Posted tagged ‘pencil drawing’

Sadness Out of Arizona

January 9, 2011

Freedom of Expression? (Fired up, untethered, armed.)

The King(?)’s Speech

December 26, 2010

The King(?)'s Speech

A lovely film.  (Not a dog and elephant show, but if you’ve seen it, you’ll understand.)


Week Begins With Both Bang and Whimper (i.e. Towed Car)

November 15, 2010

Cars, like nature, abhor a vacuum.

My work week (and third Nanowrimo week) started with both bang and whimper.

Lesson of the day:  there is no such thing (and I repeat, no such thing) as an unrestricted legal parking space in New York City, i.e. no sign is a bad sign.

Did you get that all you forever-hopeful types who think that maybe the City just “forgot” to post a “no parking” sign, that maybe you lucked out for a change?

Woe to you justice-minded souls who believe that the NYPD couldn’t possibly give you a ticket, much less tow you, in such circumstances.

Did you not realize that the absence of a visible sign means that the open parking space in front of you, even if framed by other parked cars (which appear to be made of steel and/or aluminum or some metallic polymer) is in fact an illusion?

Did you not understand that the space is only there in the sense of a void, a vacuum, a black hole, as, in other words, an absence of space?  And that if you drive your car into this void/vacuum/black hole, it will vanish into the alternate universe that lurks around the edges of New York life (i.e. Pier 76 located at 38th Street and 12th Avenue).

Yes, the car can be reconjured.  But that trick will not be performed for free.

(BTW, Nanowrimo novel could be going better; there’s nothing like a car–even a rental car– towed from a space that you now just knew was not legal–for interrupting “flow”.)

Nanowrimo – Week 2 – Coasting Through the Bogs (Baths)

November 9, 2010

Would-be Coasting (Notice Book Is Read Rather Than Written)

Nanowrimo organizers warn that the second week of Nanowrimo is especially hard, the exuberance of the first week draining, the adrenalin of the oncoming finish not quite kicking in.

I figured these warnings didn’t apply to me;  after all. my first week wasn’t exactly exuberant.  No, now that I finally had my story, I would coast.

But when I got home from work last night, I had all kinds of non-coasting activities to attend do.

An idea for a blog!  Sure, I wasn’t going to actually write one, but get Pearl to help me.  That shouldn’t take long.  (Ahem.)

Then, well, I should really keep on exercising.  Since country music figures in the novel, I’d dance!  To Dolly Parton!  (Downloading some was a snap.)

OMG–look at you, Pearl!   Yes, it’s a bit cold tonight, but it’s not getting warmer.

Bathwater was run.  No point in a bath without a trim.

Then (I’m not completely heartless) came an hour of holding a shivering Pearl in a down parker next to a heater.

It was getting very late now, and I realized that the time for coasting was sliding down a very slippery slope.)

I would take my notebook into the bath.  (This is one of the best features of sore computer eyes.)

Oops, had to clean the tub.

Okay, so, I told myself, if you are not going to coast, you can at least be workmanlike.  (It’s true that maybe the bath is not the most workmanlike writing studio, but I did have an extra towel handy.)

I set down to writing the scene I had in mind.  Only the country music had put a bunch of other scenes in my mind.  Scenes from further along.

I set down to writing the scene that was supposed to come next.  Only I just couldn’t bear to write that scene–a kind of dinner party–and jumped straight to the after-party late night confrontation between an ancillary villain and one of my female protagonists.  I was going to fit some good (ancillary) character to help her out, not because I felt the young woman needed to be helped so much but because I had a great idea for a snipy kind of line that one of these ancillary characters might use against the villain.  (It involved the Dia Foundation!)

And finally set pen to page.  Only, as I wrote the scene, the dialogue was incredibly sweet, too sweet for the villain.

A couple pages in, I converted him to to one of my male protagonists. an important good guy.   (Who, unfortunately, would not refer to Dia.)

Oh well.

In the meantime, Pearl parked under the down parka, having had enough of Week 2.

And it's only Monday!

Nano-Update – Falling Victim To The Martyred Selves

November 5, 2010

Falling Victim To the Martyred Self

Over 11,000 words and I don’t have a super clear story yet, though I have a (sort of) direction, and a sense of viable characters.

Needless to say that a lot of the first 10,000 words have not involved these characters.  The primary characters in those beginning forays were martyred versions of myself.  Even as I was writing about those saintly victims, I knew I could probably not use them.  It’s not just that self-pity seems kind of self-indulgent in print; martyred versions of one’s self tend to be very passive, i.e. because they are victims, they don’t tend to do much; people are just mean to them and they sigh.  Little happens.

