Sunday, August 24, 2014


When does branding cross the line.

With the State Fair in full swing, Jane and I opted to go to the Mill City Market instead. Only 1,000 people instead of 150,000 to avoid. 
One of the things I love is Branding and Advertising. When it's good it incredibly effective.
When it's not it usually embarrassing.

My whole life i look at tee shirts. The copy, the design, the logo, the slogan, the colors, the placement, the front vs the back and then the takeaway. Here's a tee shirt that you could stare at for 10 seconds trying to figure out what the heck it says, and then still look again to be sure. (BAD tee shirt). Have you even been able to figure out what it says yet?
On men it's pretty easy to see tee shirt copy.  On women depending on their genetics, it's much harder.
I can't tell you how many hundreds, no maybe 1000,s of times I've looked at a tee shirt of a women on the street, in a store on an escalator, elevator. On a bus, in a car, in a plane, with a chain. 
When they are easy to read it's a simple glance and "yes, no, ok, funny, bad taste".
But when they are not easy to read but are compelling i stare like a guy trying to read a menu without his cheaters on (don't go there)..  Really, honestly, no intent on staring. Just want to see what it says or is pitching that they were willing to adorn on their body for the day. 
And then it happens.. I subconsciously realize the woman is staring at me and my innocent stare for clarity becomes horribly embarrassing. 
I have to then say as fast a possible. "what does your tee shirt say"? and look them in the eyes. Then I can finish with the cool or funny or nice comment and turn away. 
If I do what comes naturally, I'd look up and say sorry for staring or say nothing and look away. But that would reflect the opposite of what I was actually doing and I'd be forcing myself into false guilt for something they should have thought about before putting a tee shirt over their chest.

Here's another one. "Vineyard Worship".  I still own a Wine Import Licence. I've had people read that I represent Vineyards and then they ask me " WOW, cool, what Vineyard Church do you represent". My answer usually of "no, real vineyards, like wine, like millions of bottles..", gets a less than enthusiastic response.   So now with this Vineyard Tee Shirt... If you're not in christian circles and understand who and what "Vineyard is", a normal person would look at this and think hmm. nice big "V" between the breasts. Is she exposing her love of her grapes of life, maybe she is a Wino or a Vinologist.
  Laugh you may, but truly this copy should be on the "BACK" of a tee shirt not the front. At least that would eliminate most the awkward stares..  Hmmm maybe that's it, you can only put this stuff for women's tee's on the back. I'm serious, I don't have a personal problem with women's chests but I do have a problem with feeling embarrassed for reading their tee shirts and then getting the look for reading what they put on to be read...  sheesh.

So I'm at Mill City Market with my wife yesterday.
 We're buying dark chocolate samples with lavender and sea salt and, and, and a woman walks up next to us who runs a restaurant next store. Shes in jeans and a tee shirt. Of COURSE i look to read the tee shirt. I always do I look at every advertising on anything. Well thank god my wife didn't see me, or her friend the chocolate lady. And thank god the tee shirt was only TWO WORDS in a large green serif font with good kerning,  and it only took a 1/4 second to read it and look away. That was until it sunk in.  Two Words   EAT LOCAL.  EAT over one breast and LOCAL over the other.   Now I was born at night, but not last night.  You can't tell me that you put a tee shirt on like that and not realize what you're saying or having fun "playing". This woman walked away and I said straight away to the shop owner and my wife. No woman should wear a tee shirt that says "eat local" over her breasts. It's just not right.  Well, both women were shocked and laughed and said hmmm you're right. The owner said, I'll let the restaurant lady know that next time she stops by.    I'm thinking, riiiiiight. like she doesn't know what she's doing. 

So in the spirit of fairness and to help the world understand the value of marketing placement I'm asking all marketing companies to from here on out change all marketing for men to be different.
Unless you're as crazy as Mr. Anorexia here who will not live long and prosper, I'd submit that all ads must go on men's Zipper flys or over the crotch area so that if a woman (or a man) wants to see what a man is showing as interesting or cool, she has to look at his crotch to read it and then get the look back from a guy after she notices that he's noticed that she's noticed.  Maybe this would spark a change without words being spoken...
Unfortunately ad sizes for men would vary based on confrontation and, oh heck, the more I think about it, let's eliminate all advertising except on hats, yea hats. Shoot everyone should wear hats anyway to help fight skin cancer, to be cool, to be special..   I mean no one could be offended by a hat.

