Experiments and Quagmires

At the outset of August I began working on a series of smaller works in order to rattle my studio routine a bit. Drawing and painting is rife with tricks for rejuvenating the artist's perception: turn the canvas upside down, shift your scale, crop out the best bits, work with your other hand, experiment with new materials, etc. The usefulness or necessity of such tricks really depends on what sort of creative personality you possess. Those that draw/paint for profit are reportedly less likely to tweak the stylistic strengths that allow them to eat each week. For others, who approach their artwork as a means of exploration, these experiments can supply their work with new paths of evolution. 

The larger dimensions that I'd grown accustomed to working on wasn't an arbitrary expression of artistic whim, it was a well calculated set of measurements designed to help, not hinder, my pocketbook. Mat board comes in a standard size (32" x 40"). Once you demand even a 1/4" beyond that your framing costs jump exponentially. So that was the first consideration. Subordinate to the mat size came the need to make as large a drawing as possible in order to ask a higher price for the piece. The amount of work to create any drawing is dependent on countless factors; most of which the art patron will not readily understand or appreciate. Therefore, the artist has to figure out the best way to recoup the time and labor for these "factors" in other ways. While few art buyers will admit to harboring a tendency to correlate the size of the work with its price tag there is no doubt in my mind that this happens all the time. And while I want to get wildly offended at the idea of 2D art being priced like carpeting, I recognize that my outrage will only result in a brief glow of self-righteousness that will do nothing to remedy this social perception.

So what of the smaller works? The verdict is still out whether or not they are proving as inspiring or challenging as I'd hoped. I am appreciating the opportunity to drop a different color cast into the compositions, and the organic edge appeals to me, but I feel that I may slip into a realm of simplicity and gimmickry that would undermine the power of the larger works were they to be shown together. There's also a blatantly contemporary feel to them, and along with that comes some of the vapidity that our contemporary time condones. That's a conceptual quagmire for me as it both supports, and yet subtly undermines, my commitment to utter artistic sincerity these past three years. At this point the whole endeavor feels like that awkward stage in a relationship where you feel you should jump ship but still hope that if you just persevere a bit longer you'll regain equilibrium.


Haiku By Way of Explanation

The season turns and I'm called back to work. I've started scheduling meetings and shaking hands. The phone increasingly intrudes upon the daytime hours. After many afternoons of sorting, my files are now in order. Among the stacks of lesson plans, student work, and handouts, I ran across a rumpled sheet of copy paper with a few mediocre haiku dated 4/13/2006. 
Footpaths for people
converge at a driftwood sign,
pointing towards stables.
I remember this day well. My camp name was Pine, and I had led a handful of 6th graders into the scrubby woods that competed with the coastal dunes along the Pacific Ocean outside of Lincoln City, Oregon. None of these students came from my class. They were public school students enjoying a week of outdoor education. I was charged with teaching poetry in the wilds. Haiku made sense: simple syllabic structure, short length, an obvious connection with the natural world. But in other ways, haiku did not make sense. How does one teach subtlety to a twelve-year-old? How do you explain time and it's passing in seventeen syllables. I can demonstrate the form, but I can't impart the art.
Many paths crossing,
but few footprints step away
toward the gray mountain.
Reading over these haiku now I realize that many aspects of my life will mimic the structure of this poetic style. The structure of my days will seem simple, but there must be an underlying subtlety if they are to be successful. I must be obsessively cognizant of the present moment. There will have to be a distillation of personal experience.

I suppose this is all a round-about way of saying that you'll be hearing from me less frequently now. As a chill creeps into the mornings I will be afforded less time to sit and reflect. In no way does this mean I'm abandoning my posts; it simply means that their frequency must fall victim to a greater good. I must attempt to inspire more 6th graders now, and that task can occasionally take all the subtlety I can muster.


We Want a Rock

My wife and I got to pondering the metaphorical underpinnings to They Might Be Giants' ninth track on Flood the other night. Admittedly, we were both weak from illness and consuming breakfast for dinner yet again. In that state such a quixotic task seemed reasonable.

