Monday, April 30, 2012

Photo Series. Go.

Challenge no. 12 is to create a conceptual photo series. As of yesterday, this one is in full swing. Introducing: STYLED BY CHILD. The name is a placeholder, but the idea is that kids ages three to five style one or both of their parents (this includes the outfit, accessories, hair and makeup), and then I do a portrait of the parent as styled by their kid(s). The parent has no say in how they look. They are at the stylistic mercy of their offspring.

I will post more photos as I collect more portraits, but here is a series sneak peek. She looked like a gypsy who had been coal mining. It was awesome: 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Five Months In: Progress Report

Even though I still have seven months, I am starting to feel a slight time crunch. I was able to knock out four challenges this month while making some definite headway on others. Cheers to the five month mark.

Just like in the last update, the challenges in blue are the ones I'm actively working on. The challenges in green are the ones that are completed. The challenges in purple are the ones that I haven't started but are "in the works" or being planned out.
  1. Do yoga three days a week.
  2. Give a stranger $100. Film it and post it on YouTube.
  3. Eat 29 cupcakes in 29 days and write a review of each. 
  4. Research and identify 10 procedural reforms that would help move congress and the executive office back to being a government of the people and for the people. Print these 10 reforms on handout cards and distribute to anyone and everyone you know. Post them on your Facebook page and website. 
  5. Travel overseas, ride trains only, and put together a collection of photos titled "Window Seat."
  6. Sit in silence and stillness each morning for 15 minutes before you start your day.
  7. Write and direct your own short film and submit it to a film festival.
  8. Spend one night in a women's shelter, make a connection and offer to take family portraits.
  9. Make and bottle your own wine. Save it for a future birthday.
  10. Lie down on your back in a NYC street and pretend to be a dead bug. 
  11. Write a sad story about a girl who gets the things she always wanted -- on your typewriter.  
  12. Make a conceptual photo series, preferably a book. 
  13. Your 27th and 28th years were characterized by massive life changes that included a move and job change; my challenge is make one more life change. I'm not going to define it, but some suggestions would be: take another step with Austin, get a friend for Dagmar, get involved with something you care about in an incredibly inconvenient capacity.
  14. Take flying lessons.
  15. Do 200 crunches and three 1-minute planks every other day. And assist your scared, almost-grad cousin in finding a job in Atlanta. 
  16. End every day by writing down one positive thing that happened in the previous 24 hours.
  17. Learn how to perform an authentic Japanese tea ceremony.
  18. Get a photo (or photos) into a gallery/showing AND/OR sell one of your photos.
  19. A year-long water challenge: Drink 1 liter of water per day, wade across a stream, swim across a pool, canoe across a lake or pond, and fly across an ocean.
  20. Make and bring your lunch 2 out of 5 days a week.
  21. Manifest yourself in an act of humanitarianism that permanently and positively enriches the life of a child. The act may not be accomplished with direct financial, but must involve sacrifice of your time and attention.
  22. Research your Jewish heritage going back at least four generations. 
  23. Pay one compliment to a different person every day.
  24. Raise a basil plant and name it Kyle.
  25. Take an art class and create an original painting.
  26. Keep a Smash Book (scrapbook) for the year.
  27. Write words (the grouping of letters that hints of story and promise), even if it's only one line or thought or idea, in a momentary embrace of lapse of reason, everyday, and incorporate these words into a future novel.
  28. Learn to sew, design an outfit, make it, do a self-portrait in it.
  29. Attend 10 religious services. Record your impression of each.  
  30. Write the first chapter of your first novel and the outline. Submit to a publisher.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Skyhawk Adventure

Like I mentioned in Monday's post, flying a plane (challenge no. 19) was beyond incredible. Though it may offend a few of my challengers, it has been my favorite challenge so far. I have been asked if this experience caused me to "conquer" my fear. My answer is best depicted through metaphor: It's as if my fear was a giant grizzly bear in attack-mode and now it is simply a kitten lounging on a windowsill. It hasn't gone away completely, but is less likely to make me pee my pants.

We were supposed to fly at 9:00 a.m., but because of the evil morning weather in Atlanta, we set out at 1:00 p.m. Side note: I must extend an apology to my good friend Charity for the 20-minute car ride to Peachtree Dekalb Airport. My nerves were doing the talking. Your patience was astounding and greatly appreciated.

