Author: Paul F

Chief mischief maker at Living In The Buff Studio. A project turned, movement, turned cause to find fulfillment within and without.

Recurring Dreams

I have had this recurring dream that I am locked up in a prison/mental institution, circa the early 20th century. Conditions are horrible. Everyone around me plots their escape constantly, while the medical staff, and guards do nothing but work to ensure no one escapes. No help. No actual counseling or treatments. Just watching over everyone constantly.

As a secured facility, the institution is deeply flawed. Patients (or prisoners) have unfettered access to corridors, stairwells, and a large industrial receiving area where they reclaim scrap metal, or so it would seem, from disposed industrial machines. Steam powered locomotives dock in open bays where scrap is brought in, and beyond the bays, a rail yard with open spaces, fields, and scrapped vehicles invites dreamers that plot their escape with a temptation only discouraged by the armed guards, and railway workers who are always looking out for escapees.

Within the confines of the institution, large windows in the main common area look out toward other buildings, or other sections on the same building. A glass foyer type entrance way, which was a former gate to the outside world, has been built in, and blocked off, but still used to allow people from the secured outside world into the common room. It has an open ceiling, and sits directly below the only window which can be opened to let in fresh air. All other windows are bolted shut, and secured with out-of-time magnetic alarm triggers.

I spent some time here with another inmate; both of us seeking freedom. We discussed the easiest ways. We climbed the walls of the glass entryway to reach the window, and theorized, with a rope, we might be able to get a hold of the adjacent building, and swing out of the open window. We explored the rail yard beyond the receiving area, carefully avoiding any workers, or guards. We felt the sunlight, and smelled the grass, and knew we could make this work if we could only stay hidden until out of the range of the busy work area. We ran around the interior corridors, up and down stairwells, and found a parking garage, and an elevator, but they only lead to emptiness, darkness, empty rooms, empty spaces, and no hope.

We returned to the common room to discuss our options. I was confident I could make the dangerous leap to the other building from a closer, secured window if we could figure out how to open it without tripping the alarm. We decided to wander back to the receiving area. I became fascinated with the locomotive sitting in the dimly lit bay. I sneaked into the foreman's office to get the schedule of when trains arrive, and depart. I told my friend to go hide by the bay door. I would create a diversion, and then he could make a break for it. I clanged around in some old machines on the floor, and noticed the floor in this area was coated in old, black grease. I decided this was good knowledge, and I played dumb when the guards arrived, but I gave my friend the time her needed to run.

My friend didn't return. It never even seemed like they knew he was gone. I waited days. When no word was heard about his escape, I decided to quietly make my own move. I stole belts from one of the larger men in the lock-up, and made my way back to the train bays. I quietly coated myself in the black grease for camouflage, and then slipped under one of the locomotive tenders. I climbed up into the under-carriage, used the belts to strap myself in, and then waited for the train to depart....

I've been in this institution before. I recognized it. I'm not sure if it was a recurring dream, a distant, artifact memory from another lifetime, or just something my mind is tricking me into seeing as repetition on the spot. Brains are funny things like that. Who can say? What is real in my brain, is just as real as the reality I live in, when it comes down to it. And to use my brain to figure out what my brain is doing... now, isn't that the conundrum?

Buffalo Event Photography

If you frequent my blog, or my website here in general, you might notice changes happening right before your eyes.

I'm in the process of rebuilding all of my galleries. This is a huge, time consuming endeavor. I have to sort through literally tens of thousands of photos from over ten years of photography work.  The main focus however is event photography. I have been the photographer for Yelp.com events in Buffalo for over five years. I've covered two World's Largest Discos, three Witches Balls, and countless other events, large, and small, for various organizations, performers, and individuals.

I have to build the galleries, make sure all images are right-sized, watermarked, and their cleanest version. 

http://buffaloeventphotography.com is now active, and will take you directly to my new Event Photography Page. Other portfolio elements are changing, being cleaned out, and getting a whole new look as well, but it's a living work. It will hopefully never stop growing!

Feel free to peruse the new elements, and let me know what you think!

 

 

As The Usual

My Facebook Timeline is constantly filled with some of the most ridiculous, and dumbest things that people decided to share.

I only see it because they're my friends on Facebook, so I see what they share.

However, those same friends rarely, if ever, share my creative work, art, photography, or the work I do for others.

So, there's that.... right?

That’s Life. And, It Isn’t Easy

Can we all just get over ourselves a little bit, and admit that life, and relationships are not all black-and-white, or uncomplicated? It doesn't matter what gender you are, or the gender of those whom you love, and/or have sexual relations with. We've been trying to figure this all out for probably well over a million years, and we're just not there. Society changes, the rules change, perceptions change, and with that, we need to make evolutionary level changes to who we are, and how we approach situations with new rules, or no rules at all. It's not easy. It's not something that will change overnight.

