Content Pillars and Purpose

Cannabis, Writing, Photography, Marketing, Art, Landscape, Ocean

Cannabis: I believe cannabis can do the greatest good for humankind immediately and in the long run. Worldwide legalization of cannabis will set the scales back towards justice and will restore some faith in the sincerity of the systems of governance. It is hard to trust anyone who is against cannabis. It’s like being against naps or being anti-mellow. You people are getting along too well! You must be stoned. What’s next? Cooking up some dank munchies? Crimes against culinary standards? Too much caramel sauce on the cereal? Not only do I believe that the side effects of cannabis are harmless, we all know they are beneficial to many people. Anyone struggling with loss of appetite or insomnia can regain control over vital parts of their health with the help of some quality cannabis. I think that more than the obvious advantages legal cannabis creates (tax revenue instead of criminal activity, for one) the main shift that legal cannabis will bring is a shift in tone. It will open up that beautiful space that only stoners know where there is a sense of innocence, a mellowing out of the harshest vibes, a sense that daily life is ok and that it really matters. Cannabis leads people on an introspective journey that leads to gardening and preserving tomatoes and that is a-ok. As a content pillar, I intend to write about cannabis to advocate for its use, to highlight brands that are doing good things, to interact with cannabis influencers, and to share stoner experiences.

Writing: Writing is thought given shape and refinement through the logic of composition and editing. We use the tools of composition to establish our thoughts on a topic and to express our opinions, ask questions and to share stories. Through editing, we revise both what we think and how we compose our ideas. Writing is the mysterious revelation of self. Instead of merely looking into a mirror, we have to slowly develop a sense of how what we think looks in the external world. Our thoughts are native to our experience, but the moment we externalize them and give them form through a composition, in the shape of an essay, we begin to see who we are. This gives us the ability to change what we think, and in the process to direct the development of our character. Writing gives us intellectual intentionality. Through writing, we are able to determine how to use the best of what we think to the advantage of those we wish to help. Writing about writing is important because thinking about thinking is important. It’s fundamental to improving your form. Strategizing about writing, coming up with prompts, working on exercises and having a dialogue about strategies and techniques keeps the ball in play. By paying attention to writing, we can improve our quality of thought, we can make better decisions, and we can help other people to find their direction and purpose. Language is uniquely human, and writing is the focused and deliberate use of language to express ideas. By writing, you become more human. You can both learn about who you are, discover how you want to be, and work on growing into the kind of human you respect and admire. Writing is our most powerful tool of self-analysis. When combined with the introspective tendency of cannabis consumption, writing can lead to breakthrough after breakthrough. 

Photography: Photography is my main visual mode of work, these days. I love video and painting, but I have been thinking about and practicing photography for the past fifteen years with a passion and dedication. Photography has helped me to grow, to give people valuable memories, to help promote businesses and to have amazing relationships. Studying photography was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The history of photography is so brief, but it has accelerated to such an impossibly enormous volume. Being thoughtful about photography both leads to making better photographs and to understanding the world of photography, but it is also a tool of introspection. You go out into the world to find subjects. You explore compositions with your camera. When you return to the studio to edit your photos, however, you are faced with some idea about yourself and your job is to present that to the world in a way they will find the most interesting. This can also lead you to understand things about yourself and about how the world feels about you. Like all meaningful growth that can be painful at times and pleasurable at others. 

Marketing: The future is going to have more marketers than ever. That is the logical conclusion of a workforce left with nothing but creativity and communication. With the advance of automation, people will increasingly need to become more adept at messaging and branding. While some people feel an aversion to sales, they don’t like being sold to, marketing can be much more than a pitch. It can be beautiful design, thoughtful writing and interesting research. Marketing can be useful to you and when it is, then it really works well. There is no escaping marketing. One common form of marketing you see is the marketing of no marketing which is essentially a business or person bragging that they are so good and so in demand that they don’t have to spend much on advertising or branding. It shows an ignorance about branding, though. That is marketing and branding: it is the branding of no marketing. We don’t need no stinking marketing marketing. Yes you do. We all need good marketing.

