Wednesday, April 29, 2009

With a Whimper

I took a few minutes and read the article "American capitalism gone with a whimper" by Stanislav Mishin in Pravda that a friend of mine provided a link to in his e-mail to me. Of course the tone of the article is "we've [Russia] been there [Marxism] and done that" so we have a higher moral authority on the question of capitalism slippage in America. Funny. Hilarious.

And the article's caption is also amusing. So all those businesses up and down Main Street and over on restaurant row are now operated by the United States government or some state or local government --- gone with a whimper? When the opening premise of an article is so flawed, the inclination is to not read on. But since the author was trying so hard to make a few jokes, I decided to have a few good laughs of my own by reading on.

Of course any criticism by little old me is tainted by all of those McDonald's and Burger King burgers I have eaten that have clouded my judgment and the fact that I am uneducated (especially in the classics), except for our pop culture, you know, 24 and Big Love. Although, I have to say I'm not homophobic like the author or worried about how the United States political scene washes between conservativism and liberalism or the planks of parties like the Libertarian, Democratic, or even, heaven help me, the Republican.

And by the way, I didn't realize that McDonald's and Burger King had been nationalized. What about Wendy's and --- heaven forbid --- Utah Noodle Parlor? Last time I ate at Wendy's, I thought there had been a falling off in the taste of their chili. No wonder I had all that gas.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How do you draw on the left side of your brain?

Sometime years ago I purchased a book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards. I think I started reading the book a couple of times, intending to improve my drawing. I never got far though, although I always intended to. I guess the experience is a metaphor for many things in my life, and it brings to mind the cliché about the best laid plans of mice and men. I suppose about everybody has a similar experience they can relate to. I don't think anybody goes through life without some regrets or, if not regrets, of having had intentions that weren't meant, whether for good or for bad.

Anyway, the book has sat on the shelf in the library all these years and now I have it here in my hand and eventually will remove the spine and scan the pictures and text and make it into a PDF file. I probably will never prepare it for my Kindle --- there are too many illustrations that probably wouldn't work that well in my Kindle, although most of the book is in grayscale. I will scan it in grayscale for the most part. Of course covers I usually do in color, and there are probably eight pages of color illustrations within the book that I will do in color.

The book still has a great allure. It would still be fun to dig in and study it and become a better artist. My artistry --- that is my drawing and painting --- goes more to copying something rather than creating anything unique, at least it has. I suppose the book could help me, but I'm not sure I want to be helped --- or rather, I don't want to spend the time to be helped at drawing. Writing is much more intriguing than drawing or painting are at this point in my life. The truth is, though, I usually don't spend a great deal of time working on my writing either. I end up surfing the Internet, checking my favorite blogs and Internet sites, watching television, or reading something. I do tend to work more on what I've already written than on the production of something new.

Anyway, part of the attraction of the book in the first instance was its proposition that it enhanced creativity and artistic confidence.

The publication date of the book is 1989. I don't know when I purchased it for sure, but I think by the time I did I was somewhat into writing, had possibly begun writing about Denise leaving Jeff for Paul Somer. It would be interesting to know sure, but one thing is certain: back in those days I was doing some watercolors. Another of the great attractions in the book are the before and after illustrations that the author provides of her students.

It reminds me of my art teacher in high school. I think I took one art class while I was in high school. The teacher was Ivan Cornia --- I think that's how you spell it. Anyway, he was a mild-mannered gentleman of middle-age, but the thing I remember most about his class was how he illustrated the progress of one of his students, Dean Millman. According to Mr. Cornia's story, Dean was not much of a student and not much of an artist when he entered Mr. Cornia's class. But Dean wanted to draw horses. And Mr. Cornia gave him considerable latitude to draw what he wanted. So Dean began, and after each session in class he would take the paper he had drawn his horse or horse part on and throw it in the garbage can and leave the classroom. Mr. Cornia would then retrieve whatever Dean had drawn from the garbage can and keep it in a chronological history. This is what Mr. Cornia showed us because it was a good illustration of how a person who was determined to draw something and practiced doing it, was able to make progress --- at least Dean was able to.

Anyway, the title of the book, drawing on the right side of the brain, has its own pique, don't you think? Drawing on the right side of the brain? What do you use? Kind of hard to get a magic marker or a paintbrush inside the skull through all that fluid in there to draw on any side of the brain, don't you think? So I'm sure that little twist had something to do with my purchase the book with the intention of reading it and benefiting from it. It just never happened. Not so far anyway.

So as I look at the book and contemplate digitizing it, these thoughts have returned to me.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I suppose some people look outside of themselves to find meaning in life and creation. And I know that other people look inside themselves. It is fair to assume, I guess, that some people don't look for meaning in life or creation at all. These three assumptions aren't all of the possibilities that exist, and it is fair to say that all inquiry is on a continuum that is difficult to fully contemplate or appreciate. It is like being itself. Difficult. Complex. Perplexing.