All those words, however, did make me think of writing about a time, a place, and an activity that I would never have come up with on my own.  Now, the problem is carrying out.  I’ve only truly begun and already I’m getting tired.   Writing does require a certain energy, and I find that that energy gets dampened by a day at the office.  It takes a considerable amount of dancing, (this is where a huge, but very inexpensive, Fred Astaire album on iTunes comes in handy) to build it up again, and so, by the time I start writing, it is very late at night, if not early in the morning.   (All that web-surfing is also a big drain.)

Okay, okay, more self-pity!  I’m sorry!   (Self-pity also generates a certain kind of energy!!!!)

Glad for the week-end.

An Egg Is Not A Light Bulb

October 26, 2010

An Egg Is Not A Light Bulb

You make mistakes sometimes.  (If you are like me, you may wish to substitute the words “often” or “frequently” or “constantly” for the temporal element in that last sentence.)

Oddly, the resulting embarrassment, shame, recrimination can be just as intense with small mistakes as big ones.

After all, caught in the wallop of a catastrophic misjudgment, you may feel that fate, or at a minimum, genetics, have conspired against you, while little stupidities seem all your own fault.  Or worse, your brain’s fault–your decaying, ill-functioning, brain.  Even worse–your not-decaying, but lifelong-faulty, brain.

I read a confirmation code to someone today that started with the letters HTO.  It was only after he said “that’s easy to remember, like water,” that I realized that I’d been repeatedly saying H2O.

And believe me, that was the least of it.

Computers compound one’s natural propensity for error–the screen providing a sympathetic gloss for the most flagrant typo; the automatic replace function exponentially upping the ante.

All of the above leads me to the reposting of a villanelle.  (I’m sorry if you’ve seen this one before, but perhaps, if you are like me, you’ve forgotten it…)

Villanelle to Wandering Brain

Sometimes my mind feels like it’s lost its way
and must make do with words that are in reach
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day,

when what it craves is crimson, noon in May,
the unscathed verb or complex forms of speech.
But sometimes my mind feels like it’s lost its way

and calls the egg a lightbulb, plan a tray,
and no matter how it search or how beseech
is pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

I try to make a joke of my decay
or say that busy-ness acts as the leech
that makes my mind feel like it’s lost its way,

but whole years seem as spent as last month’s pay,
plundered in unmet dares to eat a peach
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

There is so much I think I still should say,
so press poor words like linens to heart’s breach,
but find my mind has somehow lost its way
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

For more villanelles, or info on how to write them, check out that category from the ManicDDaily home page.

Few Clothes in Egg-Frying NYC – Tu-be or not Tu-be

July 7, 2010

Wishful Thinking? (On ManicDDaily's part)

One thing that has taken me aback in these last few egg-frying days in New York City is how few clothes women have been wearing in public.

I’m someone who has always worn a fair amount of clothing in public.

One reason for this is a lot of my travel has been to hot places which are also very prurient places, places where women, people in general, cover up (i) because of cultural modesty (in situations where people live in tight quarters, they sometimes seem to use cloth as a boundary), and (ii) to try to protect their arms, shoulders, eyes, heads, from blistering sunshine.

I tell myself I’ve adopted such practices—longish sleeves, highish necks, loose clothing—in the name of comfort and good sense.  But another reason for the cover-up, and perhaps the truer one, is simply that I grew up with a strong bodily sense of original sin.  This is different from traditional original sin in which the soul is embued with innate moral failings;  rather it is a sense that the body is embued with innate imperfections, imperfections which, if not corrected by diet and exercise, are at best camouflauged.   (I’m not sure whether to blame this on Twiggy or my mom.)

Whatever the reason, tube dresses were never my style.

I seem to be an anomaly in the modern U.S., however, at least on 102 degree days.  I find it frankly breath-taking.

So many breasts, so many thighs, so many fleshy bits, bits that in my sheltered mind are usually not seen outside a dressing room or swimming pool.

So much confidence, so much nonchalance, so much skin!  And so many many different attitudes (from “God I’m hot!” to “God I’m hot!to “God I’m hot!”)

I vary between admiration (for the freedom and unself-consciousness), to understanding (of why certain other cultures are so very hostile to us), to confusion (on one level it seems anti-feminist and self-negating while on another it seems incredibly feminist and self-accepting), to chagrin (I don’t always want to see all that skin), to–

God I’m hot.

Blocking Writer’s Block – Ironing Out Problems With Confidence

March 10, 2010


I walked back home from my subway stop this morning (a trek) thinking I’d left my iron on.  I imagined my old, blinding, dog, Pearl, knocking it down (the iron was sitting on the floor in a far corner of  one room of my apartment).  I imagined terrible damage to Pearl, and then, in the ensuing conflagration, the destruction of all my worldly possessions .

Even as I hiked back to my apartment, getting later for work than ever, I knew this scenario was unlikely.  First of all, I’ve left the iron on before and its heating element always turns off quite quickly automatically.    Secondly, Pearl diligently spends just about all day in her “office”, that is, my closet, which is far far away from the nook where the iron sits.