Art: The category of art as a separate sphere of concern from other forms of media will always be interesting to me and so I will always think and write about it for those who are interested in what I have to say about it. If art can be any media, then why not consider all media art? There are deep philosophical reasons for wanting a category of cultural production that defines itself differently than the rest of culture. There is something deeply generative about the category existing in the first place. It is an invitation to experiment, an ethos of innovation, a reputation for making things new. Art matters the same way freedom of speech matters. It is so fundamental to the way we think, even if not consciously, that it is almost impossible for us to see why it matters. Writing about art is an attempt to give us that perspective even if just for a moment to look behind the curtain at what the category of art is doing socially and culturally and why it matters.

Landscape: Being out in a natural setting, watching how the sun travels, moving through the landscape in a way where I understand the various textures on the trail, all of these things matter to me deeply. As a human animal, I crave a connection to the landscape. I want to know what is happening in the woods. I want to explore every creek and know every tree. Writing about the landscape is important because it can help us to remember our priorities in times that we are easily distracted by other things.

Ocean: The ocean connects us all. As the universal symbol of the unconscious, the ocean is the most dynamic and deep subject for humans to ponder. It is so dramatic and expressive, it demands a million artist pay attention at all times. I am one of them.

LA Cannabis and Contemporary Art

If you love art, fashion and cannabis, then LA has a lot to offer. It will be interesting to see how legal weed in NYC changes the game, but until they catch up to us, LA and SF are the best places to be for this combination of cultural elements. You only had to attend one of the Dr. Greenthumbs or Cookies stores on 4/20 to see a thriving cultural showing. During the past year cannabis transformed from marginal to essential and now it is evolving into a vital part of culture. 

I went to college in Portland during the 90s and the art scene there was going off. They had a First Thursday art night when all the galleries would open their new exhibitions. As an artist, it was invigorating. They had probably 75-100 galleries at the time, so you could never see it all. You had to figure out where the art was that resonated most with you and then you could explore that territory and have some wild adventures.

It was a big part of the culture of the city, and that was exciting as an artist. There was an art market. People gave a fuck. When I went around and checked in with galleries and looked at work it was also overwhelmingly obvious that a lot of the people there were more interested in the other people than in the art. The art was important. It was the reason people were getting together in the first place. The people were always more important though. Art just provided the subject of conversation. It was an excuse to get dressed up to go out and look at other people who got dressed up to go out and look at other people.

This is exactly the vibe I got at Dr. Greenthumb’s Sylmar and Cookies Melrose. We have seen a lot of amazing developments in the cannabis industry since the advent of legal weed, but the most amazing one for me is the development of a new kind of contemporary art scene that is multi-media and interactive.

With the closing of galleries and museums, with no venues open for live music, cannabis stores have been able to remain vital cultural hubs. Spaces like Dr. Greenthumb’s and Cookies are following the path set by Apple in making their stores like a museum or contemporary art gallery. It was the art world that did it first, Apple saw the wisdom of emphasizing design for the customer experience, and cannabis has adopted the same bright minimalist aesthetic. 

Cannabis branding has developed along parallel tracks to craft beer branding, and both have incorporated lots of elements of pop art. Appropriating other brands by flipping their logos, designing colorful fun cartoon like graphics and labels, craft beer and cannabis branding has found great success in evoking feelings of nostalgia through their artwork. Andy Warhol saw design everywhere and through the force of his artistic personality he brought imagery from the supermarket and magazines into the gallery and museum space. Cannabis brands like Cookies and Dr. Greenthumbs are changing the art world.

To understand that B Real is a force in the contemporary art scene, you have to go no further than to see him creating an NFT and entering into the tokenized art space. Why is B Real selling NFTs? The same reason he is hosting a podcast four or five times a week. He understands the market and artistic inspiration and process. Is B Real the most underrated figure in Hip Hop? Is it fair to even see him through that lens? 

It is, because that is so deep a part of his history and because he is such an important part of the history of Rap. The first Cypress Hill album was released in 1991. I was a freshman in high school. B was not that much older than me, but he was about to take off on a journey around the world that was the journey of Hip Hop. As the world embraced and nourished Hip Hop, B Real and Cypress Hill built up their cultural empire to the extent that they are now still as relevant as ever. The music keeps getting better, too. 

The world has never seen someone quite like Berner. He is one of the first great renaissance figures of our times. He is a true artist. He is also a wildly successful entrepreneur. His understanding of branding is second to none. He is one of the first figures to elevate cannabis to the level of contemporary art and to integrate his various passions into one flourishing business model.

