Goodnight and Goodluck

If you've been a regular visitor of this blog you've probably gathered by now that my heart really isn't in blogging of late. I think this is, in part, symptomatic of my inability to clearly define my reasons for maintaining a blog these past few years. Was it to share my creative work? To have a forum for concerns I felt about contemporary culture? Maybe an avenue to share the tidbits of daily life with friends and family? A little bit of all these things?

Like many things that just begin with a directionless impulse it has the potential to become anything, but it will most likely retain some imprint of how it began. Quite frankly, this is where a great deal of art begins— with an impulse, and not much more. But with art I always have come to a point of reckoning with each piece and been able to seize upon what is good, or delicate, or elegiac, or hopeful, and run with that new ideal. Suddenly, there is a compass that shows you a path. It's not the only path, but it's the one with the strongest pull, and it will lead to some conclusion.

I don't see the conclusion with blogging. It truly is infinite. The other day I ran across the term "lifestreaming" and, quite frankly, it made me shudder. That is not what I want for myself. I'm asked daily why I don't Facebook, as if that's a legitimate verb. I find myself growing defensive over not taking part in some grand digital party that everyone's attending so that they can talk (seemingly) to themselves.*

In short, I feel it is time to stop blogging. Perhaps this is out of fear that the act of digitizing my life into little serials does nothing to support my aims to be a better human being, but in reality it might be simple pragmatism that compels me to stop. Not blogging will free me up for other things I'd rather be doing— like creating artwork.

So, thank you to everyone who took the time to visit. If you were one of those folks who made it a habit to visit SUBJECTIVE then this decision should free up some of your time as well. Think of it as my New Year's gift to both of us.

Now, let's turn our thoughts to other things . . .

*And I'm not casting stones here: this very blog is evidence that I'm not immune to having a one-man conversation online.


Free Lunch (Entertainment) From BPB

Images from Brown Paper Bag's pulp-themed 2010 calendar

I'm a winner! Meaning, I won something recently. Not meaning that I'm making some self-affirming statement to bolster my spirits at the end of a rather rocky 2009.

What did I win? I won a collection of sweet mini-comics from the talented chaps over at Brown Paper Bag simply because I typed a comment to a post on their blog.* The BPB trio are Portland based comic book artists/illustrators who have recently begun to post regularly on their creative process and inspirations. If you're at all interested in comics (of both the POW BANG BIF and/or CODED PERSONAL NARRATIVE variety) then go and take a look. This month they've opted for a tribute theme on their blog with guest appearances by the likes of Gollum (for the fantasy neurds) and Cyclops (for those mad mutant X-men neurds).

*Maybe I should give away something to encourage comments on this blog. I've got some extra pine cones (very seasonal), a glass ice cube, half a bag of almonds, and some art. What do you think?


Storyboards and Editing

Enough treacly posts about holiday decorations. . . you're undoubtedly hoping for something a bit more stimulating. After all, treacly is in abundance during the holiday season, and my being seduced by its jingles and bows distracts from the task at hand which, as you undoubtedly know, is editing a short film.

I'd like to think that the editing thus far could be described as intuitive, but that would be erroneous, because I have pages upon pages of storyboards, notes, and (while often ignored by the powers that be in Hollywood) the script itself to reference as decisions are made about cuts and establishing shots. Thus far, all that neurotic referencing of past ideation has netted a rather relaxed editing atmosphere.

Thus far. . .

I've put up two pages from my stack of storyboards and you can click on them for a larger view. As a person who grew up with a love for both comics and films, I found the storyboarding process to be the simplest aspect in the project so far. Text and image in a linear narrative have a logical presentation, and that predictability allows for more energy to be put into the composition of each section (as well as ruminations about the symmetry of the whole).

However, I must confess that the planning stages would have been smoother if I'd had the good fortune to score some of the books Ariana and I gave Brandon for Christmas. . .

The Storyboard Book is a small chapbook with a frame at the top conveniently sized to match the golden ratio of digital film-making (16:9) set atop quad ruled paper. It is made by the good folks at www.thestoryboardbook.com and printed by Portland printshop darlings Pinball Publishing.

