Monday, December 29, 2008

The terror in the night


That's got to be one of the most complex feelings that a human being can have. Do you doubt me? Perhaps you think fear is only fear and that's just that. Either you're afraid, or you're not.

Yeah? What of horror films? Scary books? Haunted houses? Halloween?

People love to be afraid. It's one of our favorite feelings. We watch terrifying movies about death, murder, and monsters (oh my!). What are the first five books that come to mind when I say the word "classics"?

Personally, I think of 'A Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens, 'Frankenstine' by Mary Shelly, 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen, 'Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck, and 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker.

Two of those "classics" are horror stories about monsters and evil and villagers with torches and pitchforks.

Maybe people enjoy fear because of the adrenaline rush. Or maybe it's just the nastier side of our curious nature. You don't get to see blood and gore every day. Why do you think people slow down when there's an accident on the side of the road? They want to see something horrifying. Why they want that may even be a mystery unto themselves.

But oh how they want to see it.

Back to the adrenaline theory. Fear feels good, after the fact. Some people simply delight in dread. They watch a scary movie or read a terrifying thriller to get their blood pumping, to excite them, to feel alive.

Fear is just fascinating. One of my favorite paintings is "Gothic Nightmares". I once read an article that mentioned that painting. It talked about how well the painting demonstrated night terrors, those dreams where you feel like you're awake and there's something horrible in the room with you, but you can't even move. You're petrified and immobilized.

But it's famous. We don't shun it because it scares us. In fact we embrace it. Perhaps it makes us feel brave. Really, there isn't any courage without fear. Who needs to be brave if they are not afraid to begin with? Bravery is all about confronting fear.

That's it. We terrify ourselves because it teaches us about ourselves. We frighten ourselves to prove our own courage. If I could never fear, I could never know if I am a hero, or nothing more than a coward.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The FlipShow Kiss (a sketchy video I made for art)

Thank you Michael Silvers for your fantastic music!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

David wasn't REALLY naked when he killed Goliath. (or WAS he?)

Ah, human nudity.

What else can rival such popularity? It's everywhere. In simple, tasteless work (porn), in the realm of fine art, and back through the ages. Even portrayals of well-known biblical figures such as David and Adam and eve are flaunting their original outfits without shame.

"Dear Lord WHY!?", you ask.

I mean, sure. Porn. That makes sense. Man has desired to look upon naked women since before he even began scratching heroic images of himself killing prehistoric beasts on cave walls. That's a no-brainer.

But art?

It's about beauty. The grace and power and subtleties and vulnerabilities of the human body, the versatility and unique thoughts and desires that lend their aids to romanticizing the human image.

It's about what matters most. Not clothes. Not material possessions. When it all ends, and everyone and everything is gone, what will still matter to you? People. The people we love, the ones we hate. Those who destroy and also create. There was nothing else before we had each other, before we made our memories. Nothing else important, anyway. It's relationships with other people that matter most.

Obviously we can't paint or sculpt relationships and raw feelings. It's all in the body language. The body. The human body.

What do you suppose Michelangelo was doing when he sculpted the naked young David? It certainly wasn't porn. It wasn't to show off how ridiculously muscular he was (although a decent body helps, and no one wants to look at a horrifically deformed bod anyway). I think maybe it was showing his courage.

A friend of mine once observed that perhaps Michelangelo's intent was to show how great David's God was, and also David's faith in his God. He was naked and helpless, weak, and hadn't even armor to protect him, but his faith was enough to help him kill a giant.

I think it's feeling. What do you use to best express your feelings? Before you write it down, before you shout it out, your body language says it loud and clear. The expression on your face, your stance, where you stand, your posture, your ticks and nervous habits. There it is, all worn there on your... er... lack of a sleeve.

Don't you feel it, the confidence that David exudes? Regardless of his weak stature, he stands at ease. His face is calm. He is not afraid. There is something powerful in him. His God, perhaps? Maybe just an unusual courage?

Michelangelo didn't need to say anything. He didn't need to write out his intent so that we could read it and know what he meant. It's plain and simple for all to see.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I dreamed a dream in times gone by...

Dreams have always been a larger part of my life than they really ought to be. At least that's how it seems. Perhaps everyone's fantasy life is as active as mine. But I doubt it.

When I was a little girl, no one liked me. I wasn't the made-fun of underdog with one best friend who would stand behind me no matter what. No one would have rooted for me if they made a movie about my elementary years. I was stupid. Not intellectually (I was actually a very bright student) but socially.

Because of my painfully obvious lack of real friends or play mates, I made my own. I would create worlds inside my head and have fantastic adventures with a boy I thought up. He started off resembling a boy I had a bit of a crush on in my class. Each time there was a new crush, the boy I'd made inside my head would change a little. Essentially he grew up with me.

He started out blonde and blue eyed, just like that boy in the first grade. In the sixth grade he got brown hair and a name. I shan't tell you the name since it was sort of like the name of my middle school crush (and I'd have to kill you the moment you knew). But he also got very tall, because I had more than just one crush that first year of middle school.