"Everybody wants a rock to tie a piece of string around." The instrumentation is upbeat— a peppy accordion with a polka-meets-hoe-down feel— but there's a sinister undertone to the lyrics. Consider: everybody wants man's first weapon (a rock) to disguise with something soft (the string) and big prosthetic foreheads to cover up their 'real' heads which, I imagine, are under threat of being bashed in by rocks with strings around them. Furthermore, someone in town wants to burn down the playhouse belonging to those who want rocks to wind string around, and the playhouse owners are encouraged to crawl into a crib for safety. Since everyone wants a rock to wind string around it is safe to presume that the arsonist is merely jealous of those who've managed to purchase both rocks and strings. Needless to say, the world seems dark and inhospitable to everyone so long as they all desire the same destructive force.

The song is steeped with imagery from childhood: cribs, play houses, masks, and yes, the aforementioned rocks and strings. It's impossible to refute that rocks could have been the first toys to our earliest ancestors, and strings have a long history as play thing for children of many different ages. So perhaps We Want a Rock is simply an examination of the hurtful pranks and punishments that children can inflict on one another as they flesh out their own sense of right and wrong. Perhaps.

"Where was I? I forgot the point that I was making. . ." It strikes me that the wrapped rock could simply be a catalyst toward a greater understanding of the universe. Akin to drilling a hole in your forehead. I can't overlook that only a few songs later on Flood the following lines are sung during Whistling in the Dark:
A man came up to me and said/ "I'd like to change your mind/ by hitting it with a rock," he said,/ "though I am not unkind."/ We laughed at his little joke/ and then I happily walked away/ and hit my head on the wall of the jail/ where the two of us live today.
He should have opted for the bashing and freed himself when he had the opportunity.


The Week


I ran across this image the other night on Flickr. It was part of a collection of pictures taken in the Edo-Tokyo museum by Gerald Figal and his images served as a catalyst for me to consider my own fascination with the conceptual implications of the miniature in contemporary art. More to come on this topic at a later date.


The lastest issue of Aperture features an article about the reproductive artworks of German photographer Claudia Angelmaier. Her meticulously composed collections of open books turned to the same reproduction of a famous art work succeed on a number of levels: they comment on the fallibility of mechanical reproduction, critique the experience of educating through second-hand experience, continue the post-modern preoccupation with originality born of mimicry, and manage to reference the sparse spirituality of Modernist abstraction. While the addition of the replicated artworks contributes a greater conceptual depth to her work, the photographic compositions that feature only obsessive compositions of white space and colored lines are no less beautiful for their minimalism.


Last year's artistic collaboration was laid out in its entirety for me this week on the floor of the new Disjecta exhibition space. This sparked an intriguing dialogue about: the longevity of hierarchical relationships, color aversion, classifying artistic "style," breaking and obeying imperatives, the totalitarian grid, and the spiritual implications of reproduction. 

With two gaping holes left in my skull from the extraction of pesky wisdom teeth my energy level hit negative numbers and I sought interludes of distraction from the pain at lynda.com. This website is an absolutely fantastic software tutorial site that, for a monthly fee, walks you step-by-step through the intricacies of most major software programs available today. It has been indispensable to me as a graphic design student. Until yesterday, I had limited my viewing to movies related to programs that were stumping me, and not bothered to delve into the interviews and exposes of well regarded companies/individuals. 

Big Spaceship has been a company reverently referred to since my first day in PNCA's graphic design certificate program. The major player in the field of new media, or interactive media, or integrated design, or whatever moniker of the moment that connotes a mixture of web, film, graphic design, and information design. There's no doubting that they are very, very, good at what they do and, while it's light on specifics, the lynda.com expose of Big Spaceship does give a general sense of the culture and structure of the company.

Sadly, without a subscription you can only watch the three introductory videos, which are heavy on the fluff, but you can follow links to some of Big Spaceship's more notable projects and see what all the fuss is about.


Art vs. Hobby

Comments are a pretty rare thing on this blog. I have a few hypotheses as to why this might be: readers are afraid I'll chastise them and launch a tirade about the Internet diluting the collective intelligence of mankind if they type something utterly inane like "LUV it!" (I might), nobody 'luvs ' anything I write (quite possible), or perhaps nobody reads this blog (the most likely theory). So when a comment does appear it is a puzzling moment for me. I ask myself, "Why would someone take time out of their precious life to sit down and type their thoughts on to a computer with the sole intention of tossing this information out into the electronic ether?"  Then I have a 'one hand-clapping' sort of moment.