I've had  100's of hats.  Other than being banned from some church platforms with one on,  or wearing the wrong type of hat for the wrong occasion, it would solve the sexist ad wars.  Heck, how bad can you screw up wearing a hat anyway...

Ok, I give up..

And just remember your words have multiple meanings, be careful what you wear.
Unless you're quite sure of what you want to say.

I think i'm gonna get the tee shirt that says
 "Don't wear the tee shirt if you don't want me to read it".

Friday, August 15, 2014

What Art Is Holy... (Good Fruit / Bad Fruit)

Have I said how thankful I am for the Internet in spite of people using it for ill gain, or falling/jumping into painful addictions online.
Well, I tripped over a Russian born artist yesterday and landed on my knees with a prayer of thanksgiving. Why are we attracted to some things and not others. I'll pass on 1,000 videos of race cars and deer stands or sports bloopers but watch 10 of an artist or musician.

  Growing up, I'd visit galleries and wonder how certain looks and styles were painted. My father was an artist, but having to work on commercial art to make a living, I never was blessed to watch him create art in multiple mediums. After his death we found multiple hidden art cases destroyed with black mold that contained art from his youth he'd painted but didn't want to display to himself or us for only reasons I could guess. "it was to painful to see his passions never realized".  Here's one of my fathers pastels that was saved from circa 1950. I cut black mold off of the corner but the face was salvageable. Did your parents have passions never realized?  Do you ? 

Like many of you who loved art growing up, when cartoons were over and black and white movie hours began,  I turned to PBS on Saturday mornings to see... art?   Now unlike cooking by Julia; which taught me early that drinking wine, or brandy, Grand M. or Pernot, or or..  while cooking is not only acceptable but comical albeit dangerous for amatures. Well in art, on our 5 channels of TV,   there were just a few paint by numbers wacko painters doing velvet elvis style art with drone voices and a pallet knife. Flailing a million palate knife pine trees with a white fan brush to follow for light or the blot blot circle brushes whirling out bad Monet-ish textures.

Now my wife and I have had the privilege over the decades to spend many days walking through European galleries. I'm sure close to 10,000 paintings easily. With that said, I still have a few etched in my head to this day.  99.9 percent I could go view again and say "oh yes, I remember  that.  But without seeing it again... no memory.  Ah yes, arn't the sorting of memories what make life marvelous or misery..

There was the basement of a Catholic Church in a small town in Europe. 5 floors down in a dark and musty room with a single light bulb swinging was this painting of "the good samaritan". No cameras were allowed in this church and I can only imagine in 400years how few people have ever seen this painting. It was painted on a wall and was perhaps 7ft wide..

 I felt led: (a spiritual justification to disobey rules)  to hold my Nikon against a wooden pole on time exposure to get this photo in this dark room when the few people coming through had left the room. I've spent hours studying this painting over the years.  It's a treasure.  The 1800's U.S. western style sky with the donkey. The wealthy (righteous man) walking by without helping. Sidebar: I'm at a loss how taking photos of art to expose it to the world is bad? But that's another issue.  And so I'm back to Vladimir Volegov (who I do not know personally) and how I see his art today as so very God inspired regardless of what Vladamir believes..

Vladimir's oils have this soft innocent beauty to them.  Another example of, "regardless of your beliefs or faith, what is inside of us is what comes out of us  in our lives and art.  And our faiths can not be a blind excuse or justification for good or bad outcomes or quality in our actions and lives".  
God has instilled gifts/seeds  in every persons life that naturally produce good fruit if discovered and allowed to grow.  I believe we then take the credit for what's given supernaturally, and we then perhaps give that credit back to whatever god form we are linked to (or not).    

In my faith, i've come to realize that there are so many gifted people who live outside of my beliefs in God and His plan for mankind in redemption through a cross. How do I reconcile their gifts as holy if my faith says they are not redeemed? Can I call this art God inspired? Can I call it worshipful if the artist is not redeemed according to the thoughts of so many teachers in the history of my faith?   