If I'd been armed with these instead of the bond paper versos of my script when storyboarding the film I'd now have three precious chapbooks to bequeath to the children I might someday have (instead of a bunch of loose paper crudely stapled together and shoved between reference books on the history of math).

More editing updates to come. . .


More Seasonal Cuteness!

Just thought I'd share a few images of the seasonal still life created by Ariana on the day we put up our Christmas tree. It features a pipe cleaner skunk found at an antique store, trimmed patterned curtains from IKEA, some white lights, a few charming red bears from Ariana's youth, and an assortment of fabric trees she created a couple of years ago.

I especially like the organic feel of the fabric trees. Perhaps someday we'll work together to create an entire plush forest . . . I would love to have a Spring set-up as well.


Oh, Christmas Tree!

I was a tad disgruntled about not getting a Christmas tree. In the past few years I'd been able to fulfill the need for a fresh pine smell and white lights by creating swag for all of our doorways, but this year swag had been deemed out of the question (primarily due to the time it consumed to fashion, and the mess it left in its wake). As an adult, a Christmas tree had always been out of the question because it, well, killed a tree. And we couldn't afford a live one. Living in Portland, it is common for such environmentally goody-goody ideas to infect many of the simple enjoyments you had as a child— all the wholesome traditions of youth become suspects in the case against mankind's longevity.

But then Ariana came home one afternoon and told me that the good fellows down at St. Vincent DePaul were selling trees for ten bucks. Such a price acted as a balm for our leftist guilt and I was down there in a flash with a handful of our laundry money to get a tree. I can safely say that bringing home that tree has been the brightest point in the season thus far.

The only trouble with our lovely tree was that we had nothing to adorn it with. Yes, we had a collection of white lights, but no ornaments to speak of and no time to make any either. We went out to look for a few ornament sets, vowing to spend no more than twenty dollars.

At a local shop we found two sets of glitter dusted pine cone ornaments which weren't too ostentatious, and this wonderful owl, which we just couldn't pass up.

Even after getting the lights and ornaments up the tree still felt quite sparse. We then started hunting about the house for other items that might temporarily serve as holiday decor. We ran across a box or ribbons, some artificial nests, a bit of wool roving, and a collection of golden walnuts that St. Nicholas has delivered to me for the past few years.*

Ariana wrapped the tree in ribbons tied together to create one long garland and the nests became beds for the golden walnuts. The tips of branches received little white bows from excess bits of ribbon and lace and, after an hour or so, we had a tree that was quite festive, in a shabby chic sort of way. I don't know if Martha Stewart would approve but as she's not slated to visit our house this Christmas I don't think it much matters whether she'd give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.

The only thing left to consider was the tree-topper. We had no angel and our thrifted Mexican yarn dolls didn't quite have the right feel. Then I remembered this vintage puppet that Ariana had found at Goodwill during our fated Black Friday outing. She had purchased it because it looked like our dear kitty Tilou and was constructed most carefully from some very nice mohair. We put it at the top of the tree and placed the end of the ribbon garland in her paws. . . the effect is so sweet its almost maudlin. Almost.

*A story that is really far too complicated to get into here.


Imagine a Guiltless Creative Life

I stumbled upon this talk while looking at a few different opinions about why America, in large part, seems to be suppressing creativity among its children to favor rote memorization and the standardized testing industry. But before you decide to click through my moralizing post, let me assure you that this TED talk is not about national failures in education, it's about the failure of Western Humanist ideals to serve those brave souls who opt to undertake a creative life.

I have not read Elizabeth Gilbert's "freakishly successful" book Eat, Pray, Love so I have no idea about her proclivities or preoccupations. I do know that I have now watched this TED talk twice in the past two months and found oddly coincidental connections between the ideas it presents and my own fleeting forays into culture that I'm periodically allowed on a weekend afternoon. I'm also willing to grant her a modicum of instant respect for flawlessly pulling off the use of the word "odious" without sounding at all pretentious.

Her summary of the antiquity's perception of the creative spirit came just as I embarked on teaching Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass to my class. For those of you unfamiliar with this brilliant amalgam of fantasy, geography, and quantum physics I will simply say that the relationship between man and daemon is the crux of the plot. Furthermore, the notion of Roman 'genius' adds another level of complexity to my mixed-bag of feelings for ancient Roman culture. Feelings which I've recently been revisiting through HBO's hyper-sensationalized (and short lived) ROME.

