Author Archives: jakefowler

What We Keep

First Bug Drawing

Last night Maura and I attended a reading, signing, and conversation hosted by the wonderfulNational Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Seriously, if you are anywhere near KC and haven’t been, you MUST go. Authors Bill Shapiro (the former editor-in-chief and founding editor of Getty Images FOTO) and Naomi Wax (whose work has appeared in the New York Times, LA Times, and the Iowa Review) were at the museum to present their latest book called “WHAT WE KEEP, 150 People Share the One Object That Brings Them Joy, Magic, and Meaning“. Bill and Naomi interviewed people from all over the country, from all walks of life, asking them about an object that has deep meaning and then publishes images of the objects along with the stories, in the person’s own word. At the event, they did a reading of some of their favorite objects and stories, then did a Q&A answering some great questions from the attendees about their process, how they chose who to talk to, etc. They started by talking to people they knew, then took an exponential approach, talking to people that they people they knew knew. They then decided to travel across the country, seeking out people that they decided might be interesting to talk to. During their travels, they came to Kansas City, heard about the Toy and Miniature Museum and decided they had to stop in to check it out – only for half an hour or so. Unsurprisingly they ended up spending four hours there, missing an interview in Iowa.

After the reading and Q&A session, they did a book signing – before the reading, they were making their way around the room to introduce themselves to everyone. It was so great to meet them and have a brief conversation with them before the talk and at the signing – this project is obviously very meaningful to them. So meaningful in fact, that the last segment of the evening was a group conversation where the attendees broke into two groups to discuss their most treasured objects. During the break, Maura and I were naturally thinking about and discussing what objects we would have selected. Bill led the conversation at our table. He gave us a few minutes to draw the object on one side of a card, then flip it over and answer several questions about the object and why we chose it. We then went around the table discussing our objects. It was very touching, hearing these intimate stories from strangers and sharing our own.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. At the top of the post, you can see the drawing I did, from memory, of the object that I selected. Here is the actual car: First Bug Original I don’t think I did too bad, for a non-illustrator. As I was listening to the stories in Bill and Naomi’s book, I was thinking what meaning this toy car has to me.

Many of you know that I collect toy VW Beetles. Well, this is the original. I have many more Beetles now but this was the object that started me down the path to becoming a collector. I had never thought about what deeper meaning might be behind that Bug, but as I considered it last night I realized several things that I have never fully acknowledged. It was given to me by my father, early in my high school years. I have never had a strong relationship with him. He left when I was pretty young and for the first several years after that we didn’t see much of him. I ended up living with he and his second wife when I was in high school. My father came home one day after work and surprised me with the Bug out of the blue. I’m sure I had mentioned my love for the VW Beetle and that I wanted to drive one someday (I still haven’t bought one and yes, it has to be a vintage one, not the new abomination). This was one of the only truly thoughtful gestures I ever experience from my father. It was a small thing, but it meant that he had heard me and more importantly, done something about it. The majority of what I learned from my father was what I didn’t want to be as a man or as a human being. Thinking about the history of this car last night, I realized that I had learned something positive from him after all. I learned that listening is powerful, and no matter how small the gesture, acting on what you hear even more so. It’s difficult for me to acknowledge that I might have learned something positive from my father, he was pretty worthless as an example most of the time.

It was interesting to talk about it so openly last night with a table full of strangers. As we were leaving, an older gentleman who we shared the table with approached me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and told me how much he appreciated what I shared. This, I believe, is what Bill and Naomi’s project was ultimately about. Everyone has stories, they simply used a person’s cherished object as a focal point to bring out some of these stories. It must have felt like a tremendous privilege to be able to talk to all of those people as they shared theirs. I can’t wait to read the book and experience more of them!

My Favorite Albums of 2016

2016 was a both wonderfully great year and a fantastically crappy year. I celebrated my ten year wedding anniversary and also ten years at the Kansas City Art Institute. I learned a lot, both professionally and personally. Legends died. A dangerous idiot was elected president of the United States.

