Saturday, December 26, 2009

not perfect but okay


Congratulations to all of us who've made it to this point and now it's that time for reviewing the year and decade just past and plan on what we have to look forward to for the coming one. Being as old as I am I'm not sure I have the courage to try to imagine the entire next decade. The very idea there are people who ten years hence will be looking at these as the good old days is kind of distressing.

One thing we should now all be perfectly sure of is that our government is not all about helping we the people. A year ago some of us may have experienced a few tremors of the Advertising Age award winning 'hope' campaign that swept the nation faster than a swine flu virus but even though we never expected all kinds of positive change to happen all at once, I don't think many of us imagined so much would get worse. Okay, the big banks, the military industrial complex and the health insurance industries are all happier but none of that has been to the general benefit of most of us. So let us begin the coming year with the understanding that empire and democracy don't mix. Never have and never will. If you ask where's the emperor all I can answer is that he isn't a person but a mind set that's entrenched at the highest levels of our power structure - he's the end result of social darwinism (a philosophy of 'I've got mine and the hell with everybody else').

Where does that leave the rest of us? Well, the good news is that it's always best to have the bad news out of the way. If I sat here long enough I'm sure I could come up with some good things to look forward to but it seems to me the best things always come as surprises and usually little ones at that. All we can do is to make an effort to be kind to one another, to see the best in people that they may respond in kind. It's a big world after all and there are many mysteries still hidden from view.

I hope my next painting is a better one but I give you this one for now with my wish that love rains down on you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

magic and Magi


I mentioned I've been painting again and want to share Mr. Crane who appeared this weekend when I sat at my table for a few quiet hours.

Among my favorite Christmas stories is the one by O. Henry called 'The Gift of the Magi'. I've linked to the original for those few who aren't familiar with the story of the poor young couple on Christmas Eve each of whom gave up their only physical treasure in order to buy a present for the other. It's a sweet and wonderful tale whether you think the two of them were idiots or not. Grand gestures are sometimes what love is about but not always. Every gift, no matter how small, is a sacrifice of the heart for the hope and beauty of the future.

O. Henry goes on to say:

'The Magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.

Wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

opinions are optional


Every so often I consider making a web page so there'd be a single place to go if someone wants to look at my artwork. Most of it's already somewhere here on the blog but there's no way to see it other than scrolling through older and older posts and nobody has time for that. The problem is I have little enough time for posting anyway and every time I look at web design software I get a headache.

The only other quick solution is to add a new blog but there are already three. Three is enough. Phantsy has to stay because it's the main one. Adventure's Ink is kind of unique and I might just get into writing and drawing more stories because there are more lurking about in the back of my mind. That leaves Baby Days which has been up since October of '07 and is rarely looked at. I was so new at blogging when I posted the story that I did it in 18 separate posts because I didn't know how to arrange the pictures and text any other way. Perhaps there's a way of saving it in the background but it appears to me the only option in Blogger is to delete all of it.

I don't know. There aren't a lot of paintings I still have access to since the ones done longest ago were sold or given away long before I took an interest in keeping a photo record of them but there are probably twenty or so. Baby Days is old news and I am painting again so there will be additions as time goes on. Maybe I should just forget the whole thing. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

crow gets sentimental

Crow here and I have news for you. Dinosaurs never really left. They’re still here. I'm still here. In a new book by my old friend Scott D. Sampson called Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life is a remarkable statement right near the beginning: “Today, most experts agree that birds are the direct descendants of dinosaurs and thus are, in a very real sense, dinosaurs themselves.” Oh no, you say, birds have feathers. Of course they do. And so did dinosaurs. It’s now been shown that the crow-sized Archaeopteryx wasn’t a bird at all, but a dinosaur. Now I'm talking about my ancestors here and this is a family oriented time of year so don't laugh. I told you I've been around a long, long, loooong time but you wouldn't believe me.