A good friend of mine posed a series of exceedingly thoughtful questions in his comment to my post about the real world struggles of exposing a piece of artwork to a greater public. I've included an excerpt from his comment below:
While I'm not trying to be facetious, as I read this post I couldn't help but think that if you had replaced 'art' with music or sports or fishing or gardening that you would simply be describing a hobby. Yet most people don't associate hobbies with being activities that "stamp meaning onto their mortality." I'm wondering what, for you, separates making art from being a hobby and being an activity that instills meaning in one's life. Where do you draw the distinction between the two? Or, even if you're willing to call art a hobby, do you think the significance it brings to the artist's existence is less if not recognized publicly? How is the meaning stamped exactly?
These questions have scratched away at my waking hours for the past few days and caused me to seriously consider the origins of some personal beliefs regarding art and the making of art. I must confess that upon seeing the sanctimonious station of art hypothetically dropped to the corporeal realm of hobby I grew a bit offended. Countless people have joined me, and will continue to join me, in significant monetary debt to attain a college degree that certifies them as a professional artist. I don't see anyone seeking out a BA program in model railroading. Nor can I conceive of anyone accruing as much financial burden in order to push for a monumental scale to their macrame projects (and, if someone did, they would be labeled an artist anyway). But such a visceral response falls prey to a cultural value system that erroneously correlates monetary worth with spiritual/societal/personal merit. It is this cultural value system that has isolated art from the general public in the first place and contributed to the ivory tower that I'm so quick to initially defend. However, if the importance of art was based solely on capitalist dogma then I would feel little compulsion to classify myself as an artist, so I can't rely on my degree to create the dividing line between art and hobby.

Perhaps it is easier for me to dissect the idea of a hobby then it is to directly quantify the essence of art. I have fewer assumptions about hobbies and hobbyists than I do about art and artists. A hobby is something that a person pursues in their leisure time because it brings them some joy, satisfaction, or proves distracting. Many hobbyists regularly engage in their past time of choice after the other obligations of life (employment, family, social service, etc.) have been met. Like artists, hobbyists tend to enjoy relating with other people who share their particular interest, and more often than not, the hobby itself requires a special set of tools and/or skills. So on the surface, there are many similarities between artists and hobbyists.

* * * * *

It is the way that an artist perceives the "other obligations of life" mentioned above that begins to separate him/her from the hobbyist. For the artist nothing trumps the compulsion to create. The making of art usually precedes some, if not all, the other obligations of life. For example, creating art is the only employment an artist ever feels at peace with because it is the thing that holds the majority of their attention. An artist might have a perfectly well paying, socially respectable, job with good benefits, but if that job isn't the making of art then it will always be viewed as a barrier to making artwork. For the artist, 'art work' transcends our narrow cultural definition of work (i.e. the simple exchange of time for money): it is imbued with a spiritual fulfillment that a simple paycheck will never be able to provide.

Many people go to college to become nurses, firefighters, social workers, teachers, engineers, etc. because they have a deep commitment and passion for their particular industry. These people are allowed to work in the field that inspires them and receive a straight-forward paycheck because society happens to value their work. Undoubtedly, some of them will have hobbies as well, but they aren't looking to overthrow the source of their paycheck with their hobby because the hobby isn't what fulfills them spiritually; that's the role of their job. 

I think most artists would be over-the-moon if society would afford them the opportunity to pursue their passion with a bi-weekly paycheck, but this has never been, and I suspect never will be, the case. Instead, truly committed artists are forced to scrimp and show; always on the lookout for handouts from the public or donors, while trying to market themselves to galleries that promise a periodic sale. This is an exhausting way to survive at the poverty level, and it comes as little surprise that some of our best contemporary artists entered the art world with a healthy trust fund to feed them as they created— they became influential and culturally important because of, not despite the fact, that they had the luxury of time to develop as artists.

While I've fixated a bit on employment here the desire to devote oneself to art doesn't just affect perceptions of monetary labor, it can also impact decisions made about family and social service. Certainly there are many artists who manage to have families as well as make art, but there are reasons that Michelangelo referred to his artworks as his children, and this directly correlates to his prodigious creative output. Many of the artists I know do have meaningful relationships but I bet that most of them would also refer to their creative practice as a sort of relationship: one that will span the entire course of their life.

