This project was done back in 2007 and was originally called Punched By A Ghost. I never shared it with anyone outside of my closest friends. SMH did not mean anything back in 2007, at least not that I was aware. Now the project has an updated title for its public debut in 2018. I like to think about how long after I’m gone these images will remain on the internet for someone to haplessly come upon. I consider it a virtual time capsule of an artist’s insanity. I realize from a technical perspective these images are considered novice at best, but they are no less enjoyable to view. I would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment.
This project is dedicated to my mother Juleeva, who has been making me SMH for as long as I can remember.
Camera: Panasonic DMC-LZ6 with Leica lens
Focal Length: 13 mm
“Ross! Ross dear, come get your soup!” came the demure, timid voice of a twenty year old girl from the kitchen. It was Ross’s newest nanny, Miss Emily, and her efforts were in vain. Even if her frail voice wouldn’t be lost in the mammoth expanse of the Bronski residence, which it surely would have between the kitchen and the boy’s personal playroom down the hall, he was only there physically anyway.
Ross’s body may have been sitting on the floor in the middle of the room’s sprawling burgundy plush Berber carpet, but his mind was swimming deep beneath the ocean waves in a virtual reality induced world known as Inky Shadows, designed for kids. His VR helmet looked too heavy for his 4 year old head, and as he bobbed it from side to side to the music it looked like he was struggling to hold it upright.
Where does a baby octopus play
Where no sun or moon will light the way
Come on down and be the who knows
What lies below in Inky Shadows
It was amazing just how much time Ross spent in that virtual world, but it wasn’t entirely surprising. The grey walls and cavernous expanse of his mother Stella’s luxury condo with its disgustingly expensive, cold and sterile decor simply couldn’t compare to the lush colors and cozy nooks of Inky Shadows. Add to that a collection of cute creatures that sing songs and go on adventures and you’ve got the ultimate escape for a lonely boy seeking a connection. And that was certainly Ross.
It was 2104 and four years into parenting, Stella had had about a week’s worth of contact with her son in the last three months. On paper she was an excellent parent. Ross’s every need was swiftly met, just not necessarily directly by her. It wasn’t intentional, but ultimately Stella had only one love in life: her career. She didn’t hate staying home with him for the first year of his life, but the glow of new motherhood soon gave way to the gnawing ambition to get back in the office. It was a great time to be in business if you were in a position of influence, after all. The One World Government became a stronger conglomerate every year, and only those businesses who were savvy enough to take early advantage of lucrative contracts would survive. Stella was not about to be left out in the cold. To be fair, all of her efforts at work were with Ross’s best interests in mind, but none of that mattered down in Inky Shadows.
Heels clacked loudly down the hall as the dutiful nanny brought Ross his lunch of Lil’ Ninja soup made with tiny pasta throwing stars shrouded in darkness by a bean curd miso broth. After she brought him back from his underwater paradise to join her on earth, she knelt next to him and talked while he ate. Emily was the third in what was to be a long list of nannies, and the most talkative thus far. The thing was, she had such a timid voice it was easy to tune her out when she went on a ramble. She was a slight girl with meek, mousy features. Everything about her was as thin as her voice.
After going on for about ten minutes straight about everything from the guy she was dating to the gift she bought her dad for his birthday to OMG you’ll never believe what happened to her sister… there was a momentary lull. Ross looked up at her as though she hadn’t said a word and asked “Miss Emily, are you my friend?” It was the first time Ross ever asked someone this question, but far from the last. In fact, years later he would be faced with this very question in much more dire circumstances. He would find himself in situations where his very life hinged on the answer. But today that answer would come easy. Emily flashed a toothy smile and no sooner than saying “of course” was off on another bout of constant talking.
For his part, Ross’s father Donald was around when he could be. For the first few years of Ross’s life he and Stella’s relationship was at its peak. They saw each other whenever they could escape from work, and the coming of a child reinvigorated their passion in the bedroom. Stella had even abandoned her side pieces for him. For the time being she was content to give herself to Donald alone, helping to cement the belief in her mind that he was actually Ross’s father. This assuaged any residual guilt she would have had for knowing it was possible he was not. That was a dark secret to be kept to herself for many years.
It was a chilly overcast autumn morning outside of Estelle “Stella” Bronski’s high-rise luxury condo in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Inside, encapsulated behind her impenetrable floor to ceiling windows from the 38th floor she peered down at the muted, bustling metropolis far beneath her. As an elite, privileged and consequently isolated young woman, it was a visual metaphor for how she was accustomed to viewing the world. Any other morning she would be too busy getting ready for work at her family’s financial firm to stand there gazing out the window. But this was not just any other morning. At 25 years young, having recently obtained her Master’s in Finance and gunning to forge a bold and impressive career, Stella Bronski discovered about twenty minutes ago that she is going to have a child. Stella will not be in the office today.
The year was 2099, but no one was partying like when it was 1999. The world was still in the final throes of the Soft World War, or World War 2.5, as some called it. It was almost as though no one wanted to admit out loud we had brought ourselves to the brink of annihilation a third time. To Stella, as an elite, the war’s personal impact was no more than a flashing news clip or a rise or dip in a stock price. Still, she wondered what would become of all the chaos and how it would shape her child’s world. She made a promise to herself that morning to do everything in her power to ensure her baby had every advantage possible in life as she had.