Well, I just thought I'd drop in to say hello before flying back to Copenhagen. I must have a word with the Canadian Government representatives about them continuing to allow the Tar Sands to be dug up. Do you have any idea what a mess that stuff makes of my feathers? I don't even want to talk about all the rest it's messing up. Which brings me back to dinosaurs. Everybody knows the dinosaurs (except for birds) finally became extinct 65 million years ago after the K-T event but before that they were around for 170 million years. What do you think of people's chances to last a fraction of that, Mr. H. Sapiens? Besides, my great great great great (ad infinitum) grandmother was a very beautiful and charming Archaeopteryx. Just look at this picture I found of her in an old album. No wonder my ggggggggggggggggggggggg (ad infinitum) grandfather fell in love.



Now I just have time for a quick snifter before take-off. I'll be back soon and in the meantime if you're going to party don't forget what gggggggggg GD used to say to ggggggggg GM - Bend over, let me see you shake a tail feather. Hey, it worked for them and it just might work for you too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

considering memory


Every so often I find a song stuck in my mind. It might be one I haven't heard for years but all at once the whole thing is there - music, phrasing, lyrics, everything. I know it's not an unusual experience, lots of people mention such things and if they tell you which song has been haunting them you'll find yourself singing it to yourself hours later. It can be annoying but if you think about it for a minute it's also very interesting.

For most of human existence on Earth people didn't have written languages. A large part in our pride of modern culture is the fact we are literate and there's hardly any worse insult than to call someone illiterate. Nevertheless, even up until fairly recently the larger part of humanity was illiterate since only the wealthy, the monastics or the very determined had access to any books at all. Yet it's inarguable that architecture and shipbuilding thrived as did every aspect of a growing civilized culture long before people were able to read a morning paper before they headed off to work on the building site of the local cathedral.

It's generally understood among archeologists that the first forms of written language were the hieroglyphs developed in Egypt around 2500BC. Socrates reported the ancient Egyptians said that writing had been invented by the mythical god-man Thoth who took his new system to Amon 'the god-King of all Egypt' and urged him to introduce it to the populace saying: 'Oh King, here is something that once learned, will make Egyptians wiser and will improve their memory'. It's said that Amon replied:

'Oh, most expert Thoth, one man can give birth to the elements of an art, but only another can judge how they can benefit or harm those who use them. And now since you are the father of writing, your affection for it has made you describe its effects as the opposite of what they really are. In fact it will introduce forgetfulness into the soul of those who learn it: they will not practice using their memory because they will put their trust in writing, which is external and depends on signs that belong to others, instead of trying to remember from the inside, completely on their own. You have not discovered a potion for remembering but for reminding; you provide your students with the appearance of wisdom, not its reality. Your invention will enable them to hear many things without being properly taught, and they will imagine that they have come to know much while for the most part they they will know nothing.'

From what I can understand there was an even more ancient tradition that was adamant that certain things not be written down. Even now archeologists have been unable to decipher the Indus Valley script in spite of having found thousands of small tablets, all of which appear to be in reference to trade goods. Lengthy works of Indus cuneiform might allow the texts to be deciphered but none have ever been discovered, a fact that might lead one to think they didn't trust the medium of writing for anything more important that the strictly mercantile.

The oldest elements of the ancient world's oral traditions are the Hindu Vedas, essentially hymns and very very long ones at that - the Rig Veda has 1028 hymns made up of more than 10,580 verses (and there are three other Vedas). The interesting thing is that they're in a very old form of the Sanskrit language and weren't written down until about 1200 years ago. Before that, for thousands of years they were memorized in their entirety. Really. It's hard to imagine, isn't it? But then I come back to those songs that stick in my head from time to time - the silly ones mostly - and I wonder if that penchant we all have might just be a little reminder of just how powerful our minds might be.

The Australian Aboriginals have a recognized 60,000 year history in Australia (although they say it's much longer). When groups met one another in the vast landscape they would sing the story of the path they'd travelled to each other, a memorized history known as the Song Lines. That story goes all the way back to their memory of walking the unfinished landscape with the gods singing the world we know into existence.

But obviously things are better now that we have the Google. I think I'll go find that song that keeps returning:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

apple genius * SUCCESS!

Today is Thursday and last night I wrote about my worries that the new computer would have to be shipped back . It turned out the Mac Genius was able to fix her today by deleting all the information on the hard drive (!). Apparently some bizarre corruption had manifested and he didn't know why which is a bit worrisome too. Oh well, she's being updated now but still doesn't remember me. I guess I'll be spending a few days reminding her about all the fun we were having together and convincing her to be ready for more.

