Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wasn't That a Mighty Storm


This morning the July 2012 edition of National Geographic officially hit newsstands, and I promptly headed to Meijer to pick up a copy for myself.  "Why the rush," you ask?  Featured inside is a ten page spread highlighting the awe-inspiring storm photographs of Mitch Dobrowner.  (You may remember some such images from a previous post).

Apparently the stock team at Meijer had yet to update the magazine section, and I had to search out an employee to ask where the newest issue was.

Me: Hi, could you help me find the new National Geographic that came out today?

Sassy Lady: Um, those are still packed up in the back.

Me: So… … … then I'll just wait here while you go get one or would you prefer I come with?

Sassy Lady: *sigh + eye roll* One moment, sir.


IMG_20120626_161352  National Geographic July 2012 Cover

I'm like a kid in a really windy candy store!


The full "Epic Storms" article may be found on NG's website here and I've taken a couple of quotes from Jeremy Berlin's article for your convenience.  Do yourself a favor, though, and splurge the four dollars and get your own copy! 

Mitch Dobrowner_Rope Out

Rope Out, Regan, North Dakota

To document these awe-inspiring tempests, Mitch Dobrowner, a landscape photographer inspired by Ansel Adams and Minor White, teamed with renowned storm chaser Roger Hill, a witness to more than 600 tornadoes. Over the past three years, aided by mobile satellite data, radar imaging, and more, the pair have stalked some 45 weather systems over 16 states and 40,000 miles, sometimes driving 900 miles in a day to capture a moment. “With storms,” says Dobrowner, “it’s like shooting a sporting event. Things happen so quickly, I really have to adapt.”


Mitch Dobrowner_Vapor Cloud

Vapor Cloud, Near Clayton, New Mexico

Indeed, both Dobrowner and Hill see supercells as living things: born under the right conditions, gaining strength as they grow, changing shape and form, fighting for their life, eventually dying. Not that personifying them removes the danger. In the still wild West, says Hill, storms demand admiration and respect. “I feel honored to be shooting them,” says Dobrowner. “If I’m going to go, let me go like this.”


As always, we at the John Cleary Gallery would just LOVE to facilitate purchasing one of you very own Mitch Dobrowner prints… just tell 'em Joseph sent ya!


Artist: James Taylor / Album: Other Covers

Release the Stars


First up on my reading list for the Summer was the Right Reverend of Science Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's recently released Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.



Dr. Tyson is the current director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History in New York and throughout his career in astrophysics has taken up the mantle left by Carl Sagan to bring the universe to the masses … his reasoning being that, as NASA is funded taxpayer funds, we should at least be able to understand what that money is going towards.

On meeting Carl Sagan and the duty of mentorship:

In fact, Dr. Tyson will be reviving Carl Sagan's Cosmos series in 2013 … stay tuned!


Most importantly, though, Dr. Tyson is continuously and actively engaged in informing the public on the importance of scientific literacy and how it relates to the electorate and public policy.  Below is a fantastic interview with Stephen Colbert (a rare one in which he is out of character) that I cannot recommend highly enough.  Though it comes out at a little under an hour and a half, I have watched it numerous times.  Please make the time to watch!  No, seriously though…

Skip to 6:15 for the beginning of the interview


On the realities of NASA's budget and the importance of the James Webb Telescope, Hubble's successor.



Due to his increased presence in media and pop culture he has also entered into one of the internets' greatest realms: meme-dom.  When speaking of Isaac Newton he offered up a fantastic reaction shot that was later turned into an animated GIF and then black and white drawing often accompanied by the phrase "Watch out, we got a badass over here".  (Click here for a much better definition from Know Your Meme)

tysonreaction  badass

Don't mess with a badass astrophysicist from the Bronx!!!


And finally, when asked what he thought was the most astounding fact about the universe, he answered thusly:

(Video by Max Schlickenmeyer)


Artist: Rufus Wainwright / Album: Release the Stars

Color on the Walls (Don't Stop)


The first session of camp officially begins tomorrow, but Blue Lake was host to several sessions of Suzuki courses this past week. In layman's terms, the Suzuki Method is an early childhood music training program developed in the mid-20th century for pre-school children, none of which is particularly pertinent to this post.  Needless to say, the cafeteria was SWARMING with 3 – 5 year olds for the entirety of last week. 

