Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Art of Gumball Machines

"...I have been unlikely to focus on the wonders of the day; to find beauty in the plain, slow moving young woman behind the checkout counter pensively adding up our purchases; in the saucepan I chose to buy because it had Teflon and was on sale, not because of its pleasant shape; in the gum-ball maching, which used to take pennies and now (incredibly!) demands 25 cents per gum ball..."*

If this is you, you should take a stroll with me sometime when I have my camera. Everything becomes a work of art when I have my camera in my hand. Actually, I see like that all the time and many times I am so angry that I don't have my camera with me. I see with the eyes of wonder, looking for art in the mundane ordinary sights of everyday life. I see beauty in a grate in the sidewalk. I see art in the cracks on the side of an old building. I see a masterpiece in the trial applications of runway paint on the tarmac (happened to me at the Detroit airport).
Open your eyes. Art is everywhere.

*Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman
Image: Three Machines by Wayne Thiebaud (1963)

Reading is Fun...Damn...Mental!

I'm having a hard time reading of late. I'm not sure what the cause is. I'm going to chalk it up to a type of restlessness. I think I'm yearning for an absolutely riveting read but I'm not finding it. I've started 3 books in the last week and I've put them all down again. Maybe I need a break from reading? Or just a break from certain genres? Should I put fiction aside for a while and read more non-fiction? Should I give my brain a break and read comics for a week? I don't know. I do know it would be nice to discover another book that just resonates with me body and soul. Another To Kill A Mockingbird. Is that asking too much?
Harper Lee, are you listening?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Coffee Talk

I had a nice chat with Jeff today. We talked about a lot of stuff including portions of our spiritual journeys, creativity, discipline, church life including vision for the artists group and lifegroups, playwriting, and how we're really smart but we still feel dumb. It was great to just sit and chat with another thoughtful creative (that's what Dick Staub calls us).
Jeff is teaching some writing classes at the Church Drama Conference at Taproot in a couple of weeks. I hope to take some, if not all, of the classes he's teaching. Anything that can help my writing at this point is a good thing.
Mainly I just need the discipline and focus to start doing it. I've got to work out a schedule of some sort that includes time for writing and making art. Jeff and I had been keeping each other accountable for a while but then that lapsed. I'm hoping we can do that again...even if it's just a quick email asking, "Did you do anything creative today?"
But...with or without accountability I've got to start. Why is it so hard to build in time for something I'm so passionate about? It makes no sense. Am I really that lazy?
The answer, I'm afraid, is yes.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday is Fun Day

The weather has been less wet of late so Sarah and I took advantage with a little outing. After church (where we had a great discussion about, of all things, money in class) , we headed downtown for a little adventure. We grabbed lunch at P. F. Chang's and someone messed up an order so we got an extra dish for free. We usually order the same thing every time we go because we love it so much (schezuan asparagus, honey chicken and spring rolls) so today we also got to try some shrimp dish with noodles. It was goo-oo-oo-ood!
After stuffing ourselves, we made our way down to the waterfront for the Argosy Harbor Cruise. Our year pass is up in March so we're trying to take advantage when we can although we've more than paid for the thing. The cruise was nice...just great being out on the water surrounded by mountains and the Seattle skyline. Rainier even made an appearance today. We also saw our first sea lions. They were snoozing on a buoy. It was quite funny.
Once the cruise was done, we headed up to the Pike Street Market to pick up some of Sarah's art. (They emailed and said they didn't have room for it) It turns out that we picked up all of Sarah's art. Our guess is that they are focusing on a particular type of art and Sarah's doesn't quite fit in. Mine is still there. What that means is that my art is weird enough to stay and Sarah's isn't. She's quite fine with it. She's going to see if the gallery in Fremont will take some of her art. I think we both need to look around and see if there are more galleries we can put our stuff in.
We left the market, stopped by Old Navy (I found a shirt for $6), Sarah shopped at J. Jill and I went to Barnes and Noble and then we headed home. It was a nice outing. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. There were alot of stir crazy folks downtown and all the street performers were out in force. We saw one guy mixing all this weird, ambient music while playing plastic bottles with his drumsticks and he had a little battery operated robot that danced. At the market there was a guy playing the guitar behind his head while he hula hooped and another guy who had rolled a piano out on the street corner. For the first time today, I saw street preachers. It was a cornucopia of mad activity in downtown Seattle. It's an interesting place. You could spend the whole day just people watching.
So, enough about my day. What did you do today?