Once weed is federally legal, what will happen with these movements? You never know. One of the best things about digital culture, in my mind, is a period of hip hop history when the mixtape reigned supreme. The organic spontaneity of freestyling over other people’s beats and releasing music for free was a moment in musical history that accelerated the progress of the form. That wild and organic experiment created a cultural engine of innovation, but it only lasted for a period of time. When things open back up, when there is federal legalization whatever the scene evolves to be, you can be certain that B Real and Berner will be a part of it.

Cannabis and Content Creation

I enjoy creating content, call it what you will. I’m an artist with a fine art background and a Ph.D. in Literature. I make my living as an independent contractor creating digital assets for content marketing, and I have done so since 2013. I strive to use photography and writing to create a mood and to convey a message.

Being an artist is either academic or entrepreneurial by nature. Or, as KRS One taught us, edutainment is the combination of both. There is and always has been a business aspect to creativity for me because I value independence. Creativity comes from creative choice which requires creative freedom. Communication requires emotional intelligence and an understanding of the context. You need to be empathetic to your own and your audience’s desires simultaneously while you craft a message for a brand or to spark ideas about culture.

You need a good plan to be able to have the time to do creative work that can both delight and educate. My goal is always to make things that other people will love and that communicates a message or asks questions. At the core, that’s my motivation: to create something you will enjoy and that provides subject matter that can act as a prompt for thought, dialogue and action. 

I don’t think that I have all the answers. I constantly push myself to learn more and to improve in every way possible. From working out, to eating well, to researching, writing and studying the craft of photography, I’m passionate about making the best possible product for the public and I devote myself to the process. For me, this means working up early and working hard all day every day. It means researching new ideas and experimenting with new techniques.

In order to enhance your desire to experiment, cannabis is a really valuable tool for creative work. It helps to balance out my analytic side. A side effect of cannabis is to make you hungry, but it also amplifies the pleasure of eating, of seeing something beautiful, of feeling your experience. It turns up the volume on your sensory perception. Cannabis consumption can shift your focus to bodily perceptions and help you to feel the flow of energy in your breath and circulating throughout your body. 

For me, It gives the moment a beautiful focus, a sense of nothing else happening but the act I’m performing if that is looking through photos, composing a shot, writing out a draft for an idea, or interacting with other artists or businesspeople. 

Cannabis creates a perspective shift. It both causes you to focus more on your physical sensations and it stimulates your mind so that you see something in a new way. That can be disturbing and a source of anxiety if you are not used to becoming suddenly introspective. If you are not used to looking at art for long periods of time, staring stoned at Instagram can blow your mind. You just see things differently. You see vibes. Once you can see vibes, you want to curate vibes. Your work becomes a garden flowering in different moods. 

Getting stoned helps you to see your work the way other people will see it. If you are working on a painting or some writing and you get stoned and go back to work, you suddenly see it totally differently. You can smell it. Wherever the tone is off, you will notice. 

Cannabis is a great ally for working in the studio. Not only does it shift your focus to sensory perception, it also provides you with a fresh mental outlook so you can see and hear your work with new eyes. 

Before the Internet, the interaction between artist or graphic designer and the public didn’t happen that often. Most of the time, they would be focusing all of their energies on the work. Then, once the work was finished, they would present it to the public. This created an occasion. The release of a new work represented countless hours of unseen experimentation and development. 

With the Internet, there is an unending back and forth between brand and audience, between content creator and content consumer. The loop has never been shorter or more direct. The level of access the public has to the process of creating content is increasingly more and more comprehensive. Anyone who really wants to figure it out can if they are willing to put int the time and work. 

Because of this feedback loop, cannabis has an even more important role to play for the creator. Getting stoned and looking at your work will never lie to you. It might make you insecure as fuck depending on how wack your draft is, but it will definitely not overinflate how good you feel about it. You will experience it and if it feels good it is good. It is that simple. 

Simplicity is part of the value cannabis brings. It helps us to make judgments based on simple criteria. Does it feel good. Does it taste good. Does it smell good? You might be able to fool yourself into thinking something is better than it is, but you can’t fool stoned you with fake content. It either sparks joy and makes you happy, or it doesn’t. 

Grateful for Cannabis

The difference between high quality cannabis and schwag is insane. If you smoke the right flower for you, eat the right edibles, you will experience some really enjoyable effects and it will have almost no negative side effects. If you burn a bunch of low-grade, poorly cured weed you are going to have a harsh experience. It is a night and day difference when it comes to the quality of cannabis.