I couldn't help but be reminded of a recent installation at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art by Yayoi Kusama entitled The Obliteration Room, in which the artist began with a pristine, white room full of furnishings and, over the course of two weeks, had the child visitors to the museum plaster it with thousands upon thousands of colored dot stickers.  The results are nothing if not a cacophony of color!

'Yayoi Kusama: Look Now, See Forever'
Installation view  obliteration-2-600x400

obliteration-4-600x399  obliteration-5-600x902




Artist: Foster the People / Album: Torches

Monday, June 25, 2012

A New Deal


Every two years Houston is home to FotoFest, a several weeks long celebration set up "to promote the exchange of art and ideas through international programs and the presentation of photographic art."  The Bayou City becomes host to fine art photographers from all over the globe, countless exhibitions, portfolio reviews and workshops all centering on photography.  In addition to getting to go to the swanky opening night party with Catherine, it was also an opportunity to get to hang out with the fabulous Susan Burnstine.  I was lucky enough to meet her when she came for her Within Shadows exhibition at the John Cleary Gallery during the Fall of last year and can now happily count her among my dear friends!

During her time here she invited me out to dinner with several of her fancy photographer friends.  At one point Susan realized she didn't have a picture of me on her phone to show up when I called and so she whipped out her iPhone.  All of a sudden I looked up and ALL of them were taking my picture!


L to R: Brad Moore, Rania Matar, Michael Crouser, Susan Burnstine


Michael was kind enough to send me two of his pictures… as partially seen through Susan's phone:

Crauser  Crouser2

I LOVE that in the one on the left I'm smiling in Susan's phone but not in Michael's picture


Now comes the "audience participation" portion of the blog post!  A couple of days ago I saw the following message on Michael's Facebook page and wanted to share this fabulous opportunity with y'all:

Dear Friends,

This coming August the Festival de la Luz in Buenos Aires, Argentina will be exhibiting my series "Los Toros" at the Fotogaleria de San Martin. This is an important venue in an important festival, and I'm quite excited about the honor and the opportunity. In an effort to attend the opening, I am selling a limited edition of two small prints from the series at a very low price.

The two attached images will be available for a short time as 8x10 toned silver gelatin prints, each in numbered limited editions of 25, for $150. The prints will be signed, numbered and delivered to you prior to the exhibition.
Those interested can contact me directly through Facebook, or by email at mc@michaelcrouser.com.

Thank you for considering these print, and for your help in getting me to Argentina for this great opportunity!

Michael_Crouser_Los_Toros1  Michael_Crouser_Los_Toros2


As of this posting both images are still available.  Opportunities like this rarely come up for such fantastic work… take advantage of this amazing deal today!


Artist: Michael Giacchino / Album: Ratatouille

The Booklovers


I came up to Michigan with several goals in mind, high amongst them is getting into the practice of doing more reading.  Back in the day I was quite the voracious reader but haven't exactly been flexing that muscle as of late, with the exception of whatever might be the newest David Sedaris book.

That being said, I shipped an ambitious box-full up to camp and hope to knock out quite a few over the course of the summer… that's what days off and beaches are for, right?  Many thanks especially to the two Catherine's (Couturier, my boss / Roberts, my aunt) for suggestions and loaning!

I'll certainly have more to say about some of them later but thought this would be the perfect time to empty out one of my favorites folder dedicated to our lexicological repositories (how's that for a pretentious euphemism for "book"!)


Self-described interdisciplinary artist Guy Laramée creates absolutely stunning sculptures out of books, inspired by nature, the death of his mother, history and a myriad of other topics.  Hooks-Epstein, can you PUH-LEASE do a show?!? [found via io9]

Guy Laramee Ryoanji


Guy Laramee (2)  Guy Laramee Stupa (Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary)

Untitled / Stupa (Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary)



Toronto, Canada's Type Books created this stop-motion short entitled "The Joy of Books" to champion the continued creation and purchasing of physical books (as opposed to the burgeoning eBook business). [found via BoingBoing]



Spanish artist Alicia Martin has created several site-specific installations in her Biografias series using 5,000+ books cascading from various windows of multistory buildings. Talk about word vomit!! [found via BoingBoing]

aliciamartinbiographies5  aliciamartinbiographies2


The artist inside one of her creations



Last March a staff member of the Scottish Poetry Library came across a beautifully carved art piece and an accompanying note written to the library's Twitter handle (@byleaveswelive):