When I let myself back into my apartment, I found the iron already unplugged, cool.

We tend to doubt ourselves.   This doubt not only affects our lives, it also affects our writing, actually any artistic endeavor we may try.

Some people (often the young) believe that every thing they produce is terrific.  They save every napkin doodle; they keep copies of every draft–bags and bags of them, whole old computers’ full.  Often, however, as both rejection notices and non-writing responsibilities mount, we tend to lose confidence in whatever voice works its way through our fingers.

This  self-doubt can lead to writer’s block, or at least, writer’s….lethargy.  We tell ourselves that if we only had a contract, an editor, a salivating agent, we’d produce tons of stuff, but we don’t feel adequate authority to keep working on our own.   What’s the use?  How can we keep up our confidence if  the only light at the end of the tunnel seems to be another blank page?  ( Blank screen?)

Two tools jump to mind (other than the one I’m always citing which is, well, discipline.)

1.  Knowledge.  Knowledge is power here; luckily, knowledge can be acquired a lot easier than other kinds of power.  By knowledge, I mean, knowledge of what’s out there in your field; knowledge too of human nature.

To get that knowledge, read.  Read good writing;  read “bad” writing.  Read intellectual texts, if you like;  don’t forget popular schlock.  Broaden your sense of the types of expression that are considered “valid”; think of how you fit in, how much better you feel than some writers, how awed and humbled you feel by others, consider what you can learn from everyone.

In addition to reading different kinds of work, consider reading about the lives of writers and artists.    Understand that your travails  may be your strongest basis for a spiritual camaraderie.

2.  Connection.  Learning about the lives of other writers is part of developing a sense of connection.   But it’s also useful to be in actual contact with actual living people.   If you write poetry (or even if you write prose that you can read paragraphs of in a poetic manner), go to open mike readings.  Make yourself read aloud.   The other poets may not make you feel liked, and you may not like them;  remember that you are not necessarily looking for friends, but a sense of validity.    Make yourself go more than once.  (Poets are a finicky, stand-offish, bunch; they may need to know you pretty well before they even smile.)

If there is no open mike in your area, consider a class.  Or host a little writing session. Try an internet site where you can post work.   In seeking a compatriot, an audience (even just an audience of one), look for  a person who is also interested in writing.  A non-writer is likely not to understand your problems with confidence and may, accidentally, make you feel worse than ever.  A fellow writer will respond to your work with some measure of attention simply in the spirit of quid pro quo.  (Take what you can get.)

Finally, even if the people with whom you try to connect don’t seem to like your work, don’t be discouraged.  (The differences in peoples’ taste is a source of continual amazement. )  Check to see whether you like their work.

Remember through all of this that you did turn off that iron, or, at least, you did not burn down your apartment, or damage your dog.  Translation:  you do too do some things right.

For more on writer’s block, check out posts in that category from the ManicDDaily home page;  for more on Pearl, check out posts re dog.

The Matrix on Cheetos

January 20, 2010

The Matrix On Cheetos

Two tremendously scary articles in today’s New York Times.

No, I don’t mean the one about Robert Gates in India warning of interlocking Asian terror networks.  Or the one about ex-convicts from the U.S. joining  with Yemen radicals.   Or even the ones about the defeat of Martha Coakly in Massachusetts.

I’m talking about the article by Jennifer Steinhauer reporting that “Snack Time Never Ends” for U.S. children, and the one by Tamar Lewin, “If Your Kids Are Awake, They Are Probably Online.” (This one reports that, with the advent of smart phones, personal computers, and other digital devices,  internet time never ends for U.S. children.)

Reading these articles, one gets a picture of a U.S. child blindfolded by a miniature screen, which he manipulates with one hand, while using the other to repeatedly lift crinkly snacks to his lips.  (It’s kind of like the Matrix on Cheetos.)

I don’t mean to sound critical.  I myself spend much of the day on the computer.  I am also an inveterate “grazer.”

The difference between me and most U.S. children, however, is that I’m old enough to know better.  I have had enough experience of the benefits of (a) uninterrupted concentration, (b) delayed gratification, and (c) discipline, to understand that there is something to be gained from thinking deeply and quietly while repressing the urge for non-stop stomach and mind candy.  Even my body (especially the toothy bits)  has a deep (if sometimes neglected) understanding of the benefits of not constantly chewing.

In other words, I feel guilty.

My personal difficulties bring up the fact that adult society has, to a large degree, fomented this conduct among children.   In the case of adults,  however,  ADD (attention deficit disorder) is generally called “multi-tasking.”

It’s bad for us too.   There has been study upon study about the dangers of texting while driving, texting while walking, texting while taking care of young children.  Then, of course, there are the soaring obestity rates.

But it all seems worse when children are involved.