Do we each as individuals have the cognitive power in order to make complete changes to our behaviors? Yes, most of us probably do. Can we always fight, and eliminate those instinctual, chemical, emotional responses hard-wired directly into our reptilian brains? No, we can't. And we prove that - everyone proves that, all of the time. Male, and female.

And when I say evolutionary level change, I mean just that. Everything about our sexuality, and the way we have relations with each other has been shaped over millions of years by both biological, and societal evolution, for both men, and women.

This isn't going to devolve into an expose of how women are just as bad as men in terms of how to handle themselves in relationships, or when dealing with emotions. Men obviously in most cases, through evolution, hold a significant physical advantage over women, which is all too often used inappropriately. Men, through socio-economic evolution also tend to hold a social-power advantage in most cases which also is exploited to their own gains. And while women don't frequently spend time cat-calling men (however, I have witnessed it), women do often more subtly, and less frequently, less subtly, do things that are also inappropriate.

I can only speak from a heterosexual perspective. I have less knowledge, and no experience in other lifestyles, orientations, and gender identities.

Regardless, the bottom line is, as a species we have developed these complex forms of communication, and social expectations. We've evolved into these complex beings with completely unique sexual patterns, and behaviors, compared to other mammalian species. We've developed social constructs such as monogamy, which may or may not work for some people, and shun those who don't follow it, based solely on our own acceptance of social, and more often, religious based ideology. We've failed to accept the true natures of our orientations, and what love, and sexual attraction mean, and instead impose social, and theological rules that go against these basic natures. As a society, we squash the sexual development, and maturation processes by sheltering our children from this basic life function, treating it as a taboo, preaching abstinence, and refusing to properly educate, meanwhile using sex, and sexuality to sell product consumption, entertainment, and glorifying it as the potential echelon of the human experience when done right. But who learns to do it right when we are taught to be ashamed of it, taught that it HAS to be THIS ONE WAY or it's wrong, or taught it should always be hidden away in dark rooms, and in private?

Modern day, boys learn sex, and relationships from porn. Girls learn from Disney fairy tales, and romantic comedies. In the most general sense, neither are close to accurate. We fill our heads with fantasies about the way it is supposed to be, and then life continuously fails to live up to those false expectations. Men want to be accepted, and have their sexuality accepted enthusiastically by their partner. Women want romance, and an attentive partner who will connect with her, and be that ideal mate. Men are taught to be soldiers, and warriors, not princes. Women are rarely taught to accept their own sexuality, let alone anyone else's, but are almost demanded that they wait for that "price charming" to come into their life before exploring life for themselves.

We have established rules: the men are the aggressors. They make the first move. They ask for the date. They initiate sex. Women are the sexual gatekeepers. They make the decision as to who to date, and who to mate with. There's pressure on both sides of that, which makes it an unfair dynamic, and an emotional minefield, especially when seeking some kind of equality. Men face the rejection, and most people can't handle rejection. It becomes easier to shout crass comments, and propositions from a moving car, than make eye contact, and face personal rejection, from a real person. Men are taught violence, and conquest. It is everywhere in our society (Media rules: sex is implied, and never shown. Violence in shown, and never implied) Men have always been the warriors, and what do warriors do? They storm the gates. They pillage. They take what they want. And as a man, if you don't see it this way, you're not a man. That is what society tells us. All of this translates into this "don't take no for an answer" response. Physical risks are acceptable - you're a warrior! Emotional risks? You're a man! You're not supposed to feel emotions! But men do, and it's an inescapable battle between disconnecting from, and being overwhelmed by emotional response that often clouds good judgement. You hear women say it all the time: "I wish he could communicate. I wish he could be in touch with his feelings." Men aren't usually in touch with their emotions, because they're taught that it's more necessary to NOT show emotions, and thus, not communicate. After all, 7% of our communication is verbal. 93% is non-verbal cues, often driven by emotional responses. Disconnecting from emotions means losing the vast majority of our ability to effectively communicate.

It's no better for women. Worse in most cases. Women are taught they're the passive participants in sex. Many are taught sex isn't even pleasurable, or their pleasure doesn't matter. Women are taught to wait for their prince charming, which denies them life experiences that would help them figure out who is the real prince, and who is the toad beneath a pleasing appearance. They're slut-shamed if they actually experiment, explore, and god-forbid, enjoy sex, yet shamed equally if they don't explore, or enjoy it. Ask a boy out on a date? The horror! They don't want to face rejection either, but on top of that, society reminds them to wait, and look pretty, and their prince will show up to sweep them off of their feet. All too often women end up in difficult to escape relationships, subjected to physical, and emotional abuse. 34% of women murdered in the United States are killed by their domestic partner. This is unreasonable, horrific, and nauseating, but so often furthered by that social message women receive that they should be able to change him, and if their relationship fails, they're a failure. Get married, and have kids - that is your ultimate goal, and those messages keep being perpetuated throughout our generations. Millennials now see headlines that accuse them of destroying everything from th napkin industry, to the population replacement curve, because their generation is desperately trying to protect their own survival in a world living by rules set by the generations before them. Rules that, in many cases, no longer work, or no longer offer sustainability. Women live their lives constantly on guard against this masculine, violence driven, social platform. It should be no surprise that once women have the slightest bit of empowerment to actually call men out for the things they've done, there is an avalanche of high-profile cases of abuse, and inappropriate behaviors. We've never truly taught anyone that these actions are not OK. They've become part of our culture, and what society deems acceptable, and what society has told women they should accept, becomes the accepted. No single woman dare challenge those established accepted affronts.