As for social service, well, herein lies the greatest difference between the artist and the hobbyist. In the 2oth century, with the rise in academic opportunity across the class divide in first world countries, a new sort of perception about art began to take root. At the outset of the 1900's the artist was no longer a valuable provider of a requested commodity: photography had taken over the role of physically fixing time and place in tangible form and the painter/printmaker/draftsman was left with a skill set in need of new meaning. The artistic world fended off redundancy by responding to, and exploring, new perceptions of time, space, and emotion (specifically within the Cubist, Futurist, and Dadaist movements). Larger than life personalities like Picasso and Duchamp came forward to champion an expressive depiction of reality that cameras couldn't manage and almost overnight art became the purported world of cultural visionaries. Instead of being a product of culture, like nearly all art prior to the 20th century, artists became instrumental in producing culture, and this message got disseminated through colleges until it became part of public perception. So today, whether or not contemporary culture has any interest in what artists are doing (which, I must be honest, is highly debatable), the artist continues to operate under the assumption that the proper role of the creative individual is to work towards shaping culture— hence the perpetual push to show artwork to the greater public. The hobbyist has no such social imperative to share their hobby or have their hobby challenge the status quo.

* * * * *

But what do I mean by art "stamping meaning onto [an artist's] mortality"? The answer to this question would undoubtedly vary by artist, but for me it has nothing to do with public vindication or financial success— I seek those things out of obligation to that perceived societal expectation mentioned above. Rather, making artwork focuses my complete attention, in fact my whole being, on a single moment or perception. As a thunderstorm is raging outside at this very moment it seems fitting that I use the image at the top of this post as an example.

Long after my father and I stood on his tiny balcony in Boise, ID and watched the sunset turn the bare branches of a quivering copse of trees a fiery orange against the roiling black of a summer storm, I sat in my studio and relived that moment hour after hour. As I worked on this drawn recreation of that experience my thoughts wandered all the tangents that erupted from that one instant. I found myself pondering the effects of time and distance on parents and children. I considered the Biblical story of a burning bush. I contemplated the effects of contrasting extreme lights and darks and then I teased that metaphor out farther. I remembered other storms that had rolled through my life and I anticipated storms to come. In short, I completely altered any future complacence I might have experienced towards storms, sunsets, groves of trees, visits to Boise, and prophetic visions. In developing this drawing I had developed myself and made my own experience of reality deeper and more magical. 

As the sky bangs and cries outside right now some part of me is still out on a little deck considering the majesty of nature with my father. My life has been stamped with this impression, and it is only one moment of thousands that I will ink in my lifetime. 



The other day I took some images of the masks my students and I constructed for their Commedia dell'arte play this past Spring. These were the back-up masks— they were set aside in case the one entirely crafted by the student got damaged in a rehearsal. As the students were understandably swamped with polishing up their slapstick routines it fell on me to do most of the paper mache work. I can take credit for a bit of the painting as well, but most of that was done by The Company, who took pity on me twenty four hours before opening night.

The mask pictured above was for the winsome Giovanni; an Innamorato, or Male Lover, who cares only for loving a woman pretty enough to compliment his own dashing features.

This beakish mask belongs to miserly old Pantalone. Ceaseless worrying about his precious lucre has puckered Pantalone's face, and his beak of a nose prevents him from bestowing unsolicited kisses on the servant girls.

Columbina is one of those unfortunate servant girls who must be constantly on guard around the lecherous old Pantalone. She is a Zanni, or servant character, of Panatalone's who ends up setting all wrongs to right with her quick wit and soothing words.

Stupino is another Zanni, but he doesn't possess one tenth of the intelligence of Columbina; a fact clearly illustrated by the grotesque size of his probiscus. Stupino is the stereotypical dullard who cannot think beyond the grumbling of his perpetually empty stomach.


By way of contrast there is the Zanni called Arlecchino, who is the jester character common to theatrical comedy. Arlecchino is an acrobatic servant who takes joy in playing tricks on his masters. You can see by the diminutive size of his nose that he possesses a quick wit to match his reflexes.

While Commedia dell'Arte originated in Italy during the Renaissance it proved so popular that many of the conventions it compiled can still be seen in screwball comedies made today. In fact, the author of our next play owes a considerable debt to dell'Arte despite being held in a class all his own. It seems only fitting then that these masks will eventually get the Etsy treatment in order to help fund A Midsummer Night's Dream.