What do we achieve when we peer further out into space? Do we end up realizing that we cannot understand the nature of our being or existence by inspecting supernovas or contemplating spiral galaxies? I don't know. Do we have any more success looking inside of ourselves?

It is spring; time to spend more time outside, contemplating the woods, nature, regeneration. All of life is reawakening out there, and it's probably a good idea to have something reawakening inside of me in a like manner.

The magpies have built a nest in one of the sugar maples. It is a mishmash of sticks gathered from the Gambel oak, or so it appears. It is a nest that appears to have a roof and a side entrance. The pair built it early in the spring, starting before the last snows had fallen and finishing it even before they could spend a night without snow covering their rooftop.

I got out the binoculars one day and peered at the nest, but I was unable to penetrate the mishmash and see inside. I know they're in there, sitting on their eggs.

I haven't read about magpies in Wikipedia yet, and I don't know the protocol of their reproduction. They have a world they are bound to, a place within it that makes sense to them. Everything beyond that they don't try to comprehend. I wonder why that is? Why don't they ask questions or have any curiosity about other animals and events beyond their sphere? Do I? I think I do, but semi-limited in some fashion similar to the limitations on the magpies?

Truth is a matter of the imagination according to the character, Genly Ai, in the novel The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. But what is the imagination? How do we define it? We say it is the formation of a mental image of something that is neither perceived as real nor present to the senses. The trouble is, we are bound by our mental constructs. Our senses gather data that we run through the machinery of our brain to produce truth. As George Berkeley indicated, such constructs as color, sound, temperature, and smell exist only in our heads even if we believe they represent truth. Such are not truly essences.

Modern physics shows that the results we get depend upon whether or not something or someone is observing. Observation makes all the difference in the world. The two-slit experiment has intrigued me since I read about it many years ago in Gary Zukav's 1979
book The Dancing Wu Li Masters. When someone watches a subatomic particle or a bit of light pass through a pair of slits, it behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave that can inhabit all possibilities --- including somehow passing through both holes at the very same time. If there is magic, the two slit experiment is it. The greatest minds that exist have had a difficult time comprehending and explaining it.

Now scientists postulate that life creates the universe, and the universe couldn't exist without it. So we are the gods of our own universes.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Evolution and the resurrection and atonement

Quite a while ago, so long now it is hard for me to remember much about it, I read a biography about Charles Darwin. I do remember having awe at his life and work. He worked so diligently and sacrificed so much for his knowledge and its publication. It appears that it is now the celebration of his bicentenary. (I don't know if that means he was born 200 years ago or died 200 years ago.)

I say this, not meaning that there is any connection between my having read that biography and the fact that his history has grown so old in terms of my living, but because it seems that so little has changed. Of course, the issue of evolution is still a hot topic; so many people in this world, and in particular in our nation, still have such trouble with the notion of evolution, particularly many involved heavily in religion. The same old timeworn argument of science over against religion continues even to this day, all this time later, despite the irrefutable evidence. We, who stand at the pinnacle of the evolutionary process as far as living things at least on this earth go, don't like to be compared to our ancestors. But it doesn't bother me. In fact, I am in awe of all of life; it is magnificent. We descend not only from long-armed, hairy creatures but are related to all other life forms.

It reminds me of a joke I heard from a high councilman in Sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. A little girl, confused by what she had heard her mother and father tell her, went back to her mother. "Mama," she said, "remember how you told me that our ancestors came from the Garden of Eden?" Her mother nodded. "Well, Papa says our ancestors were apes." And the mother says, "Well, dear, that's right. I was talking about my side of the family and your father was talking about his."

I wonder in the small scope of my life if I have evolved and, if so, if it has been a positive evolution, neutral, or negative. Like I suppose just about everyone, I would like to think I have advanced in some positive way. If I were to make the assessment, I would judge myself positively. However, I recognize some degree of hubris in doing so. So I'll just leave it at that and say that I appreciate my ancestors, in particular my parents and grandparents who were such an important part of my infancy and childhood and on into adulthood. Today is the day to celebrate the resurrection and atonement. Without parents and ancestors, a resurrection and an atonement would not be necessary. I wouldn't be here. None of us would.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Writing about writing I would say makes me cranky. I guess I could analyze why it does to death. Besides that, saying that writing about writing makes me cranky is an absolute. It is not absolutely true that writing about writing makes me cranky. That happens some of the time, but not always. Just like so many other things in life there is some range, some diversity, and some give-and-take.

I do tend to be critical about my writing; as I have said, self-critical, so much so that it is difficult to spit it out without changing this or that and moving things around and making different selections of words. It all makes me think of a training session we had at work. I was an appeals officer and as such held hearings with individuals or groups of individuals who were trying to get a proposed assessment reduced or waived completely. Ascertaining the individuals' credibility was a great part of that process.

