It was so cold we couldn't stand around for long outside where he liked to smoke cigarettes with my mom. A good friend had let him borrow a ratty but thick long-sleeved shirt because he didn't have one of his own. Who knew Florida got this cold? Still, small children played in the yard with their parents: chasing, running, laughing, and being loved.

I looked around at CG's acquaintances standing around with their friends and families. Like CG, they're generally good people, but had "fallen off course," as my brother puts it. He's one of the sweetest people I know, but his unmedicated bi-polar disorder led him to self medicate with drugs, and on one desperate day he stole a vehicle, a gun, and more, and knocked over a convenience store for about $25 and a few packs of smokes. Because he had a gun, he received an automatic 10 years in the Florida State prison system. Some gun control we have here. Florida is cold indeed. Eight years down, 23 months to go.

CG talked about the antics of his peers as if they were away at boarding school. The stories he told made us laugh, and he sounded as if he was having a decent time. No doubt he was having a good time entertaining us. When he accidentally mentioned that fights sometimes broke out there, he politely nodded when Mom asked if he stayed out of them and minded his temper.

I looked at clock, ready to go after two hours, ashamed to let him know that I had had enough. Then I looked at his eyes, much more wrinkled in the corners than mine even though I'm two years older.

Driving home I thought of the waste of talent prisons take away from our society. They're expensive monstrosities that drain tax dollars without fixing the problems that got the mostly good but broken people incarcerated in the first place. It's as if our country wants these forgotten people to fail again and again. Or just go away so we can forget the terrible things they ever did.