Friday, January 26, 2007


The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
This is a classic "end of the world" novel written in 1951. In the story, strange lights in the night sky render most of the world's population blind. If that weren't problem enough, genetically engineered plants called "triffids" are now roaming the earth unchecked and killing people with their deadly stingers. Through all this, Bill and Josella, who find each other amid the chaos, struggle to survive.
This is a pretty straightforward sci-fi account of a post-apocalyptic scenario. I enjoyed it but found it to be a bit slow at times. I wondered why the title of the book mentions the triffids when they aren't a major menace in the book until the very end. Perhaps the book should have been titled Blind Spot or something like that. Anyway, this book has spawned a movie (from 1962 which I haven't seen) and a BBC series (haven't seen that either) but I am not curious to see both. A modern author, Simon Clark, has written a sequel called Night of the Triffids which I may pick up one day.
The main reason I picked up this book is because it's considered a classic of sci-fi and I want to read more of those classics that I missed growing up. I also enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and wanted to add this one to my collection. All in all, it was a pleasant experience and I think I may try another of Wyndham's novels, The Kraken Wakes.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Zone

The previous post got me to thinking about times I've been in "the zone" when doing artwork. It happens rarely but when it does it normally yields fantastic results. I remember one time in particular when I was in college. That semester I had Abnormal Psych at 8am (yuck), Painting Independent Study at 9am and Printmaking Independent Study at 1pm. The painting and printmaking classes were flexible. The teachers weren't looking over your shoulder all the time as long as you were working on something. On that particular day, I chose to stay in the painting room all day. Good things were happening and I was in the zone...so much so that time passed quickly and before I knew it was 5pm. The time had flown by and I really hadn't noticed it's passing. I had even forgotten to eat lunch...and I don't skip meals. So, as a satisfying exhaustion spread over my body, I got some food from the vending machine and tried to continue to work but the "zone" feeling was gone so I packed it in and headed home.
I hope that in the course of trying to renew my creative pursuits I can find "the zone." There's no better place to be.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Art of Staring Productively at Naked Bodies

"The ecstacy of creation is when, as an artist, you are one with and totally absorbed in the act. It is the same experience whether it is the act of painting, making music, or writing. The experience really obliterates all other considerations at that moment. The act of re-creating the visual experience of the models in front of me is absolutely absorbing, leaving no room for extraneous thoughts, sexual or otherwise." - Philip Pearlstein
Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman
Image: Philip Pearlstein's Model with Old Iron Butcher Sign # 2 (2003)

Sin & Innocence

"The real distinction between sin and innocence," [Lewis] Carroll once wrote, with good historical reason, is whether the viewer feels 'sinful feelings or not' looking at a picture, and the same applies to how we judge art today, especially nudes..."

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

Image: Amadeo Modigliani's Reclining Nude (1917)

Focus Please

I was reading Jeff's blog and his entry on focus. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time now. Basically, I can't get anything done because I've got too many things I want to do. So, I've made some decisions. They are...

  • I am going to give up on the idea of acting right now. It's painfully obvious that there won't be any opportunities arising at the theatre I work for so I think I'll lay down the thespian dreams for a while.
  • I am going to continue to blog. I enjoy it and it's a good outlet for my thoughts, frustrations, etc.
  • I am going to continue to make art. Even when I'm not making art, I am aching to do it. So, just gotta get disciplined enough to start and keep at it.
  • I am going to try to write more. I have several ideas for novels but I think I will start by outlining and writing a short story/novella that I've been kicking around.
  • It's in the works for me to continue my drum lessons. This one is iffy but it's something I want to keep. I love the drums and I want to be better at it...if only for my own enjoyment.