Though I  don’t mean to criticize parents, part of the problem is simply their  busy-ness.   Working hard, their lives, and the lives of their children, are highly scheduled.  Snacks and media are used to silence childish impatience;  both allow parents to participate in their children’s lives in a way that makes them feel (and is) caring, as cook, food-buyer, internet-regulator, but is also somehow less personal and confrontational, than acting as direct companion and/or adversary.

Older generations focused on the behavior of children (and both parents and children had the relief of unsupervised play–time that was free and apart from each other); but in our world, it’s not enough for children behave the way that we want them to;  we also want them to be happy while behaving this way (while remaining in a fairly confined location).   Some parents trot out long explanations to children, trying to secure agreement to restrictions;  others (or maybe the same parents) trot out snacks, gameboys, smart phones, trying to pre-empt disagreement, discomfort, wear and tear.

It doesn’t really work.  But the parent is busy, stressed;  besides, he or she has some browsing to do.

Ink Pot Pill Box Hat – Beginning of Decade/End of Era

December 28, 2009

Ink Pot Pillbox Hat (after Rene-Jean Teillard)

With all the newspaper articles, I’m taken back to the beginning of the decade/century/millenium, or maybe just before, when everyone worried that Y2K would wreck havoc with all known security and operational systems, even perhaps bringing the end of the world as we knew it.  Flights scheduled for December 31 sold at heady discounts, and one guy I knew, who had a record of moving violations while drunk, was happily confident that the imminent self-destruction of the DMV’s computer system would finally give him a chance to get another driver’s license.

(Lesson:  the “end of the world as we know it” does not generally happen according to calendared anticipation but with utter unexpectedness of  box cutters taken onto a plane.)

Putting all that aside, the beginning of the decade/century/millennium brought a range of unexpected developments not only in the world, but in  my personal life. The first big event was the bursting of pipes in a snowy country house.  (This led, years later, to a second marriage.)  In the midst of those burst pipes, we also lost electricity for a few days (not because of Y2K, but an ice storm); for a day or two, we had to ship a dear old French friend, then houseguest,  to some one else’s house since our friend, then in his 90’s, suffered in a house lit by candles and heated by firewood.

Thinking back, I can’t help but focus on that same French friend, who died at the beginning of the following year, in early January 2001.  Rene-Jean Teillard, he was born to an aristocratic family in the Pyrenees in 1906 or 7, and there schooled by Jesuits, which instilled  in him a lifelong hatred of Catholicism.  He was a resistance fighter in World War II, who escaped capture by the Nazis by pretending to be mad, and later rescued several U.S. paratroopers in the French countryside.  This rescue (the paratroopers were from the South) led to Rene’s being awarded the “key to the city” of Tupelo, Mississippi, a town which welcomed him on visits throughout his life.

After the war, Rene emigrated to New York City.  I say, New York City, because although Rene later became a U.S. citizen, his move was definitely to New York.  He simply adored New York, believing it to be a place where one could do, see, be, anything; where freedom and possibility were literally made concrete.  He had a talent for design and friendship, was gifted with creativity and charm.  He opened a hat shop, where he made beautiful, stylish and above all, playful hats, whose sales and rentals sent him around the world four times.   (I’ve drawn one of the simpler ones; the more elaborate featured small pianos, flower pots, balloons….)

He was an old-fashioned New Yorker, both generous and parsimonious in the extreme–you probably know the type, a person who will give you absolutely anything while also spending as little as possible on himself.   His rent-controlled apartment, a fourth floor walk-up on Madison Avenue, looked like the inside of a Faberge egg, with hand-marbelized woodwork, a deep purple canopied ceiling (in the bedroom),  and a combination of true Louis XIV antiques and furniture scavenged and re-made from the City streets.

In the hot New York summers, he stayed with friends outside of the City.  He was the ideal long-term guest in that, with his broad life experience (he was probably the only person ever to have had therapy sessions with Carl Jung and to also go to the circus with Elvis Presley), he was both (i) a great talker, and (ii) a great listener.  Above all, he was purposeful, capable of silently, independently,  and beautifully, repairing almost anything broken, torn, fraying.

He was not perfect.  French, he could be snide, classist, gossipy (although not with confidences), and he drank a fair amount of wine.  But he was above all interested.  A taxi ride with him was an education; by the end of it, one had learned, through him, where the driver was from, whom he had left behind, and what he hoped to do when he did or didn’t return.  The driver, magically, did not feel drained by this, but unique, valued.

His favorite word was “marvelous.”

I think of him at the beginning of this century because he was such a creature of the last one.    Who wore hats after Jackie Kennedy?  Who uses ink in the age of computers?  Does Tupelo, Mississippi still have a key?  Does France still have nuns?   Is New York still a place where one can do, see, be, anything?

He missed 9/11, for which I was grateful.  It would have grieved him beyond measure.