Yes I can. Oh yes I can and I do and I will.  For  God's children whether redeemed by the cross or not are still His children whether they accept Him under my understanding of Him or not.  No, I am not making a judgement either way about salvation or eternity here. Only God has that job, and His living word (as I believe it) will be finalized by our own choices and actions individually.  I only hope that my life might be some example on some days of a life redeemed through the cross of Christ instead of a selfish, narcissistic aging artist.   Can Christ teachings redeem my life enough daily to make it a life that is loving enough to make another man say "I want to be like that, I want that love".  Outside of shedding that love; His love each day, I have no claim or judgement on anything or anyone except by my own life example (which is certainly fallen).  
My faith, my ashes into beauty, my paintings, songs, writings and words are my creations and like Vladimir, an expression of my giftings to the world.  And to be sure, I believe God will judge them differently than men. 
I always relate God to our earthly fathers. If you had two sons and one was a natural athlete and one was handicapped. If you went to watch both play in a football game, which one would you be rooting for more? Even though you love them the same..  Of course the one without natural abilities who is trying his best regardless of failure.  Come on, you can do it, atta boy, atta girl, I love you, you're the best. 
Friends, God is rooting for us, each broken and blessed soul. I believe the gifts He bestows on each of us are part of our journey to find Him. To come home and say thank you dad. To learn to dialogue and ask Him questions where we are capable of understanding His answers. 
And then there are those days where I stumble over a Vladimir. And his beauty and incite to have a team that films and edits his multi tool methods of painting in new media for all to see and be inspired. To inspire new young artists in this process. 
  And although I'd tell you i'm concerned about what Vladimir believes as it relates to his eternity. I'm sure he may feel the same about me and both of us about the world.  Yet I see the beauty of God in his work and art and I thank God for His gifts manifest in Vladimir. To God be the glory for the things He has done.  Some may want to judge the fruit by the type of tree, I'd prefer to judge the fruit by how it affects my 5 senses. I may see a Large Mouth Bass under lilly pads in my sleep, but I now can imagine the beauty of this Water Lilly painting as well. Always good to have options:)

Good fruit Vlad, Good fruit!  

How do you enjoy and relate and share art based upon what you've been taught? I look forward to your thoughts.

Till next time..

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The "New" Cracks In Society

In life, this complex journey of our souls, there are choices we make. As much as we'd like, we don't get to choose the end result, just the path each day.  And in that choice each day we walk, we run, we stumble and we fly.   There are many of us who don't really like the regular path. We see the masses as a confused and messed up place. We enjoy silence over the sound of a trading floor, rain on a tin roof or tarp over the sounds of airconditioning and cable. We don't really fit in much and we don't know why half the time. Is this you? Are you one of the misfits of metro.. There is nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful and complex and searching like the rest of God's creation. 

A percentage of the world has always been "you".

I used to hitch hike in the 60's and felt a freedom like none other. Other than the occasional gay predator who'd pick you up (as a guy) or the hippie, mostly good regular people from all walks of life would just help you move from place to place.  Those days are gone and now you just see pan handlers on metro street corners or groups living in community parks or under bridges and other "secret" places where they can try to sort out this life they struggle with to fit in and survive.

I love finding these people. It takes time. It takes effort, it takes a willingness to take time to go away and search. To take those off the road  the paths to somewhere.

Paradise campsite at Mill Creek is one of those places for me.  An off the map camp site along the Yellowstone river in Paradise Valley.  I've come to learn that free campsites are not only a hidden treasure out west, but they have become a place where the working homeless..... LIVE.....

And  so it was again this week. 