Thanks for all the good wishes :-)

***

My computer is still sitting on its corner shelf taking up space while I'm tapping away on numb's MacBook. He's been very generous about allowing me whatever time I want but you know how it is. I prefer my own.

Tomorrow we have a 15 minute appointment with an Apple Genius. I thought that name was a joke but it turned out to be true. Before we called them numb hauled out the troubleshooting manual and read that we should unplug the computer from its power source and remove the battery before pressing more keys all at once than the average person has fingers.

First, it turned out there's no little panel on the back where you'd normally access the battery so he got a small screwdriver and removed about a dozen tiny screws that were almost all different sizes. There turned out to be a big warning sign on the battery saying, 'Do Not Remove'. So he screwed the back on again. Then he went online to look for Apple Support where the instruction was to call the local store. The call was like something out of a Franz Kafka novel when the girl at the store insisted he had to make an appointment online.. even though she was obviously looking at the times available on her own screen. Okaaay..

We couldn't go there last weekend because they don't have Geniuses on hand during prime time sales hours. They're there to sell i-pods and other fancy bits and really don't want anyone showing up with a broken machine while they're trying to push the product. I guess I can understand that but it doesn't say much for customer service. So tomorrow we have a planned day off and a previously unplanned 10am appointment. What we'd like is if they would remove the hard drive and my custom screen and put them in a new MacBook Pro. I have a creepy feeling the Genius is going to take 15 minutes removing the back and telling us to make another appointment. Maybe not. They're more likely to instruct us to Fedex it back to Apple HQ. It's Christmas for heaven's sake. Wish me luck.

By the way, I did find another new drawing for a small painting I can share with you. It's called 'Float' and one I remembered I'd emailed to a friend. Hopefully, I'll be able to work on it this weekend. I'll be visiting and meanwhile Crow sends regards.

Friday, December 4, 2009

tits - I mean the birds..


Oh dear. I was going to post a picture of a new drawing but my almost brand new Power Mac has developed what seems to be a serious problem. It tries to light up but there's nobody home. The hard drive can't be accessed and that's where all my stuff is. Oh dear. Oh well. It's mostly pictures and they can be replaced.








At least numb's computer has a few of my favorite pictures by other people like this one by Rudi Herzlmeier. He's always been an excellent portraitist of Crow's dearest relatives.

The hint seems to be that I paint. I'll be back.

*note to self - It's a MacBook Pro. Seems I still have the reliable G4 Power Book on the brain.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

survival of the kindest


Compassion, in Tibetan Buddhist terms, is a spontaneous feeling of connection with all living beings. It's not 'feeling sorry for' or even love in the usual way we understand the word. Instead, it implies a direct expansion of the heart and the deep understanding there is no difference between us.

I know we're programmed at a biological level to avoid threats to our survival and to grasp opportunities to enhance our well being. You don't have to subscribe to the daily papers or watch television to understand our history is one of violence to one another. But I don't believe that's all we are and it's equally apparent we may have an even stronger biological tendency toward kindness, compassion, love and nurture.

There were amazing stories throughout Europe during the Second World War of ordinary people risking their lives to shelter their Jewish friends and neighbors from the Holocaust. We often hear stories of people here doing extraordinary things in times of crisis - like the thousands who helped at the World Trade Center after 9/11 and the thousands who went to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina - as examples of a general human tendency. There are smaller examples too, ones we've all experienced, whether the small acknowledgement of holding a door open, giving money to someone in need or even a shared smile between strangers.

Just the simple fact that we've been able to build societies and civilizations that at least concede the need to protect and care for the poor, the weak and the defenseless supports the idea that an ethical sense is part of our make-up as human beings. I think we're not as bad as we sometimes imagine we are as a species.

***

I've decided to put aside the silk painting for a time and go back to paper and watercolors. There's an immediacy with drawing and painting I truly enjoy which maybe you'll notice about the pencil sketch above that I did on the weekend. It will be a small painting (5x7") and will change during the process but that's what I seem to have the energy for right now. It's called 'Joy'. It's okay if you call me sentimental :-)