It doesn't appear that I'm giving up a whole lot but that first one is a biggie. I'm just going to lay it down and not worry about it anymore. The worrying is killing me. So, this is a start. I'm going to start on that outline right now.
Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Absentee Muse

Peter S. Beagle (author of The Last Unicorn) said he learned a valuable lesson from his uncle who said,

"If the muse doesn't show up, start without her."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Art of Finding Yourself When You're Lost

Frank Hurley was an Australian photographer famous for his photos taken during a number of expeditions including those led by Mawson and Shackleton. Both expeditions suffered problems but Hurley used the "lostness" to concentrate on his photography. After he returned to civilization, he remained involved in photography and film but his legacy is entrenched in the images of Antarctica.

"If we are affluent enough today, we live amid a mounting glut of distracting choices, killing our time mulling over what food to eat, which clothes to wear or gadgets to buy, where to go on vacation. We can easily lose our way. When Hurley gained choices, he lost his focus. Wearing the same clothes, eating the same seal pemmican, staying in the same place, day in and day out, he was better able to concentrate on making the most with what he had at hand."

I totally understand this. I am in the midst of a creative crisis. When I get home, there are so many other things that will distract me from making art. Watching a movie, housework, blogging, reading and a myriad of other activities easily sway me away from making art. I need to learn a lesson from Frank Hurley. I need to get lost in my art and not let anything distract me. Alas, I don't have an Antarctic wilderness to keep me focussed. I'll have to come up with the discipline myself. And speaking of discipline, I recently read this statement from Chuck Close about how he works.

"My favorite analogy is a brick building. Stacked up one way the bricks make a cathedral, another way they become a gas station. Having a routine, knowing what to do, is crucial because I'm naturally lazy. A routine is what keeps me from going crazy. It's calming. My working methods are almost Zenlike, like raking gravel in a monastery."
So, a few months ago I had a routine. I would work from 8 until 2 and then come home and make art until Sarah got home. I got out of the habit and now I come home and waste time. I need to establish my routine again. Perhaps if I do, it will keep me from going crazy.

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

A Snow Poem

More snow today!
The cause for my rhyme.
Kids out of school
For the 46th time.
The weatherman says
It'll warm up soon
But at this point
I expect snow in June.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Hell to Pay by Simon R. Green
"In the wake of the war that left the Nightside leaderless, Jeremiah Griffin-one of the last of the immortal human families-plans to fill the power vacuum. But his granddaughter has disappeared, and he wants John Taylor to use his special abilities to find her. Except someone-or something-is blocking Taylor's abilities."*
I think this is my favorite book of the series so far. Having finished the Lilith storyline, Green has thrust John Taylor into a one-book story. It's a simple mystery with the Green twist...meaning it's strange. The Nightside is a world where almost anything can happen and does. This book was a refreshing change from the impending doom of the Lilith stories. The end of the book gives only a small inkling of a clue as to where the next book may be headed. This is the 7th in the series and if they keep being as enjoyable as this one, I'll keep reading them.
The Ruins by Scott Smith
This book is basically a horror/thriller about a group of college students who end up in a nightmarish jungle. I read this one a while back and forgot to post a review. It's just as well. It wasn't that good. This is the second book that I've read that has been on alot of the top ten lists for the year. There must be something wrong with me because I just don't get it. The book wasn't all that terrifying. It was plenty gross if that counts. I didn't care about the characters at all. They were pretty much portrayed as a group of stupid, drunken college students. I hate stupid, drunken college students. Also, I might be giving something away by saying this is somewhat of a "monster" book only, if you ask me, the monster is pretty dumb and been done before. So, I guess I'll just keep reading the books I like and just ignore what the top ten lists say.
* From the book jacket

In Every Actor...