I drove from Bozeman to the North Entrance of Yellowstone Park in hopes of finding a paid camp spot in the smallest area of the Park.  NE Slew Creek. If you've read my blogs over the years this is my favorite quiet place. Only 13 camp spots and it's where the legendary wolf packs live and where the troubled bears of Yellowstone are placed when they don't fit in to the rest of the park life and people.. Lot's of Buffalo live there along with the rest of the park life. The cutthroat trout are the biggest there and you can only fly fish and catch and release with barbless hooks since those fish are protected. Well, i drove the couple hours to the park only to find the 1,000 total camp sites FULL. Now what, it's 4:30 and what are my options with the sun setting soon.  It's no fun setting up camp in the dark in the rain...
First Carballa came to mind. 10 or so free camp sites near mile marker 25 at a drift boat launch site North of Gardiner along the east bank of the Yellowstone and North of the JimDandy canyon rapids where the crazy people float.  Carballa is where I met old Mac Daddy Mackensie a few years ago. Mac's a millionaire on paper but poor in cash.  Like many multi generational Montanans who've inherited land now worth millions, they take odd jobs and live as often as possible in free camp spots in tents and trucks.  Ole Mac carries a drift boat, motor bike, giant skeeter tent and sleeps under a tarp. Drinks Merlot or Tequila till he's done howling at the moon, then beds down on the ground with a bible on his chest and passes out under a tarp... He is a treasure of a human being and I love seeing him every time I'm in Montana at a free camp site somewhere.  So as i passed Carballa in the distance from the highway I could hear old Mac Daddy singing Willie Nelson at the top of his lungs while yelling Rev.Craig T. I love sharing happiness to the world around me. It's all I wanna do. Here a pic of Mac Daddy, and another loner Pattiecakes who moved from Wisconsin years ago along the banks at Carballa a few years ago.

I drove North as the sun was setting and then there was Paradise.  I pulled off the highway up to that remote site and all three spots were taken. Slowly i passed a young man with a pickup truck and two dogs. Sittin in a chair reading a conspiracy novel i shout. (only three spots here eh?) Yup, but you're from MN huh? (yea Mpls). Well, he says if you got a tent, I'm sleepin in my truck with my dogs, I could use some company tonight so tent up on my spot. 
You see that's how it starts. You take the road, and say hello whenever you can.  This night and next few days would educate me to a whole new generation of travelers. Single young men with dogs as companions who work jobs but live out of their vehicles because there are not reasonable places to rent with dogs and so they live spring to fall trying to save enough to rent a warm room for the winter with their best friends.  
This is Daren. A young 20something, educated kid from Detroit Lakes MN. So this is how it goes.
Can i offer you a crappy BudLight?  No he says but I guess since it's hot out, yer Buds cold, and I've got no beer I'll take one.  I only drink local micros but i'm tapped out.

Daren goes on to tell me he's a carpenter but used to be a cook and he was whisking up some hollandaise for eggs Benedict from the back of his pickup with his two German Shepard's standing guard.  You like the blues? he asks me. Not my favorite I say but I like anything done well.  Well Craig, meet my dogs, Elwood and (?) her name escapes me. Shes 7 and Elwoods just over 1. They are my best friends and companions on this journey. 
This picture of Elwood was from the next morning as he stuck his nose under my rain fly to shake river water all over me and wake me up. I'm lying in my tent scratchin him from my back as I took this pic. These two kids played in the river from morning till night waiting for new drift boats to pass and other cars to come into camp looking for one of these 3 hidden spots.  
Elwood J. Blues was the calmest 1yr old shep I'd ever met and he laid at my chair more than at his masters most the time. (no i didn't feed him scraps). 
Well back to Daren. He's a rock hunter and collector who has his private spots in the valley he shares with no one. He knows rocks well and sells them for cash to collectors on the side. 5k alone this year he said with a smile.  Look Craig, this is a petrified pine cone. And out of his pocket he hands me a white and green rock. I'll be darned, it was exactly that. A fully petrified pine cone with all the ridges and leaves.  Amazing.  
Than I asked him where he's living and he begins a story that lasted through the night about his life, his cop dad, re-marriages, being run over on a big wheel at 3 and a less than good relationship with his dad.
Tears, well, i bottle it all ups, but I live out of my truck with my dogs and move from free camp site to free camp site while doing constructions jobs as they come.. I'll have enough hopefully by winter to be able to share a place with someone till spring.