But collectively, they can challenge everything, even if change happens slowly. And within this collective power, women are starting to stand up, and say, "No, what you did was NOT right," by the hundreds.

Now, as a society, we're working more on educating, and social awareness. But after thousands of years of accepting what we've had, it is going to be a slow evolution into something new.

As I cite often, you only need to go back five to ten generations to find a time where sex, and marriage with people under the age of 14 was not only acceptable, it was a regular practice within most cultures, including our own. Our species might not have thrived, or even survived without incestuous practices, and rape, as we define it. Throughout history, women were often possessions. Wars were fought over the control of women, and today in our political climate, that is still happening. Even through the 20th century, once a woman was married she often gave up many of her rights to her husband. Most of this didn't change for women until the Equal Rights Amendment passed in 1972, and even after that, women faced sexism, and prejudiced practices - and still do. This was only 45 years ago; quite a short time frame compared to thousands of years of women not having equal rights practically anywhere. On a wider scale, what we consider the "Sanctity of human life" and assigning a value to all people is rarely seen the same in many cultures, and throughout history, has rarely even existed. Today, it still doesn't really exist except in some ideological political, and religious debates.

We're not going to change as a society quickly. There's no erasing the past, and if we compare what we want our current selves to be, with what we've been through history, we're always going to look really shitty in hindsight.

The human species is a very complex thing. We've disconnected from nature, and our natural selves, yet can't escape those violent, resource hoarding instincts that make us fight for dominance, and ownership, and power. We look for balances in things we consider moral topics; sex, procreation, drug use, healthcare, financial equity - while we create weapons to destroy our species by the thousands, and continue to support industries that we recognize as damaging our living environment irreparably. As Americans, we face the frequent threat of a mass shooting happening anywhere, anytime we're gathered with others. Night Clubs, concerts, church, at the bank. Yet our government waffles on taking any real action on this, but still focuses on if women should have birth control covered by private insurance...

Sex is implied, and never shown. Violence is shown, and never implied. Our acceptance of this is part of the problem.

We're segmented, and divided. And we've created, and approved of the very institutions that segment, and divide us.

We've outright refused to evolve, holding on to these outdated, and often irrelevant institutions, yet demand rapid change from each other as individuals without changing how we operate as a society.

This is not a rant excusing the misbehavior of men in terms of their sexual misconducts, or saying the bad parts of us are OK because they've always been there. But on a wider scope, I want this to ask the question, how do we enact the changes that would stop the misconduct? Does it start with the individual, or the gender, or society as a whole? Is there a better way to conduct ourselves in terms of relationships, and sex, or are we saying, "Let's cut down all the trees so we don't have anymore forest fires."

Fixing anything requires an understanding of the root of the problem, not just the symptoms. We can demand men treat others with more respect, and we can enact gun control legislation, but until we make fundamental changes in how our society operates on, and internalizes these systems, those changes won't quickly solve the issues we're currently facing. It goes deeper than that. We have to collectively stand up, and say that we will no longer accept what we have already deemed acceptable. Only as a collective society can fundamental changes occur, and be successful.

Unfortunately, the root of our current problems has grown from deep within our species's collective evolution. We're young. We're learning. We're just not there yet. We have a long way to go.

So don't judge each other too harshly, and keep transgressions in perspective. Forgive when you can. Live the example you hope others will follow. Communicate openly, and directly, and perhaps even more importantly, listen openly, and actively when others communicate with you.

Only as a collective society, everyone included, can we make fundamental changes, and evolve.

Five Foot Two

We watched the documentary on Lady Gaga yesterday, titled Five Foot Two. Turns out that was kind of important for me to see. It helped me realize, when filming a documentary, my videography doesn't have to be flawless. In fact, it can be downright awful, and still work.

I spent half of the documentary saying to myself quietly, "Please focus... please, just for the love of jeebus, please focus the camera..."

Funny How We Listen

Everyone who finds it, finds it in their own way. Everyone who expresses it, expresses it in their own way. But you don’t find it until open your heart, and open your mind, and allow your energy to guide you without allowing those social expectations, and preconceived notions of what life is, and what life should be get in the way.