High quality cannabis is expensive and for good reason. It is really hard to grow.

Agriculture generally comes with challenges, but quality craft cannabis really elevates the level of skill and experience needed to bring a crop to harvest and through the process of curing and trimming. Cannabis cultivation is a botanical art that requires talent and discipline.

Growing cannabis is not a quick process, either. It takes a lot of time to see the plants from seed or clone to harvest. You have to plan long term to be a ganja farmer. Either you have to figure out a way to rotate rooms or stagger crops so that you are always harvesting, or you are going to have to wait out the periods of no payments for a few months at a time.

These two factors, the difficulty of skill and the length of time it takes to produce a finished crop, make it a seriously challenging task. It is certainly not the stereotype of the stoner to be able to manage complex systems involving lights, humidity, nutrients, pruning and also to be able to budget for periods of drought between harvests. These are prerequisites to this industry, however.

People who grow high end cannabis make the world a better place and it is hard to imagine their work being automated out of the economy. I am sitting in a hotel as I write this and the only coffee available was from a machine where you push a button and it squirts out some kind of pre-brewed something. When it is early in the morning and you just need some coffee that will do, but it is not how you are going to want to operate when you are not traveling.

So, today on 4/20/2021, I want to say thank you to all of the cannabis farmers who have kept the culture alive and the plants flourishing. It is because of the courageous cannabis growers who made renegade grows out in the cuts when it was illegal, who came up with innovative ways to convert suburban homes into grow houses, who knew that cannabis was the future, it is because of their vision that our legalized future is coming closer every day.

Green Light Green

Let’s legalize cannabis, now. Our country needs healing, and cannabis can help. Too many people have had to suffer bizarre criminal consequences for using an herbal remedy. The time is past due, but things will improve for millions of people when we finally get it done. 

Cannabis has a calming effect. Our nation is on edge, rattled to the core and we can’t seem to get our foot off of the gas. Some people really need to relax, and some heavy dose edibles could be just the thing. 

Cannabis can make us introspective, and the path to a better future is going to require some self-reflection. Cannabis is a great complement to numerous therapeutic activities: hiking, making art, stretching, etc. We need new beginnings to help us to grow into a more hopeful and emotionally intelligent culture.

We don’t need free weed, we just need to free the weed. 

One big and bold action that will help millions of people over night. 

The numbers are on the side of legalization. Not only will we immediately create new legal markets, but we will enhance the functionality of the already existing legal market. All of the people who have fought an uphill battle to comply with the bizarre and contradictory rules of States with legal cannabis operating under a federal ban will be able to fulfill their dreams. Federal legalization would reward the good faith efforts of those entrepreneurs brave enough to take a risk and enter into regulatory cannabis to help provide safe and legal cannabis to the people of this country.

Let’s do it for our economy, do it for the health of our citizenry, do it for the cultural healing we need. Let’s legalize cannabis, now, and we will rebuild our country with a brighter greener hue.

Why the Future Belongs to Stoners part 1

There’s nothing wrong with cannabis. It’s a beautiful plant with amazing flowers and effects. As with the pineapple, the pomegranate and the papaya, Cannabis is a naturally occurring living organism with many properties beneficial to health and wellness for humans and even for other animals. 

Sometimes people complain of feeling anxiety or sleepiness when they consume THC. This could be for a number of reasons. Different strains can have different effects, but also farmers are not equally good at growing weed. Cannabis is not like apples. It is a boutique crop, a difficult flower to grow well. The difference in the experience of consumption between top shelf flower and run of the mill boof is night and day and the pricing in dispensaries reflects this reality.

The quality of the crop is what matters most about cannabis, and one way cannabis brands are marketing the quality of their flowers is through high THC numbers in their testing. While the cannabinoid percentages do matter, they are no clear indication of the quality of the flower or of your experience if you were to consume it. In order to really use cannabis effectively, you have to find a farm that grows flowers that you enjoy. It’s really that simple. You have to just experiment until you find the right farm and usually that will keep you connected to the best benefits that cannabis can offer.

Besides the quality of the flowers, though, there is a big reason why people feel tired or anxious when they consume cannabis. This is because it is pointing out the problems they are not dealing with. When people get stoned, it often causes introspection and analysis over the problems, especially social situations, that are on your mind. It brings those things you are worrying about to the front of your attention. This is one of the reasons why stoners will win in the end. It causes self-reflection and that is the gateway to self-improvement and that is the gateway to being a better member of a community and that is the gateway to security and happiness. So yes, it is a gateway drug.

