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Posts Tagged ‘Lindsay Mofford’

  On Wednesday, November 30, 2011 the Santa Ana winds blew through Pasadena and quickly made downtown look like Armageddon.  Don’t believe me, take a look at these photos.  We lost electricity at Unconventional Media, but it didn’t matter, I wasn’t working. The electricity was out at the home of my sister, Lindsay Mofford and her husband, Tucker. I’ve written on this blog about Tucker Stilley before, his battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and without use of any of his muscles, outside of his neck and eyebrows, his ability to create artwork and interactive media with just a reflective bindi-dot on his forehead that controls a complex system of computer technology.

Here’s a video link, “How We Do It” that explains the method behind, “The Permanent Record of NewJack_Rasputin.” His website, The Permanent Record, is this pirate avatar’s portal to his art, songs, ideas and videos. Check out the recent new work in reaction to the Occupy movements and new music with visuals, Brite Gray.  But don’t stop there, explore the website for other work or search out, TuckerStilley.com. There is also an APP from Appucan of his Deconstructed Faerie series.  In 2010, he was one of six honored with the Massachusetts College of Art’s Alumni Awards for Distinguished Achievement. (His video speech, since he was unable to attend.)

Back to the power that went off that evening and did not return for 63 hours, a stretch that could have proven deadly to Tucker. He now breathes 24 hours a day with the assistance of a ventilator.  When the electricity went off, everyone had to kick into emergency mode and that’s what amazed me. Not only how quickly the family and caretakers reacted, but how the community of fans and friends stepped in to assist. There was a news piece about the situation in the Pasadena Star News.

Now, there have been other postings about the community of support and friendship for Tucker, including an episode on the radio program, Humankind and a blog on Indiewire a couple years back. There is even a website entitled, All Hands on Board, that links supporters and friends to updates on the artist and new work and most importantly, to each other. Even a Facebook site.

But as medical needs grow, people are now not only giving money as a tax deduction, but also donating their own art to be sold in a community marketplace with all finances raised supporting Tucker. I’m amazed at not only Tucker’s art work that is available for purchase but all the other great things.  This Community Page continues to grow with so many possibilities, it’s one stop shopping for the holidays. You must see it. I’ve got my film Travelin Trains up there. My mom has her new book, “The Devil Made Me Do It.” The incredible musicians, Alloy Orchestra, have a few of their original movie soundtracks available including, “Man with a Movie Camera.” Beautiful prints. Bardo scarves. Even stays in Florence, Italy and Cambridge, Mass. More gets added every day.

Every step of this journey has been a new discovery and when the lights go out, new discoveries are made.  Tucker normally communicates using a custom-built computer system he started designing seven years ago when he was first diagnosed with ALS. These days it is very difficult for him to communicate without the computer. When the electricity went off and running only on a small generator to power the medical equipment, the computer had to go. Tucker was forced to retreat to his only refuge – his mind.  In the program notes for his art show a couple of years ago at Monte Vista (Read the review), he wrote, “I feel it is logical, my own nervous system failing, that I would spontaneously generate an alter-ego, tear a hole-in-space and try to escape.  My situation warrants immediate and drastically uncompromising self-metamorphosis. An exquisite new aesthetic unfolds when you are standing on the deck of a burning ship. Being paralyzed amplifies the uneasy link between intent and action and brings into question the true meaning of this place and time that we occupy…and of what our ultimate audience might prove to be.”

At times he describes himself as a “brain in a jar,” but it is a brilliant brain. We thank you all, those supporters that are consistently involved in Tucker’s life, but as his neck and shoulder muscles begin to give, we are reaching out to new medical procedures like the Eyewriter  and more medical staff to keep the “brain” creating. We need to go beyond the community that knows Tucker and introduce him to those who have yet to meet him. I believe the Community Marketplace is a good starting point. Please share, buy and donate.

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It’s a lot of time and energy to keep up your profile on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, Ning sites and dozens of other social networking sites. However, if you’re trying to make a living in the creative arts, be it an independent filmmaker, musician, artist, then you’ve got to look at it as part of the job.

Here’s just one recent example with my short film “Travelin’ Trains.” A few weeks back I notice Greg Sarni has become a Facebook friend with my sister Lindsay Mofford. Now I remember Greg, not well, but I remember drinking beer and hanging out with him at Emerson College. We reconnect, become online friends. On his Facebook site are photographs and notes about his days running the Boston Blues Festival. I mention “Travelin’ Trains,” my short blues film about a boy in search of his father in the Depression-era South. It’s full of traditional, acoustic blues. He wants to see it, especially because one of the stars is Chicago Bob Nelson.  A few years back, Bob collected the Blues Trust Lifetime Achievement Award. Greg is a fan of his music and makes mention of the prize and film in his online newsletter, Blues Trust. He also adds the Cacchi link where you can see my film for free.  The film gets a jump in views including a recommendation on Twitter by the famous Ash Grove bar in Los Angeles. I see the text and Twitter back that we need to do a documentary on the history of one of the most important folk clubs in the country. Discussions and developments begin. Thanks Greg.