So one time in a continuing professional education seminar they invited a guest who was an "expert" on assessing credibility, or truthfulness. Anyway, he said that we all have a different process of thinking and gave an illustration. He told about him and a buddy who had taken a motorcycle out to the desert someplace --- someplace remote and far removed from society. Once they got there, something happened to the motorcycle and they couldn't get it to run. Together they were trying to figure it out, and the guy's buddy kind of thought out loud, kept on talking and wouldn't stop, saying everything that came into his mind

It drove the guy telling the story crazy, because he needed the quiet and a calm moment or two alone in order to think and be creative.

Sometimes it is hard to write continuously because you find yourself thinking and analyzing too much. Trying to be audacious and make what you say or write have some flair. Or you are just simply tired and unable to seize upon something you think adequately interesting to put down the page. Any number of reasons. Imagination is the only constraint. It is difficult just to go on, to let yourself go, to kill the thing inside you that makes you wary. So, sometimes it is difficult to write fast on an ongoing basis. You run out of things to say and you have to think about where you want to go.

It's funny now that I think back on it how in school I had to write things down longhand and, if they needed to be turned in formally, I had to use a typewriter to get it all down. I was never a very skilled typer. I was always clumsy and slow. Even though I worked as hard as anybody else in my typewriting classes, I moved like a turtle. Maybe part of it was that I had that hesitation that I continue to have even trying to copy something from one page onto another. Maybe it's built into my genes and I can't overcome it.

I have often thought that I am better at being a participant in a conversation than being the instigator of a conversation or the person who carries the weight of conversation. I don't know that I'm that good a storyteller; I don't remember well or I don't take the time to remember well or rehearse things in my mind over and over so that I can retell them well. I guess it comes back to being lazy. But there you go, being negative again. And I don't really believe that I am lazy. I think I probably just utilize my time thinking in another vein, doing something else. I don't know, I'd have to think about it to decide.

I guess I need to pay more attention to the way I go about writing rather than what I want to turn out. Maybe if I did that, I would learn something insightful about my process. Then later I could look at the actual writing and decide what I had, whether I should throw it away or tweak it. It'd be nice to be able to write as free and easy as some conversations proceed. But then, usually I don't have somebody to have a nice conversation with. I just have myself. But I've found that if I put my mind to it I can take both sides of the conversation and do pretty well. On the other hand, lurking there is the notion that I am not the dominant individual to carry on a conversation --- I'm not good at that, as being dominant.

Dear watcher, you better watch out. I have every intention of destroying you. I want you alive only when I want you alive. That doesn't include when I'm getting words down for the first time in a creative way. At that particular point I want you dead. Yeah, dead.

But my internal voice --- my watcher --- says dead, dead is such a permanent state. You don't want me dead, do you? What about when you need me, say later, when you want to edit something. Yeah, you don't want me dead. I knew you wouldn't.

Okay, I say. Maybe I don't want you dead. But I want to isolate you. I want you out of my life at critical times when I don't need you or want you

My internal voice says, how fair is that? Why should I have to be isolated, kept away from you. I've kept you out of trouble so long and so often. In fact, one of the reasons you can carry on a conversation at all is because you like to utilize me to criticize or pick at what other people say, what other people do, the flaws in their stories, the chinks in their armor.

I don't know, I don't know if it will ever work to kill this guy. He just doesn't want to die. But maybe I can lock him up for certain periods of time and devote the time solely to me and my creativity. Now that would be nice. That would be nice.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I didn't always think I could be a writer

I'm not sure I can be, even now. A writer? Am I a writer?

They say it's a feeling you have, a voice that talks in your head, whispering, "Someday I may write a book about this or that." I don't think I ever had that. No voice in my head. Even if I've written a couple books now, I don't have that little voice --- Why is it always a little voice anyway? --- telling me that I can write.

I don't have any quirky ideas about writing; at least I don't think I do. Maybe I do, but I don't go hunting for special stationary or go looking for the right pencil like Steinbeck did. I just get busy and put words down the best way I know how. I am always looking for more efficient ways to do it, to do it in ways so that I don't have to jeopardize my time for other frivolities. I want to get it done. I'm not into it enough to like it, I guess. Not enough to not want to leave and do something else. Watch television. Vegetate. Read.

I suppose I haven't done it enough or been exposed to it sufficiently to think it's good writing or for somebody to say it is. I suppose, if I'm truthful, I have gotten some positive feedback. It isn't all negative. But it isn't all positive either. Nobody's raving about it, that's for sure.

When I write, I find it is sometimes very challenging to get my words down just the way I want them. It is difficult just to let go and say on the page what I want to say without hesitating to deliberate the placement of a particular word or the selection of the word itself. I want to make my phrases sing and my sentences perfect, or, perhaps not perfect, but better, not embarrassing. Passable.

It is always a struggle, though. I don't write with a great deal of enthusiasm unless I have some extreme emotion. If I'm angry. If I'm sad. If I'm happy. Then it comes a little bit easier. If I have a target, that makes it easier to shoot. So I need to remember that. To have some emotion, to build it before I sit down, or, better, as I sit down, or, best, as the words flow out.