In Cannabis We Trust

During the pandemic, the cannabis plant and the industry surrounding it have become more valuable than ever before. State by state, we are creeping towards federal legalization as the evidence continues to grow in the places where it already has been made legal for recreational use. Legalizing weed is the most SENSIble thing to do. With one stroke from a pen, a switch would flip that could empower hundreds of thousands of people with work, liberate tens of thousands from incarceration, and would potentially provide all of us with the therapeutic tools we need to heal and grow stronger.

Canada legalized recreational cannabis with the Cannabis Act in 2018. Mexico in on the verge of passing their legalization bill. Just as California couldn’t stand by and watch Colorado capitalize on legal weed, it seems beyond inevitable that the US as a whole will finally abandon its stance against cannabis as history continues to show that legalizing cannabis is not just an experiment, but a full-fledged transformation of global drug policy.

Cannabis users who have experienced legalization may have varying views of what legal weed looks like for the people who care most about the plant, but there is a widespread consensus among its advocates that cannabis is a beneficial plant and that making access to quality bud safe and affordable would be a good thing.

When will the US recognize its potential for leadership in the embrace of cannabis and hemp products? If cannabis is federally legalized, will that speed up the process of incorporating hemp commodities into our agricultural and industrial plans? When will we see the ascendency of Hempcrete as a building material? How soon can we phase out plastic and replace it with hemp alternatives?

These questions have urgent importance, and the more we elevate the topic as a priority the sooner we can start working on these powerful problem-solving practices. It is perhaps understandable that people are still resistant to legalization as it shows the power of the anti-drug campaigns that have ideologically backed the drug wars. If you didn’t have personal experience with cannabis, it might still seem like a dangerous or negative thing.

The truth is, cannabis is beneficial to many many people.

When you listen to leaders in the cannabis space, a common story you hear is one of conversion through injury or illness. Oftentimes, these folks will have been extremely conservative people who were anti-cannabis and believed the propaganda against the plant. After being recommended cannabis to deal with seizures, pain, or the side effects of chemotherapy, a great number of people have converted to become stoners who sing the praises of the plant and advocate for it.

One of these people was Jack Herer. He is one of the most iconic examples of a conservative converting to cannabis after trying it for the first time in his 30s. Herer opened up a head shop and started researching cannabis and hemp and became a spearhead for legalization. His book The Emperor Wears No Clothes is a cornerstone work in the legalization movement. Herer became one of the legends of cannabis during his time and he started out starkly against the plant as a Goldwater conservative.

Just as Jack Herer changed his mind about cannabis, we have seen a major shift in attitudes. The more states legalize cannabis, the less the stigma against cannabis users is able to stick, and lots of people you may not have thought were cannabis users have stepped out of the closet. We no longer see cannabis use in the same way. We are getting experienced. Jimi Hendrix would be proud.

Color Theory and Food Photography

Working with color and composition in food and product photography.

Do you need to photograph some food or products for your marketing purposes? There are some tried and true methods I use to get mouthwatering images easy on the eyes, but I also like to research methods and to keep learning new things, so I stay inspired and varied in my creative output.

One YouTuber who I really like for tips and tricks related to food photography is The Bite Shot. Joanie Simon approaches food photography as an artist and has wonderful ideas that produce great results. I watched her video “Using Color Theory in Food Photography.” In this video, she talks about Josef Albers, of the BAUHAUS movement, and refers so some ideas in his book “The Interaction of Color.”

I had some bags of Big Pete’s Treats Lemon Cookies to photograph with some cut up lemons, so I decided to do some shots using a purple paper to give the image some design elements. It’s a very basic idea that complementary colors are pleasing to the eye, but Albers via Simon helps us to understand why this technique works. When you overlay two colors the color of the ground is subtracted from the color on top, causing the color to move in that direction in the way it looks. If I had used a green paper or orange paper it would have affected the appearance of the yellow. Since there is no purple in yellow, the yellow retains its hue even on top of a colorful ground.

The thing about color is that it is an endless way to experiment with your photography. Being intentional with color helps to understand how it works.

Try to create a photograph with two colors only. How did you balance the colors? What was the mood you were going for? Try different color combinations and see how it changes the way we read color.

Also, check out my latest podcast “Massage the Messenger,” HERE:

Massage the Messenger