Do you see where I’m going with all this? At Unconventional South in Nashville, we are constantly talking to an incredible roster of talented musicians who know that the old ways of creating an audience no longer apply.  Brian Adams knows this and is developing the network television series “Stone Cold Sober in Music City” with an online home base. You can read more about that venture in a previous blog.  We’ve also been exploring that with Billy Falcon, his daughter Rose Falcon and The Sowing Circle on Ustream.  A wonderful write up at indiemusictech.com covers what a musician has to do these days to get their music heard.  It was also a big issue of discussion at the SXSW music conference as referenced in Wired magazine.

Mashable.com is a wealth of information of guidelines, with success and failure stories of what works for artists and entrepreneurs. The write up about Ning job networks and entrepreneur networks are two of my favorite resources. How do I know when there is a new article? I follow them on Twitter. When a new story is online, they’ll put a link on Twitter. I can access it if I’m interested. This process is exactly the same for all us artists. You release a new song, photograph, film, art show and let people know it is there. The fans decide if they want to access it or not. They hear or see it and your network spreads the word. If they’re not spreading the word then something isn’t grabbing their attention.

Now everyone has their own set of rules of what and how they want to communicate via the web. I use MySpace mostly for listening to new bands and keeping track of gigs via bulletins. I reserve Facebook for my actual friends, mainly because I’ve got some friends on there that I’ve known since Junior High School.  I’d rather not share those old stories with someone I just met at a networking event. In those cases, I stay linked to the business contacts, new and old, via LinkedIn. And for me, Twitter is all about the RSS feed. I’m following you because either I like what you have to say, play, write or communicate. If you’ve got a suggestion, I want the link. I hope those that follow me feel the same way about my “tweets.”

Now I know there are dozens of other social networks including “Ning” sites like my Brother-in-Laws site, All Hands on Board, which can be very specialized. I just don’t feel like I need to be on all of them.  It might look like some sort of desperate need to be noticed. You see, there is a fine line and only you can decide what is needed to get the word out and what is too much.  We each make our own rules and that, my online friend, has got to be one of the greatest things about social networks.

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A few days ago I was returning with my sister Lindsay Mofford and our friend Stefan Rhys from the full length screening of “Che” at the Nuart theater.  The two of them couldn’t see how director Steven Soderbergh could allow the studios to release the film in two parts instead of the four+ hour version that we had just throughly enjoyed.  I argued that they seemed like two different films, both in filmmaking style and tone.  They were even shot at different aspect  ratios.  Soderbergh may have always planned them as two different films.  The conversation continued with discussions of classic great films, both Lindsay and Stefan had recently seen Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film “Network” again on Netflix.  We talked about Paddy Chayefsky‘s great screenplay, including the fight between Diana (Faye Dunaway) to Max (William Holden) and her apology, “I’m sorry I impugned your cockmanship.”  We all agreed, “Such a great line.”  They just don’t make them like that anymore.  Well, OK, Sidney Lumet  and Steven Soderbergh are still making great movies.

I’ve been reading a lot about the past recently, not just 2008 (which is to be expected with the New Year), but even further back.  The Sunday, December 28, New York Times was filled with articles about how things are changing so rapidly, mostly because of digital technology and the Internet.  In Michael Kimmelman’s article, “Imperfect, Yet Magical” he writes about Polaroid’s decision to stop manufacturing the film for their instant cameras.  Digital cameras did them in, even though some amazing art, including the work of David Hockney, has been created with those white-bordered prints.  As to be expected, many  are protesting by signing petitions at SavePolaroid.com.  Others are happy to see its demise, Polaroid film never being a great thing for the environment.

I signed the petition, but how many things can we really hope to save in this changing world.  On the very next page of the newspaper was an article by David Streitfeld about the destruction of book publishing.  Turns out it isn’t because of lack of interest in books, it’s because book lovers are finding cheaper ways to read and buy books on the Internet.  To quote, “more books are available for less effort and less money than ever before.”  He not only mentions Amazon.com but introduced me to ViaLibri.net, a book search engine of 20,000 booksellers around the world, ready to uncover your next read.

Reading about how the Internet is the demise of book publishing reminds me of all the discussions, including here on this blog and at our Nashville office Unconventional South, of how downloading music has ruined the recording companies.  In 2008, one Billion songs were purchased online, while CD sales fell nearly twenty percent.  The music industry is scrambling to cope with this change.  In the Arts and Leisure section of the same New York Times, Jon Pareles writes in his article, “Songs from the Heart of a Marketing Plan” that record labels are now creating “360” deals with artists, in which they share in concert tickets and merchandise sales.  The biggest new source of income for musical artists is in licensing fees for commercials, movie and television soundtracks and video games.  The concern, of course, is that in the past, the record labels job was selling the music and the artist, licensers have no interest beyond the immediate sales effect of a certain song.  So the shift goes from recording songs from the heart to making music that marketers can use.  Didn’t Neil Young warn us all many years ago that this was where things were headed in “This Note’s for You?”