Upon arrival at Skybound Aviation, I was greeted by my instructor, Kerwin Day, also known as the nicest man I have ever met. He has been flying since 1966 and has more than 18,500 hours. I was in great hands.

As we made our way outside, I asked Kerwin what exactly I would be allowed to do once we were airborne. Steer? Take pictures? He replied, "Oh, you're going to be doing everything. I'm just along for the ride." Gulp.

Making our way out to the plane.

The Skyhawk (Cessna 172).

Kerwin took about a half hour to familiarize me with the plane we would be flying. I learned what most of the major components are called and what purpose they each serve. Kerwin would always let me guess what each part was called before he told me. My guesses were things like "Flappy Thing" and "Flux Capacitor." The correct answers were things like "Fuselage" and "Rotor."


Finally we climbed into the plane and buckled ourselves in. At this point my heart was beating fast, but more out of excitement and curiosity rather than fear. Kerwin went over all of the important devices inside the cockpit before we started it up and started taxiing. After checking a few key functions, we were cleared to take off. At the start of the runway, Kerwin took me through, step by step. First I pushed in the throttle all the way, and the plane went forward and started building up speed. Then I simply pulled back on the wheel.

And suddenly, I was flying. Here are a few adjectives to describe this moment: exhilarating, empowering, breathtaking, freaking awesome.

We cruised around at about 125 mph at an altitude of 3,000 feet, first flying south to the downtown area, circling around Turner field, then heading toward Stone Mountain and back to PDK. Kerwin served as both my flight instructor and tour guide of the skies, providing interesting tidbits about what we were flying over.

 View of Emory University from 3,000-ish feet. 

 Stone Mountain.

After about thirty minutes of flying time and me meeting my exclamatory outburst quota for the year, we landed. Kerwin told me what to do as I shakily followed his instructions. Afterward I gave myself some applause and was nothing but smiles. Seriously, I couldn't stop smiling. That grizzly bear of fear started gathering his belongings the minute we touched down.

The second most exciting part of the day: Getting my certificate. And yes, this masterpiece shall be framed:

I shall end with a quote from Kerwin the Kind, who said the followed after we turned off the engine: "We always feel like we have to say something profound after a flight. So, once again we have defied the laws of gravity and overcame the forces of superstition."

The superstition is that women can't fly. But as I have clearly outlined above, we most certainly can.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Taking Flight

Pilot Potts has taken to the skies.

The experience was incredible. My instructor let me take off, fly and land, despite my shaky hands. More to come tomorrow, but challenge no. 19 is done and done.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Abraham and Jan

Challenge no. 22 is to research my Jewish heritage going back at least four generations. While I have technically met the challenge (outlined below), there are still more goodies to uncover. I've learned that I have ties to South Africa, which I would have never known before this challenge. I've also learned of distant living relatives scattered around the country. I haven't contacted them yet, but I'm pretty sure the conversation will go something like this:

ME:  Hi, my name is Noel and you are my distant cousin.
ME:  Yeah.
RELATIVE:  You have great timing. I have all of these bags of money lying around and was just wondering what to do with them. Would you like to have some bags of money?
ME:  Yes.
RELATIVE:  Magnificent.

So, how this challenge has been met: On my father's maternal side, four generations takes me to the father of my great grandmother, Jan Schwartz. A handsome gentleman with good taste in hats:

This is written on the back of the photo:

I also know that my great-grandfather's father on this side was born in Russia around 1820. We have yet to figure out his name.

On my father's paternal side, four generations take me to a Mr. Abraham Dubinksy of Kiev, Russia. My great grandfather's father. That is pretty much all I know about him so far, but since he played a role in my existence, I will assume that he was a strikingly handsome gentleman with a love for pie.

Once again I must heartily thank Mr. Kyle Williams, invaluable ancestry researcher extraordinaire. I look forward to whatever else we shall discover before this year is done.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

More Aperturious

I've added a few photography prints to my Etsy shop, Aperturious. View them here. And feel free to spread the word.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hillsong NYC

This was taken at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Welcome to Hillsong NYC, a Christian congregation and my fifth religious service out of ten (challenge no. 29), which occupies the Gramercy Theater (a concert venue) on Sunday mornings.