Yup there is was. This is the new working homeless.  Not feeling sorry for himself, or asking for help. Daren is a hard core conservative who believes that you shouldn't take from others but work for it and leave me the hell alone.  
Why do you do this i ask.  Well, Craig, In MN it was all drinking beer and watching football in a garage somewhere. What the hell kind of life is that? , and off to Montana i went as the black sheep leaving the MN fold..  I'll take this over that any day. I wish I could see my family or have them visit me but it is what it is. I mean there's only room for me and two dogs in the back of the pickup.. :)

That night he pulled out his Drambuie at the fire and I shared a pinch of my 100proof Ennis Montana Rye fire water. Just a sip, that's all. I had just 3oz in a little flask that I like to have as a sip before i leave the fire and head to the tent to see a billion stars and my old friend the milky way. 

About midnight a jeep rolls in and a burly voiced kid in his early 30's pulls into the camper spot that had been there all day vacant with a (beware of dog) sign on the old beat up pull camper. Out comes a dog and Elwood and sister and this new friend begin the dance of getting to know each other for an hour or 30mph tag in the dark. 
Now I'll call this kid Jim.  An Iraq vet on a navel ship in electronics he served on the same ship one of my young brothers did US Carl Vincent, a two nuclear reactor war ship.  Jim working at a hotel in Livingston MT. and was a rock collector... yup, and.... lived out of his camper with his dog, moving from free camp site to free camp site.  Sitting at the fire (sry no picture of Jim), they talked of rocks and politics and freedom and their best friends and where the best places were to camp that no one knew about.  It was like a secret language between them.   They didn't want sympathy, they didn't want a hand out. They loved and served their country in different ways but just couldn't find places to live that were affordable as single white men with dogs. 
I asked them about women and it got kinda silent. Well,  dating is pretty tough.  Hi, I'm a 27 yr old sgl white male who lives out of a truck with a dog. I get a shower every now and then and I'm sure you'd like to go out with me.. So, here we are with are dogs along a river.
Jim says, Well, I spent alot of time in the brig, and beat up passed out on my face in my drinkin days. Once i start, 3 days passes quickly.  I asked him how he's surviving today.  He pulls out a pipe and loads a bowl an says; "a few tokes in the morning, and a few before bed". Keeps me from drinking.. .well not totally but only one beer and never in public or at a bar." I loved his honesty and told him so straight out.
  I only felt bad for their dogs that have to be tied up or in a camper 12hrs a day as they worked their jobs.  Their employers didn't know they were homeless, and prob. would not have hired them if they had been honest about it but here they were.... surviving.    Now of course they asked me what I did and after hearing I'm a reverend and a wine importer and entertainer and..... the conversation let to ... well whatever they wanted to ask me.  I'll just say, I got to be a honest teacher of Jesus truth and love about love, life, pain. Answering many charged points about how the church is full of lies and corruption and politics and they want no part of it I agreed and deflected and explained how this journey of exploring God in our lives is more than a building of men and women that they don't relate to anyway.  Do you believe in God?  Yes, they both chimed in their own way.  Well, our journeys tonight are all the same and yet different. I'm in no place to tell you what's right for me is right for you right now but keep asking questions and praying to the stars for answers because He created this for you to enjoy and He is listening, and in my humble opinion He loves us all equally. When you stop praying and asking questions. When you stop seeking you will cut off the very essence of hope. 
It was a great night of learning for all with new friends from "somewhere" on a night on a river with three dogs and river running through it.

So today as you read this, be thankful for what you have. Plan for and look for those open roads not traveled. You just might find what you're looking for that day in unexpected places.  And me, I'd just done a party 100 miles away at a billionaires ranch with an equally wonderful group of generous people with means, who had gathered to give back from their wealth to those with less than from the special op's military veterans community. 

With or without, people can be happy and fulfilled. One thing is for sure, we all have our gifts that we can bless each other with, where ever we find ourselves. 
My prayer today is that we as a nation find a way to build places for young men like this to bed down and sleep with power and water and a barn to put their animals in during the day as they try to sort out the GenX questions of life and future.  

The next day Daren convinced me in the rain to travel up a mountain with his dogs to some old gold mining camps high up old chico springs road.  In the rain we dropped his truck tires from 80 to 40 pounds pressure to make the climb a bit simpler....   that will be my next blog most likely.. stay tuned, we're taking more less traveled roads into God's beauty.. 
From the top of the mountain in the rain,  and until next time..   
breathe deep and smile.