If it requires marketing and branding to get your music heard, is that so bad?  Music has always had a role in marketing.  Most successful musicians believe that licensing does build interest in the music that can pay off with record sales.  The key is staying true to your art while taking advantage of the new opportunities.  In the Music section of that same December 28 issue of the Times, Vivien Schweitzer writes in her article, “Aliens are attacking.  Cue the Strings.” that music scores whether rock, rap or classical are becoming an integral part of video games.  It seems as the game industry matures, they’re getting better at storytelling.  Steve Schnur of Electronic Arts (EA) is quoted as saying, “music is the reason for the emotional response that games never had 10 to 20 years ago.”  We certainly found that to be true when producing the live portions of  “Need for Speed:Undercover.”  In prep, the discussions on music were considered just as important as visual content.  According to the article, television and film producers want more ambient music, while software companies want strong statements.  However, the biggest challenge for the composer is switching from linear to the interactive of video games, the music has to reflect different possible outcomes within each part of the game.

Listen, I still love the sound of an LP over a CD or digital recording.  I don’t mind getting up ever 25 minutes to turn over the record, that’s why I still own three thousand records.  I also have close to that many CD’s.  However, we need to embrace the fact that new media has changed the industry, not only music, but other creative endeavors.  Because I also love listening to new bands on Pandora, Ourstage and MySpace.

The changing industry is even having an effect on syndicated cartoonists. According to Leslie Berlin in her New York Times article (same date, quite an issue), “The Comics are Feeling the Pain of Print,” cartoonist are feeling the same bite as musical artists.  Newspapers are declining.  Cartoonists are using the web to sell books, calendars, stuffed dolls to compensate.  Sites like Comics.com and Webcomics Nation present many of the same strips found syndicated in newspapers, plus some new ones only available on the web.  Another site, GoComics.com even has a version for the iPhone.  Like most things on the Internet, the comic sites didn’t have much success with subscription fees, but marketing banners seem bring in some income.

In 1976, when the film “Network” was released, news as entertainment seemed like a far-fetched fantasy.  Things have changed, but in many ways things remain the same.  Many of the issues documented in the terrific Gus Van Zant film release “Milk” are being fought today in California with Prop. 8 and elsewhere in this country.  I gathered my information the old fashioned way, I read the Sunday New York Times, not on the Internet, it was delivered.  But I put it in my Blog, you can still read the articles online.  In 2009, we don’t have to leave everything behind to move forward, we just need to figure out how to make all this new technology work to our own artistic and financial advantage.  So take those fading Polaroids, maybe scan them and create a website.  Take your music and find a new way to market it.  Write your novel or make your film and self distribute it.  Use the web for success, that’s my resolution.  There are no good old yesterdays, just present day.

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As many of you know, my sister Lindsay Mofford’s husband, Tucker was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) a few years back.  I make mention of this here because I think some of the artwork Tucker has been doing since being diagnosed speaks volumes of the creative potential of the internet.

Tucker Stilley, former Mass Art student has always brought a unique perspective to his creative and professional work as a musician, artist, sound designer and film editor.  I’ve worked with Tucker on many professional projects including the redesign of the sound for the DVD release of my film, “Travelin’ Trains.” Because of the disease, he is no longer able to use his limbs, instead using a reflective bindi dot on his forehead to control a complex system of computer technology, largely of his own design.

His website, The Permanent Record is a portal to computer art, songs, ideas and videos rearranged and redesigned from media sources scrounged from the depths of Google and other web search engines.  Recombining the found visuals, Tucker forms multi-media collages of sight and sound, a self-described “Anarchival Research Gimp.”  A couple years back, I commissioned a video piece from Tucker for an upcoming feature film project, Press>Play.  I was amazed by the images he discovered and edited that related to the subject matter of the effect of the media on a relationship, just by surfing the net, all public domain.

A social networking support page of friends and family called “All Hands on Board” has been created through Ning.com and it has become a work of art in it’s own right.  How exciting to see all these creative people add photographs, videos and even artwork stimulated by Tucker’s life and work.  To me these are just some examples of what is possible when talking about communication and new media.  Musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers can build their own social networking sites beyond Facebook and MySpace.  These spaces become testaments and build memories.  Exciting times indeed!

An exhibit of Tucker’s work will be on display at the beginning of the new year, but if you are so inclined, some of his artwork will be on display October 23 at the REDCAT Theater (Disney Hall) in Los Angeles along with a special screening of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s film “HOSPITAL.”  This is a very special treat since Wisemen rarely releases his older films, (years ago, Tucker and my sister, Lindsay worked for him).  Time magazine called this Emmy award winning film, best documentary of the year in 1969.

* Get your tickets now by calling the REDCAT Box Office at 213-237-2800 *

You can also help us end this horrible disease by clicking on this link ALS/Team Tucker or send a donation to:

The ALS Association, Greater Los Angeles Chapter
Attn: Walk to defeat ALS/Team Tucker
PO Box 565
Agoura Hills, CA  91376-065

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