It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… … We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)


Many believed this was just a "one-off" creation until another one showed up some time later at the National Library of Scotland, leading to many creations being found for months to come in many of Scotland's great institutions.  There's a really fantastic review of the entire story, including photographs of all the discovered pieces, here.  Was the mystery ever solved?!? [found via io9]

6003336438_34461768da  6395286183_d48a97fdd1

National Library of Scotland: from Ian Rankin's Exit Music / National Museum of Scotland: from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World



To round out our literary themed post let's take a look at the Oscar winning animated short film from this years' 84th Annual Academy Awards. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessermore, by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, is described thusly by the production team: "Inspired in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, 'Morris Lessmore' is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor."


First up on my reading list, you ask? Neil deGrasse Tyson's Space Chronicles!


Artist: The Divine Comedy / Album: Promenade

Sunday, June 24, 2012

La Boheme


Well hello there! Long time no… read?  Admittedly, I've been quite absent from the blogosphere (that's a thing, right?) lately and will do my best to rectify the situation over the course of the Summer.  To be honest, though, I imagine only about five of you have really noticed, so no harm no foul in the grand scheme of things.  Chronologically, posts are going to move a bit circuitously until I catch up with the backlog from these past couple of months so hang in there with me if you haven't completely let go already.

Many of you may remember I spent the Summer of 2010 and 2011 touring with the Blue Lake International Youth Symphony Orchestra and Choir singing solos in Mendelssohn's Elijah and Brahms's Requiem, respectively.  This year they are embarking on their European tour performing Verdi's Requiem and, while I was very grateful for the invitation to be a soloist, it is not a role that I am exactly capable of singing.  Fear not, Blue Lake lovers, because it happily worked out that I am back at BLFAC singing in their production of Puccini's La Boheme!  As opposed to going on a tour, we will put on two shows each session, amassing to eight performances over two months for a total of 5,000+ attendees over the duration of the Summer.

During the second year of my master's degree at the University of Michigan (this would be pre-blog, for those of you who are wondering why I've never posted about it before) I was lucky enough to perform the role of Schaunard in the same opera.  It remains one of my favorite times on stage because there really was a synchronicity in the production: from our fabulous director, Kay Walker Castaldo; the undeniable genius of Martin Katz leading from the pit (as well as Clinton Smith assisting and even conducting one of our performances); hair and make-up by Erin Kennedy-Lunsford; and a roster of singers who seemed to be nothing but appropriately cast in their respective roles.  I think out of the whole of the operatic canon, Schaunard is the closest to my actual personality—I know him, I love him, and I could play him for the rest of my life… but what would be the fun in that?! (In fact, I'm not playing him in the production this Summer, which threw me for a bit of a loop when first learning it again).

But enough silly words… you came here for pictures, right?  Following are a sampling of photos from our production. Enjoy!

Joseph Roberts Schaunard

Obvs we did an updated version… don't think they had electric guitars back in the day!



Roomies: Andrew Harris (Colline), Steven Tompkins (Rodolfo), Wes Mason (Marcello)


Rhea Olivacce Mimi  Amanda Ramos Musetta

Rhea Olivacce (Mimi) / Amanda Ramos (Musetta)


We were all fortunate enough to be joined on stage by the ridiculously talented George Shirley (in the role of Alcindoro and Benoit), a professor of voice at U of M who can count among his litany of accolades as being a Grammy award winner, the first African-American tenor to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, and all around bad-ass performer.  To have shared the stage with him is an honor I will carry with me through the rest of my career.

George Shirley as Alcindoro  Karl-Lagerfeld-Chanel-Little-Black-Jacket-NYC

Professor Shirley, giving his absolute BEST Karl Lagerfeld!


Additionally, I was thrilled to have a whole cadre of Texans in the audience for the show! My parents, brother and sister-in-law, uncle Sid and cousin Hannah, and close close friend from Baylor made the trek up to Michigan to see the performances.  I'm still so grateful for each and every one of them!

Picture 010

Steven, Dad, Matt, Joanie, Me, Mom, Drew!


Stay tuned… more to come!!

Artist: Charles Aznavour / Album: Greatest Hits