“In every actor there lives a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale. You never know which one is going to show up.” - Corey Taft from For Your Consideration

For Your Consideration

We finally got out last night for a date night and we saw a fantastically funny movie. Anyone who is familiar with Christopher Guest's work won't be surprised that For Your Consideration is as hilarious as his other works. And, even though they are not widely used outside of the realm of Guest's work, the ensemble he puts together for each movie comprises some of the most brilliantly funny people in show business. I especially love Catherine O'Hara, Michael Higgins, Parker Posey, and Harry Shearer. Fred Willard and Jane Lynch are hilarious as hosts for an Entertainment Tonight-type show. Guest himself, although taking a small part in this one, continues to show his amazing talent at morphing himself into unusual characters.
I could go on and on. Just go see this movie. In a year of bad movies, this one shines like a diamond.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ice Scream

It's a brisk 18 degrees in Seattle right now. I just walked in to work and I don't think I want to be much colder than that. I don't know how folks who live where it goes below zero do it.
The roads are still icy in places so driving is iffy. I don't want to drive due to the fact that Seattle drivers don't do well on dry roads much less the rain and ice. Staying home usually wouldn't be a problem but I'm a bit stir crazy right now. I spent all last week cooped up in a hotel room or an airplane and now this week I've only been at home and at work. I need to get out and do something. Sarah and I are going to try and have a date night tonight. The only problem is the temperatures are not rising enough to melt anything and won't all weekend.
Ahhhhhhhhh! I want out!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Inspirational Letter From One Artist to Another

A letter from Sol Lewitt to Eva Hesse. I have arranged it as a poem because it just screams to be in this form.

Learn to say 'Fuck You'
to the world once in a while.
You have every right to.
Just stop thinking, worrying,
looking over your shoulder,
wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting,
hoping for some easy way out,
struggling, gasping, confusing,
itching, scratching,
mumbling, bumbling, grumbling,
humbling, stumbling, rumbling,
rambling, gambling, tumbling,
scumbling, scrambling,
hitching, hatching,
bitching, moaning,
groaning, honing, boning,
horse-shitting, hair-splitting,
nit-picking, piss-trickling,
nose-sticking, ass-gouging,
eyeball-poking, finger-pointing,
alleyway-sneaking, long waiting,
small stepping, evil-eyeing, back scratching,
searching, perching,besmirching,
grinding grinding grinding
away at yourself.
Stop it and just DO.
Don't worry about cool.
Make your own uncool.
Make your own,
your own world.

Source: The Accidental Masterpiece by Michael Kimmelman

Oh, the Weather Outside is...

As usual, the weather people know diddly. What began as a "light snow, little accumulation" has now turned into "a couple of inches and icy." The worst thing is the ice. I just walked into work and it's a "slip and slide" out there. We had to cancel plans last night with friends due to the weather. This is the second time we've had to do that in a month. It's kind of crazy. Sarah and I have been wanting to go see a movie this week but I wonder if we're going to make it now. It's not supposed to warm up today at all so...no warm, no thaw. Looks like another evening stuck inside with a fire, snuggled up on the couch watching a movie. Hey, that doesn't sound too bad.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Snowy Seattle

"A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water." - Carl Reiner

Yep, it's snowing here today. I like snow. It makes things seem clean. (even though it just hides the dirt and it's all still there when it melts) There was a light dusting when I woke up this morning and it's coming down a little right now but I'm sure it won't amount to much. I see that's it's supposed to be 17 degrees tomorrow night. The weather sure has been wacky lately. Of course, this time last week I was in SC and it was in the 70's.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Christ's Return

This showed up on the bulletin board in the lobby of our apartment building over the holidays. It's pretty stinkin' funny.