The Inescapable Compulsion

Let's dispel an art myth or two with a real world example. 

The image above took me a week of sporadic labor to complete. When I say sporadic I mean that I didn't spend every minute of that week working on it because I had to eat, sleep, and commute to the studio to work on it in the first place. But sporadic also means that everything from reading to socializing took a back seat to hours of leaning over a drafting desk in a stuffy studio. Eye strain trumped seeing live music, hiking, and communicating with my family. 

There is nothing glamorous about being an obsessive recluse. The world passes you by while you dole out your life creating encasements of single moments that few people will see and fewer will care about. Art making is pathological. It scorns reason and dictates to you how your life will be parceled out.

When the drawing was finished it needed to be documented. This necessitated a roll of slide film ($13.99) that would net three usable shots of the work, one of the entire composition and two detail images, when it was developed ($6.55). Luckily, I have the equipment and where-with-all to take my own slides, otherwise I'd have to pay a professional photographer (insert whatever incomprehensible hourly fee you like for that service). I'll go ahead and account for the materials cost of making the image in the first place (approx. $20.00, which includes the paper, photocopies, graphite pencils, gesso, tea, and pastel) before I get ahead of myself.

As the art world is currently indecisive about whether it prefers the expensive exactitude of slides or the duplicitous convenience of digital images I then had to have my three good slides scanned as high resolution digital image files ($6.00 per image for a total of $18.00).

So far I've racked up $58.54. That's the cost before framing the image (approx. $300) and without paying a professional photographer.

Now, let me open the whole in the bucket a bit wider. At a certain point I decided that this image should be part of my submission to New American Paintings' annual Northwest competition (application fee of $35.00). New American Paintings claims that they'll soon be capable of processing digital submissions but, until then, I have to submit slides. As you should never send your original slides anywhere other than a hermetically sealed box in a climate controlled closet, duplicates must be made for any submission ($9.00).

The application and slides are mailed ($1.85 in stamps and another $1.00 for the mailer). Then the spending ends and I wait. I'll neurotically check the mailbox for the next two months. Based on my past track record of accepted submissions over a two year period I have a 30% chance of success.

If you're not keeping track of the arithmetic I've spent a total of $105.39 on this drawing ($405.39 where I to frame it). You can figure out how much I'd need to charge if I wanted to recoup this amount and get paid $7.80 an hour (Oregon's minimum wage at the time, the same wage I'd get for manning a drive-thru window) for the roughly 40 hours it took to make. Even where I able to sell the drawing there's not much potential for making a fortune with these numbers. And with only a 30% chance of having it appear in New American Paintings its unlikely that fame will come a knockin' either (not that fame tends to slavishly follow each issue of New American Paintings).

I won't go so far as to say that art world fame and fortune are total cultural fallacies but I would caution any aspiring artist to avoid factoring them into their reasons for a creative life. Your drive to create has to be ineradicable— an inescapable compulsion to stamp some meaning on to your mortality. 


California Flickrs

I've posted a few selections from my recent trip to California (along with some overly pensive comments) on flickr. Drop by and see the amazing Nikon D80 capture pictures in even the crummiest of light. 



I've been away for a few days. Much of it I was sitting; although there was a bicycle ride. I rode through the deserted streets of a trailer park and watched the setting sun turn scrubby desert hillsides purple. Most of the trailers had a color cast akin to the concrete they rested on. One single-wide had been lovingly painted a rich lavender color with plum trim. It was a bright bit of punctuation at the end of a lifeless street. My ride was brief, but it took my mind away from thoughts of ghosts and mortality— it made a few minutes of my visit simple.

* * * * * 

At other times, when all the sitting got to be too much for me, I would wander about my grandparents' trailer home and take pictures. Only the most precious of objects are allowed a life now: pictures of family long passed and snapshots of those that still live on. Plaques, certificates, toys, saints and paintings. These are the items that serve as touchstones for memory. They clutter dusty shelves and whisper tales to me that are more fabrications of my imagination than fact. 

* * * * *

I begin to generate a different perception of time the longer I stay and this, in turn, compels me to take more photographs. It is the only control over time that I can wield— this shutter, these moments that I compose, they will protect me from loss. I will print them out and pin them to the wall like a collection of butterflies. My negligent memory will be thwarted by these specimens of perception and I will not grow old. 