Despite the irreplaceable loss of her parents to a tragic accident when she was a teen, Stella inherited enough wealth that she never needed to work. Nonetheless, her fierce determination to carve out her mark in the world of finance saw her through school with honors. Her extended family’s firm remained in tact, as her father had only been part owner. They loved her and through her uncles she always had a place to work and grow her skills.
Still gazing listlessly out the window. Still in shock. Excited? Scared. Excited and scared. In that order? Stella takes a deep breath and tries to reconcile with the morning’s news. “Ok, first things first,” she says aloud. “Who’s the father?” Stella’s approach to sexual activity was not as methodical as her book keeping. She wasn’t unusually slutty, but she was a healthy, attractive, young blonde known to have a little indiscretion now and then while maintaining a steady.
Her steady’s name was Donald and he was a professor at her alma mater, Syracuse University. “It’s Donald, right? Gotta be Donald.” Donald was ten years older, had never been married and had no children. They had been seeing each other for over a year. He had given her the impression he was in for the long haul. She was hesitant though, being younger and suffering from FOMO about settling down, despite loving him as she did. So they maintained a classic holding pattern made easier by the amount of time they both spent working on their careers. She loved the fact that he called her more often than she called him.
Nine months later, on July 12th, 2100, at 5:55 pm, Ross Bronski was born. Stella was still unmarried, but Donald was by her side. Together the new parents marveled at what was to be their future. Little did they know then, they were staring at the future spaceman of the world.
Being a Bronski had major advantages of course, but Ross’s meticulously crafted upbringing was clearly the result of Stella’s unwavering fortitude. Choosing to remain independent, she declined Donald’s repeated offers of cohabitation. Although there was never a blood test, they viewed Donald as Ross’s biological father. But he was always “Stella’s child,” which explains why Ross kept his mother’s last name. They never discussed legal custody, just casually shared in the responsibilities of parenthood. Donald’s role in Ross’s early years was somewhat tertiary to Stella’s, who was intensely involved in every aspect of his childhood. This while aggressively ascending through the ranks of her family’s firm and building a powerful portfolio of business bravado. She was a rising star in the Bronski empire of enterprise.
Donald was no slouch, himself. While his net worth was only a tiny fraction of the Bronskis’ billions, he was a brilliant and respected mechanical engineer who wrote books and designed machines used in mass production. This in addition to his professorship at Syracuse. His life ambition, however, was to design a rocket engine that would recycle fuel. Some said it couldn’t be done (more to tell later about this). Donald is an interesting character, super intelligent and very laid back, quiet. He was a thinker, not a fighter. His mellow ways played excellent counterpoint to Stella’s more Type A personality. Even when he was explaining or handling something extremely precise, he had a super casual way about him that was Bill Murray-like, and quite funny at times.
So who is this Spaceman Ross, anyway? Well, to tell you that story in all its sordid detail, first we have to go forward in time about 100-200 years, and explain the dark but not entirely hopeless future into which Ross was born. Let’s do that now.
In the early part of the 2100’s the world had managed to somehow survive what was known as a Soft World War. Despite massive loss of life and property on localized battlefronts all over the planet, miraculously no major military campaign launched any nuclear attacks. There were many close calls, but in the end something quite astonishing resulted. By 2120, for the first time in human history, the wealthy and powerful elite class of every nation consolidated their power over the rest of us commoners. They must have realized they could make more money in peacetime if they managed us well. For the other 98% of human beings not in the ruling class this meant if you had a child he or she would never have to go to war, but they were never going to be super rich either.
It started with cease-fire agreements that read like sales pitches. It went on to multi-national treaties that were more like corporate mergers. It took several years to convince the most die hard boots-on-the-ground fighters to lay down arms in the name of good business for their leaders. After all, many of them fought for things like national pride and hatred of their enemy rather than business opportunities for the rich. Finally, the guns fell silent on the last of the zealots and dissenters. From then on if anyone tried to rise up against the status quo, they were swiftly dealt with in what were called “police actions” but were often executed by the military.
The newly formed One World Government was basically a huge international corporate conglomerate that owned every single bank and military force on earth. They centralized world currency and did away with all paper and coin. The rich were now totally and completely at the helm of humanity’s future, and they knew war was not our only danger as a species.
The world was not in the best shape environmentally by that time. Humans had done a number on it and in retrospect, years of past political debates over how to stem the tide of humans’ unparalleled destruction didn’t amount to very much in the face of our consequences. But the rich, being what they were, took a look around and said well the air quality is poor, but there’s air, people can still breathe. Then they said the water quality isn’t great, but there’s still plenty of water. But when they looked at energy resources, for powering everything from phones to aircraft carriers, they started to get very nervous. A big part of the problem was waste. They needed an energy source that could provide power while using very little resources to produce and was either reusable or left little or no environmental footprint. Scientists from around the world began to try developing such a fuel, but it was a slow and laborious process.
Then someone in the One World Government proposed something quite bizarre. I don’t remember his name, but he openly recommended that rather than limiting our search to earth for our solution, we should venture out into the universe and see what we can find that may be of use. At first the notion was risible, of course. His idea was thrown around at parties in some wealthy circles for a few months until eventually the elites realized the idea was actually gaining traction. To be sure, serious consideration of a space voyage to find a viable earth fuel was lofty at best and at worst a clear sign of the world’s desperation. Ultimately, the rich knew a multi-national space program would give the common people something to rally around together – an Olympic-magnitude human endeavor to save the species. They also knew there’s always money to be made in any human endeavor.
I was particularly pleased with this, it was taken late last night. Let me know what you think.