Regardless, music is enduring. Here is a list of my favorites from last year (screw the top ten thing, I have a lot of favorites!) Featured you will find two soundtracks that I just can’t stop listening to, two albums by one band, the final albums by two of my favorite artist who happened to end their time on Earth this past year, songs about love, songs about life, songs about songs, songs about humanity, and songs just for fun. In no particular order:

  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Andrew Bird – Are You Serious
  • Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker
  • David Bowie – Black Star
  • Mac Quayle – Mr. Robot OST
  • Yello – Toy
  • Bon Iver – 22, A Million
  • Deerhoof – The Magic
  • Hope Sandoval and the Warm Intentions – Until the Hunter
  • Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
  • Jim James – Eternally Even
  • M83 – Junk
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  • Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Ramin Djawadi – Westworld OST
  • Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop – Love Letter for Fire
  • Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
  • Thee Oh Sees – An Odd Entrances

Today is my one year Brainiversary!

One year ago today I went under the knife needle to have superglue injected into my brain to cut off the growth of a cluster of veins that had gotten out of control and ultimately could have killed me had it gone untreated.

Wow, that is a crazy sentence to re-read. It still feels pretty surreal. I’ve described the experience immediately following as how you might feel after a crazy frat party: I had a massive hangover (the migraines) and I had various personal body parts shaved (where they inserted the needles). At least no one drew a moustache on my face in sharpie, but that might have proven difficult considering.

Life has been pretty normal since all of that. I still get some migraines especially with pressure changes. They are under control for the most part, however. None of this would have been possible without the wonderful doctors and staff at KU Medical Center. What they are doing there truly seems like science fiction. The fact that I had brain surgery and it seemed no worse than a crazy frat party is pretty mind-blowing. Obviously, the migraines are worse than a simple hangover, but still.

My friend, the talented tattoo artist Chris Stubbs has designed this amazing sleeve for me partially in honor of my experience with the surgery:

brain_circuit_board

It’s going on my left arm and connecting up to the other tattoo on my shoulder, the Cephaskelamech. Work began on it a few weeks ago and I’ve got another appointment set up in mid April! I can’t wait to see this thing finished!

Top ten Albums of 2014

Listed in no particular order, maybe, probably.

  • St Vincent – St. Vincent
  • tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
  • Sallie Ford – Slap Back
  • Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita
  • The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River
  • Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
  • First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  • The Pixies – Indie Cindy
  • Warpaint – Warpaint
  • Broken Bells – After The Disco
  • Tobacco – Utilma II Massage

Oh, is that more than ten? Oops! Oh well! There was seriously a LOT of good music this year. I can’t wait to hear what 2015 has in store!

One edit: I guess the Nick Cave was out last year, so I’ll sub the New Basement Tapes, which should have made the list anyway.

The Dural Arteriovenous Fistula is Gone!

It’s two days short of six months since I had brain surgery. It was a very busy Summer both at work and at home. We’ve had a lot of fun too, jumping off bridges, going to concerts, glamping with friends in the John Goodman Suite. More on that stuff in the future…

Today I had a follow up angiogram of my brain to see if anything had started to come back after the surgery. The procedure went well. My neurosurgeon came in to the recovery area (I have to lay flat on my back for two hours to make sure I don’t rip anything open) to chat with us and told us that I am cured! There is no evidence of any part of the fistula recurring. He said that the procedure is so new that they don’t really know what to tell patients about long term follow up. Obviously if I start experiencing similar symptoms in the future, I’ll know what to do, but sometimes there simply aren’t any symptoms. He said that he would be comfortable not doing any follow up, but if I wanted to we could do another scan in a year. I’m leaning towards doing another scan, just for peace of mind and it might help them to know what to expect in other cases, but I haven’t decided for sure yet.

I told the neurosurgeon that I couldn’t express how grateful I am and how lucky I feel. It’s simply amazing to me that this kind of procedure is something that exists, and that I live within a couple miles of one of the few doctors that is performing it right now. The doctors, nurses, and staff are some of the best people in the world. They went out of their way to make me feel as comfortable and confident as possible. And Dr. Koji Ebersole is a rock star!

Unfortunately, I am still dealing with the headaches. I was on a drug that was helping, but the side effects are pretty drastic and I am prone to all of them. I’ve spent the last two weeks weaning myself off that drug and I’m hoping to start a new one soon. In the meantime, they have returned in full force. The main side effect of the new drug is that it can make food and drink taste funny, therefore people tend to lose 5-10 pounds – I think I’m okay with that, at least for a while. I’m sure the new drug will work and I’ll be feeling good again in short order, but this last two weeks of getting off the old one has not been fun. I hate to end this post on a bad note, so I’ll say it again:

I’M CURED!