Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Cat Video Awards

If cats had their own Oscars, their selections might be different than ours.

Best Sound Effects:

Best non-foreign foreign existential documentary: Henri

Best Action Movie (subtitled):

Harley: Hey Bambi. Whatchya doing?
Deer: Doe.
Harley: Oh, it's a game? Okay, I'll play.
Deer: Doe doe doe.
Harley: You're a...ummm...a riverdancer?
Deer: Doe doe.
Harley: Dances with grass?
Deer: Doe doe.
Harley: This is getting a little boring. The Wizard of Oz.
Deer: Doe doe doe doe dee.
Harley: No? Maybe I'm approaching this the wrong way. I think it's trying to communicate. It's Morse code, right?
f-mmpls---smlafrmp----a-k. That makes no sense.

Why do the weirdos always find me? Maybe if I ignore her she'll go away?

Deer: Doe big.
Harley: I don't know what you're talking about.
I SAID NOW, DEER TOURETTES. Go impress the tall green stuff over there with your tap dancing.
You're not a bull, buckaroo.

Jeesh. Wildlife walks onto my property and shows no respect for the food chain. What's the world coming too?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Self-Help Industry. Use With Caution.

By Comiclife

There they are. In the self-help book section. Which I have to walk through, pass by or climb over to reach the science fiction section. Which, in some bookstores is located in the back, next to witchcraft, obscurities and uncategorized miscellany.

With dismay, I have watched this section grow over the economic crisis, promising the achievement of happiness in a certain number of steps or habits.  Sometimes they are no more than an oversimplified version of how to practice Buddhism. On occasion, I follow a link only to find myself confronted with yet another one of those lists; different version, same thing. Banal advice with little application or truth.

In RL, I occasionally have to listen to summaries of such books, when a friend is excited about the possibility of self-improvement only to discover the disappointment of being marketed to. Secrets are not revealed, but maybe his life did not need improving to begin with.

I have a habit of looking at people's bookshelves when I am invited to visit their homes. Seeing 10 books on the shelf on organizing, makes me wonder if de-cluttering would not be more easily achieved by donating them. Just wondering.

This is not to suggest that some of these books do not offer value or great insight or that one cannot find useful (why did I not think of that) ideas and suggestions in a select few.

It is the heavy-handed approach of homogenization rather than accepting individuality that bothers me.  I have flipped through a few and what appears to be ubiquitous is the following promise:

Self-help: This is what is wrong with you. If you follow this 52 week program and 365 steps you will be the deliriously happy person you have always wanted to be. If you cannot complete it, no wonder you are miserable. You are as useless as this book. Thank you for making us wealthy. No refunds.

There are no instructions for life or living it. No one provided us with the blueprints of the outcome of choosing option A versus option B. The insightful fellow blogger Marylinn Kelly put it aptly when she described us all as amateurs at life in her post named "Community Theater". Now. That is useful.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Visual Journal

As children, we draw and paint without giving any conscious thought to composition, materials or color theory.  Looking at some of my childhood creations, I see the unrestrained freedom of mixed media; collages, cutouts, stickers, crayolas and markers mixed with watercolors and found and flattened ephemera. If it could be glued down, I apparently did.  I created comic books, game boards and experimented with pop-up books.

While some stop drawing and creating altogether, my artistic endeavors became "serious". In my spare time, I studied the old masters, realism, art movements and focused on sketching and painting images inspired by the natural world.

At times prolific, at other times other interests took over, but I have always tried to keep some connection to the artistic needs of my right hemisphere. When lack of time prevented me from planning and executing completed paintings, I was restricted to sketching and doodling. Then I discovered the visual journals of Peter Beard; raw, visceral, sometimes graphic, yet always authentic.  I was familiar with his wildlife photography, but I had never seen a grown-up version of creating for the sake of creating with his childlike abandon.

Image by Peter Beard

Image by Peter Beard
Peter Beard's natural studio
I was fascinated and inspired by his journals and began combining writing journals with sketches, found images, paint and markers, without thinking about the end-product or attempting to create "art". It was liberating and allowed me to continue creating, when I had little time to devote to anything artistic.

Visual journals are not a new invention, they have been described as notebooks, field books, visual diaries, scrapbooks and recently resurfaced as "art journals". What they offer in their various guises are infinite possibilities to experiment, observe and explore the world around us and within us.  They require no artistic skill, art supplies or time-commitment. They are not restricted to subject matter or creating a work of art and can contain anything from mundane to-do lists to deep thoughts.  Eventually, they will add up to represent ones life, guiding memories through visual imagery.

I highly recommend them.