Hillsong originates from Australia, where it holds the unofficial record of being the largest church in the country's history (we're talking 20,000 people on any given weekend). I'm not sure when it made its first appearance in the States, but from what I could tell, young Christians are hungry for what Hillsong is feeding them (when I left there was a line around the block to get into the 12:00 service). They have definitely tapped into something and will have no problem continuing to grow.

Upon arrival I was greeted with an enthusiastic "Welcome home!" Strong, consistent tagline. I'll tip my hat to that.

I arrived five minutes before the service and there were no seats left, which seemed unfortunate until I realized that sitting is not really something that Hillsong members do all that often.

The music began promptly at 10:00 and proceeded to give me flashbacks of being at the Roxy Theater in Atlanta circa 1999. I can see why it has been dubbed the Rock -n- Roll church. Hands in the air, dancing, singing, shouting out between songs. Not for Freebird but for Jesus.

Fresh off of Easter weekend during which the usual pastor lost his voice, the sermon was delivered by a guest pastor from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who I'm convinced has career in stand-up comedy if he ever decides to leave the church. He broke the ice by making some jokes about the south (always a NYC crowd pleaser) and followed that with a well-delivered sermon that revolved around Jesus taking a nap.

At this point I'm ankle deep in Kool-Aid.

But take away the comedy, the charming anecdotes and the attractive young band members, and the message was simple: Jesus helps you get to the other side.

According to pastor/comedian Dino, everything has a beginning (easy!) and an end (even easier!). But it's the middle that tests you, and in the case of a Christian, tests your faith. The takeaway: You have to learn to "deal with your middle." God takes people through middles. You may not know a lot about God, but he sure knows a lot about you. And he knows how to get you to the other side.

It's hard not to relate to a message like this, especially when I can see my middle (the six-month mark of my year of challenges) quickly approaching. So I appreciated the applicable nature of what I was hearing.

All in all, this was probably the one religious service so far in which I wasn't bored at some point. Their beliefs are heavy-handed, but that's church, right? They are fervent believers, which only earns them my respect for their passion. The people were friendly and the music was pretty damn good.

Hillsong has something quite unique, and it was a pleasure taking a peek into their world.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A New Home

This weekend I went house hunting for Kyle (challenge no. 21), who was threatening to outgrow his current residence. I found this vase at West Elm (they assured me it was appropriate for growing herbs), and completed the move successfully, or at least I hope I did:

 New home.

Thirteen weeks.

I think I'm about a week away from calling this challenge. Pesto for everyone!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Continuing to Smash Things

Smash book pages as of late (per challenge no. 26):

 Stunning marbled paper from Il Papiro in Venice.

A collection of restaurant business cards from our trip. Canuleia in Lucca was my favorite.

William Carlos Williams makes a Smash book appearance.

A piece from religious service no. 4 + Orangelephant.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Window Seat

Challenge no. 5 has been completed! Click on the photo below to view my Window Seat series on Flickr:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Italy Wins

Italy has officially stolen my heart. I'm too tired to search my brain for the most potent adjective to describe our trip, but just know that it was one of the best weeks of my life.

We were lucky enough to experience a wide range of what Italy has to offer, from colossal Rome to a Tuscan village of 200 people and everything in between. My favorite part? All of it. But here are some strong recommendations/opinions while they're still fresh in my mind:

  • If you are planning a trip to Tuscany, stay at least one night if not your whole life at Villa San Rocco, a 6-century-old ten bedroom retreat nestled in the hills overlooking Bagni di Lucca. It left me speechless. 
  • Best pizza I've ever had: Dar Poeta in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome.
  • Best gelato: Right outside Vatican City at a place called Old Bridge.
  • Take the fast trains. Worth it.
  • Order whatever your server recommends. Worth it.
  • Grappa is a vile substance. 
  • Sciacchetra (unique to Cinque Terre) is my new favorite drink.
  • Venice is a maze for grown-ups. Whatever you do, get lost in it.

I can mark part of challenge no. 19 off my list (fly across an ocean). And I'll be posting my Window Seat series (challenge no. 5) as well as some other photos in a few days. Right now I have to concentrate on not letting my forehead meet my keyboard.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a big shiny new post.