* * * * *

Can you imagine a time before creativity was solely the burden of the creative? A time when we could share responsibility for our successes and failures? Think of the culture of gratitude and humility that might result from an ego-less perception of brilliance. . . that might just be the enlightened world the Humanists were hoping for.


The Self Absorbed Chronicle

Severed Serpent — Boise, ID
October 9, 2009
Click on image for larger view.

The difficulty with obeying the self-imposed obligation of preserving life is that it can get in the way of my living it.

I've slowly begun to organize all things visual over at Flickr with the hope of offering a more complete picture of my past year (or, to be honest, the past few years, as there are many projects that haven't ever made it off of my desktop until now). Allowing Flickr to sort my life into trifling categories seems far easier at this point than building a web site. Ambitious projects of that nature should only be undertaken if there's an audience for it, and by audience I mean something a little grander than my own ego.


Cloudy with a Chance of Dreary

I love seeing generally credible news sources occasionally succumb to some completely subjective language use.*

Dreary? Really? Can such a word be reasonably employed to quantify precipitation, cloud cover, and temperature?

Not that I can disagree with the pithy poetics of CNN's meteorological assessment: I expect that it will be quite dreary indeed.

*It's worth noting that this forecast lasted only a few hours before replacing "Dreary" with "Showers"— perhaps someone took greater umbrage than yours truly. . .


Black Friday

While still an unconfirmed diagnosis, all signs point towards H1N1 as the reason for my being bed-ridden these past five days. It was the most peculiar flu I've ever had, bypassing the stomach almost entirely to attack my lungs. After days of near-delirium, abysmal body aches, and a roller coaster of sweats and chills, I felt I had just enough energy today to do something a little bit more challenging than drinking tepid water and walking to the bathroom.

So naturally I decided to go shopping.

If I didn't go shopping then I would be part of the very reason that my Roth IRA resembles the collection of change wedged between my couch cushions.

Now, don't be fooled, I didn't arise at 2am to get in line at a suburban box-store. In fact, Ariana and I didn't even bother to leave for the store until 6pm tonight so as to avoid any possibility of being trampled by raving-mad electronics bargain hunters. And the store we chose to patronize with our hard-earned cash: Goodwill.

While Goodwill might not be offering the same screaming deals as other places I'm pretty sure that giving them money also helps the economy: albeit in some leftist, bleeding-heart, capitalist-light sort of way. And at Goodwill we can be done with our Christmas shopping in one hour because it is truly one-stop shopping.

It was while at Goodwill that we fell prey to that most pitiful of Black Friday practices: buying things for ourselves. But, as happens from time to time, the donated CD selection was just too good to pass up. Check out these finds for $4.00 a pop:

Ralph Myerz and the Jack Herran Band— A Special EP
The Cinematic Orchestra— Ma Fleur
Caleb Klauder— sings out
Depeche Mode— Black Celebration
The Decemberists— The Crane Wife
Cat Stevens— Catch Bull at Four


Rip, Mix, Burn

Earlier this year, after completing my reading of Lawrence Lessig's Remix, I began to look more closely at the Creative Commons licenses, as well as some of the online creative collectives he used as case studies in Remix. In doing so, I stumbled upon a feature in Wired magazine from 2004 that investigated the idea of contemporary musical culture being absolutely complicit in the remix/file-sharing/sampling inclinations that the corporate music industry was fighting so vehemently to bury.

Like most Wired articles it was cautiously optimistic (seasoned pessimism does not tend to promote ad revenue) and more than a touch self-congratulatory. Along with the issue a CD featuring tracks from a number of formidable talents who were offering up a bit of their oeuvre was included. What made these tracks unique was that they were released under one of two Creative Commons licenses, thereby making them fair game for legal file sharing, mash-ups, and sampling into whatever prosaic Garage Band techno track you could muster in your off hours. There are some big names on this CD, and the tracks they've given over to the masses aren't just the pan drippings from a decade of better musical offerings— they are legitimate efforts.