Light Tunnel

I am home safe and sound and glad of it. Sleeping in my own bed last night was heavenly. There's no place like home.
I failed to mention the awesome experience I had at Detroit's McNamara Airport. There is an underground Light Tunnel that links Concourse A and B. The walls shimmer and change colors and music plays. It's hard to describe but it was a pretty cool experience. I wish I had my camera with me.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

George Smith and the Vishnu Disco Nightmare

Contrary to the previous post, I did not fly out of Columbia, smooch my wife, pet the cats, or sleep in my own bed. The flight to Detroit was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Hey, better safe than sorry…I’m all for that. What I am not all about is a rude gate person and a bungled reassignment of our flight. The aforementioned George Smith was on duty at the gate and he was a real winner. Not only did he misdirect me (and a few others) out of a line in which I was 4th to a line in which I was 12th but he was also extremely rude about it to everyone. Once we got in the slow line, I began to hear my fellow passengers grumbling about old George. I made my intentions to report him known and the others concurred. A soldier, trying to return to Kuwait, saw George and ran over to get his name. When he came back with the name of the enemy, the pens flashed like swords. I finally made it up to the desk to find out my fate when I overheard the ticket agent also berating George. It seems he’s mighty popular at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport. The ticket agent then told us that when our flight was cancelled, the airline immediately began the process of finding us a new way home. We should have stayed in the terminal and jumped on a flight to Memphis that left 1 hour later. But George sent us out beyond security with no way to return. (no more boarding pass) Most folks were in a hurry to get home but I told them I’d rather spend the night than jump on a redeye or get stranded in some airport in Newark. They finally made arrangements for me to spend the night in a hotel with meal vouchers and free transport to and from the airport. (Shout outs to Dwayne and Stanley for handling all of us with patience and grace)
So, I head to the hotel and it’s pretty much a rundown Holiday Inn on a frontage road near nothing. I put my stuff in my room and, after calling Sarah, went to the lounge for food and beverage. Since the previously mentioned activities had left me in a slight tizzy, I opted to relax with a margarita. I also downed a chicken Caesar salad and some apple pie that was pretty good despite the appearance of the rundown hotel. My waitress was very nice and all seemed well. I returned to my room for some TV and bed only to discover that the AC isn’t working and it’s hot. So, I trot up to the front desk, get a new room and finally try to settle in for the evening. I turned the light off at 10pm hoping to catch a little shuteye before getting up at 5:30am to catch my shuttle. At 11pm, the booming sounds of bass suddenly bring me to full awake. It seems the Indians (or whatever nationality they were) whom I had seen partying in the conference room had decided to get jiggy with it. I called the front desk and the volume subsided within minutes. I settled back down and went back to sleep. At 11pm, someone rolled a metal cart down the sidewalk outside my room. After that, I never fully fell back to sleep. 5:30am arrived to find me up and at ‘em. (Thankfully, since they never gave me the wake up call I was promised) I caught the shuttle, arrived at the airport, checked in, went through security again, bought another bottle of water and actually caught the flight.
I am now sitting in the Detroit airport with another 1.5 hours to kill. I am writing this in Word for later transfer to my blog since wireless internet access isn’t free. (I’m not paying $8 for 2 hours) I hope that all goes well and I catch my flight to Seattle which should arrive at 2:11pm. I apologize to my friends in Columbia for not contacting them. There wasn’t time and I hope you will forgive me. So, that’s my little story about George Smith and the Vishnu Disco Nightmare. Hope you all enjoyed it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Airport Blogging

Well, I'm sitting here in Columbia, SC's massive airport (not really) working on my computer. How cool is that? I guess you can tell that I don't travel much. I just finished a week here in Rock Hill, SC with the Summersalt crew writing scripts for the 2007 camp. What a productive week. We actually finished all 5 days of script + character sketches and a "where are they now" feature for the end. Now begins the process of reading and evaluating and tweaking and changing and rewriting and...well, you get the picture. But we did good this week. Last year, we only finished thru Wednesday and I had to write the rest alone.
Steve seems happy with the script but I'll reserve judgement until after it's read by the staff, camp pastor and a few other critical readers. I'm going to give the script a few days of rest and then I'm going to read thru it again with a critical eye. But, it's been a great, productive week.
Now, it's time to head home to Sarah and the cats. I can't wait to smooch my wife, say hellow to the boys and climb into my own bed.
But for now, I got some flying to do.