Getting Smaller

No negative is exempt from becoming grist for the graphite mill. Yes, the dental technician seemed puzzled over my request to take my x-rays home, but seeing as how I'd paid 98% of their purchase price (the other 2% was graciously picked up by my dental insurance) she could hardly protest. The off-kilter composition (of the negative, not my teeth) had caught my eye as it hung clipped against the green-tinted plexi of the light box. It seemed the perfect image to kick off a series of smaller drawings on some cheesecloth wrapped plywood panels I'd freighted around since art school.

That was a year ago. 

In the interim my graphite teeth have sat atop a shelf in the studio whilst I produced much larger works for gallery walls. For whatever reasons, the diminutive 6" square format lost its appeal before I got beyond that first prototype. Tomorrow I'll go to the studio with four other small photographs and begin anew. The subject matter is comprised of a few things from daily life: baubles, wind in the marsh, a bleeding tree, and hazy self reflections.


Borrello Black

I love the work of Brian Borrello. My first years of art school I struggled with the seeming inferiority of charcoal, my preferred art medium. Charcoal had none of the cache of oil, the "nowness" of acrylic, or the elitist credibility of mixed media. In fact, it was looked upon as a colorless tool for helping artist newbies learn the fundamentals of shading and contour line work. Relegated to a perfunctory role in the design of a larger artwork, charcoal never took center stage. I made many excuses for its use in my pieces those first years until I came across Brian Borrello. With one look at his stark motor oil and charcoal botanicals I knew that, from that point on, I had an irrefutable argument for charcoal.

Borrello, like many a Pacific Northwest artist, creates unashamedly beautiful work inspired by the forms of regional flora. As Portland likes to tout itself as a mighty progressive city, it comes as no surprise that Borrello uses the presentation of his iconography to critique the pollution of our natural resources. His drawings are stark silhouettes of leaves, twigs, roots, vines, and the like. They are shaped with a velvety black derived from a combination of india ink and charcoal. It is a living black, for it rolls and broils with tiny plumes and clouds that suggest a depth beyond the surface of the paper. It is a black that captures the imagination, and I've often thought about it when letting my mind wander at the studio. Perhaps the closest equivalent in nature might be the charred remains of a recently burned forest. That is Brian Borrello's black.

Many of Borrello's botanical forms are centered upon a stark white substrate— this comforts the eye with a composition everyone equates with stability, comfort, and religious importance. But that comfort can be short lived when one considers the brownish halo that surrounds the dark forms. This unnatural brown serves as an irregular median strip between the clean white of the canvas/paper surface and the black vacuum of the imagery. The brown is derived from motor oil and as it surrounds the drawn form a peculiar effect occurs. Suddenly, your eye perceives the image as a burned impression; as if the paper had been branded or the natural item had grown so hot it had scorched its way through the substrate and left a charred opening into a vast inky space. Simultaneously beautiful and unsettling, an entire show of such imagery tends to remind me of the reliquary room at the El Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico. While Borrello's chapel is far more austere and aesthetically micro-managed there is, in my mind, a similar sentiment: hand-made representations of the affliction are put up on the walls with the hope of a miracle. 

Since he occupies such a venerable place on my personal path to becoming an artist it was hard for me to admit that there was something amiss at his most recent show. Ars Brevis, Vita Longa at Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery was just as lovely an exhibit as Borrello has always put on, and I suppose that was the problem. This show seemed not at all dissimilar from the first Borrello exhibit I saw over seven years ago. If anything, the current work had a more diminutive scale by comparison. The imagery was indecipherable from pieces done nearly a decade ago and the only obvious evidence of Borrello branching out existed in the unsettling use of an eerie yellow-green as the background color for a few paintings. I left the show disappointed with the work for not providing the same sort of elation it had in the past. What had seemed important in terms of medium and message then seemed safe and predictable now. The motor oil had lost its burn and the forms had become simply decorative silhouettes instead of openings to the void. To be fair though, perhaps what bothered me the most had little to do with Borrello's work, for it hadn't changed over the years— what bothered me was that I had.

* An amateur interviewer is saved by Borrello's expressiveness and enthusiasm. This video is worth watching if you've never seen any of Borrello's work before, but isn't recommended for people who find morning talk show-like questions to be the scourge of journalism.