Having said that, they aren't all good either. Below is the list of tracks that make my cut. If your cloth is cut with a similar cut as mine, then you might want to download these freebies and allow your iPod to give them a whirl:

Track 01— Beastie Boys/ Now Get Busy

Much more Hello Nasty than Paul's Boutique, but the sampled directive lends a refreshing pause to a pretty predictable back beat. Straight up middle-aged Beasties which means more fun than FRESSSHHHH.

Track 02— David Byrne/ My Fair Lady

No plains or rains or Spain, but a seriously cinematic sound to build up a modern reflection of the classic Pygmalion tale. I think that this is easily the best offering of the bunch and makes U2's similarly-themed Babyface (from Zooropa) sound simply insipid.

Track 03— Zap Mama/ Wadidyusay?

Hand claps. French. A cappella-esque world music syrup with a drum machine.

Track 04— My Morning Jacket/ One Big Holiday

Yeah indie rock! I don't own one of their albums so I can't be classified as anything like a fan, but there is something pure American rock about this in both sound (straight up drums and electric guitars) and sentiment (references to escaping dead end towns, California, and records). Serve with pick-up trucks and whatever indie brew is currently considered both hip and cheap.

Track 05— Spoon/Revenge!

This is a track by Spoon. It is catchy. It is smart. It is made in the USA but sounds like its imported from England. Extra points are awarded for painting analogies.

Track 09— Le Tigre/Fake French

"I've got. . . site specificity." I mean, come on, what is not to like about a band that has extensive bibliographies, flow disruption, and wildlife metaphors? Furthermore, their Fake French is way hotter than any real French I've heard lately.

* * * * *

And then there are the two tracks that I'm a bit torn over. Not jaw-dropping and not mediocre, but somewhere just this side of catchy, which is often all I require. And easy to rip (pun intended).

Track 10— Paul Westerberg/ Looking Up in Heaven

Feeble drug references and buoyant melancholy— two of my least favorite popular music conventions. And yet, this is one of those tracks that I would never seek out but also would never skip through if it were to pop up in the Shuffle. There's something so unapologetic about Westerberg's delivery that a touch of gravitas manages to sneak in. As far as I can tell from this one data point, if Bob Dylan were margarine he'd be Paul Westerberg.

Track 12— The Rapture/ Sister Saviour (Blackstrobe Remix)

Hhmmmm. . . I think I'll put some KMFDM, Kraftwerk, and Depeche Mode in a blender with cheap red wine and squid-ink pasta. Whoa! How did I manage this smoothie of blips, bleeps, and laughably echoey lyrics about hobo dreams?

Decide for yourself. . .


Veteran's Memorial

Veteran's Memorial — Eagle, ID
October 9, 2009


The Caravel With Four Fine Masts and Lateen Sails

Caravel Chalkboard Drawing, October 2009
Click on image for larger view.

For weeks I've been adrift in the fears, follies, and dreams of the European age of exploration (roughly 1400-1600).* After tasking my 7th/8th grade class to develop a sailing vessel that could harness the wind** from multiple directions and carry 2000 grams of cargo on stormy seas I followed up our days of damp tests in a plastic wading pool with this chalkboard illustration. The class hardly needed explanations of the intent behind the keel, rudder, or lateen sail after all of the trial-and-error work that they'd poured into their own boats, but I felt it important to illustrate a caravel as it figured so prominently in many of the biographies I was sharing with them.

* * * * *

It is odd how your mind can drift away, even when you are called upon to be most present: this little song by Joanna Newsom*** has been in my head ever since I spent an hour embedding the above illustration on the 8' expanse of darkness that dominates my room.

Bridges and Balloons (excerpt) by Joanna Newsom

We sailed away on a winter's day
with fate as malleable as clay;
but ships are fallible, I say,
and the nautical, like all things, fades

And I can recall our caravel:
a little wicker beetle shell
with four fine masts and lateen sails,
its bearings on Cair Paravel

O my love,
O it was a funny little thing
to be the ones to've seen.

*Unless, of course, you start with Marco Polo, as I do when beginning this course of study. In that case you can tack on another 150 years at the outset.

**conveniently produced with a box fan

***who I swore was a former Waldorf student after seeing this video for Sprout and the Bean

And for those of you who are up for a challenge: How many nautical puns are part of this post?