Eventually he ended up tall, dark and handsome, like most grown girls' fantasies. But I doubt every girl's dream man grew from her imaginary friend. Then again, maybe I'm wrong and that's how it always works. He's intelligent, attractive and strong , but not overly buff (I'm sorry gentlemen, but wrestlers and body builders are some of the ugliest creatures to have walked this earth, in my opinion).

We still have fantastic adventures. Of course now there are other friends in my imaginary world, gal pals, suitors I've denied (it's okay, I've dreamed them up the perfect soul mates), and even an imaginary family full of siblings and ridiculous uncles and grand parents and great grand parents that never manage to age.

But there are friends outside of the realm of the imagined now. I have real friends. We don't have adventures nearly so great as the ones inside my head, but they're worth much more, the little, mild adventures that we do have, because they are real. I worry that I should have out-grown my fantasy world.

I suppose this dream addiction has more merit than I've let on. I am a fantastic writer. I think up strange and original stories and my characters are well developed, like the people in my dreams. How can I forsake my dreaming when such beautiful worlds as the ones in my head have yet to be put to paper?

And I haven't even told you about the dreams I dream at night.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Insidious Letters at the End of the Alphabet

I don't know why it is that I find the last few letters of the alphabet seem so much more devious to me. They just seem so dark and mysterious. Alluring, even. Seductive?

How can you think of the letters at the end of the alphabet like that, you ask? Think about it. What's in a name? I think names have power. You know, girls named monica and leslie are never far from the top of the social scale, small boys named damien are likely to have demons inside of them, men with middle names of van are often German...

But what of the letters that make up the names? Maybe that's just it! It's the letters that make a name sinister, and it's the name that makes the man. Or the fictional character.

As something of a writer, I know that the names of our fictional characters are a bit more influential concerning the character's personality. With regular people, they have their whole life to define their own name however they please. When I sit down and try to think up a name for one of my characters, I'm trying to sum up as much of my character's personality and past (or even future) as I can.

For instance, I named a main character of mine, a conflicted villain, Damien. It does not actually mean devil child or anything in the like. It means "to tame". I only gave my character that name after days of deliberation. It was perfect, once I finally found it. It's good because it has all the connotation of someone possessed by a devil, but none of the meaning. The meaning, to tame, may refer either to his leading armies against all the people of the land with great victory, or to his inner struggle to tame his feelings and the chaos inside.

Now Damien hasn't got the dark letters of the alphabet (I'd say they start at "R"ish). Another common "dark" letter seems to be "D". But there are a lot of sinister words and names that do have those last letters. DracUla, WereWolf, eVil, tWiSted, lUcifer, UnderWorld, Yeti, chUpacabra, monSTer, SuSpicioUS, etcetera etcetera etcetera. How many words can you find?

Some names start with these letters, others have them mixed up in the middle, and some words just have them tacked on the end. But then again I am talking about over a third of the alphabet, here. It must just all be coincidence. Yes, a sinister coincidence indeed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ah, the good old Dark Ages...

As I sat through a droll college algebra class in the dark hours of the early morning I drifted in and out of the edge of consciousness. In one of my weaker, conscious moments, I heard my instructor spit out another one of those math teacher classics, a "real life" application.

Any math teacher worth his salt has used one. It must be some secret cardinal rule that every math instructor should come up with ridiculous, far fetched ways for his students to apply what they learn in the class room in real life. Sometimes an exponential something or another equation can help you to find out what rate your coffee cools at in a cold room. That's ridiculous. Drink it while it's hot. That's all you need to know.

Really, there's hundreds of applicable but ridiculous and time consuming uses for math for the not-mathematically-motivated people of the world, like myself. I'm going to college for a fine arts degree and an english degree. I don't need a whole lot of math. I think the highest level of math required for a college student in a non-scientific degree should be geometry and algebra 2.

For some reason or another, the application my teacher told us in my brief moment of consciousness struck me as particularly funny. We could use what we were learning today to find the trajectory if we fired a missile. If I fired a missile? Sure, it happens all the time! I smiled a little bit, into the face of this cruel irony. Why in all of God's green earth would I be allowed to or even want to fire a missile?

The most I'm going to use the little math I need to know is to budget my paycheck in order to have enough for groceries after I pay my bills. And that budget is laughably small (being a starving artist and all). I certainly don't need higher math to figure it out.

Math may be behind the whole of the physical universe. I will still regard it as magic, and the mathe-magicians should be glad we don't still burn them at the stake, like they did in the good old dark ages.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...

Time is an illusive thing. Now you have it. Now it's gone. They say that time is money. I think they're right.

What has greater value than time? Think about it. What are the most precious moments and memories of our lives? The time spent with the ones we love. Our life's work, which we spend hours, days, months or maybe years on, be it for a functional project, or just to show it off and be proud that we did it. The precious items we hold dear? If it is an heirloom, then it shows the time that someone else spent earning it, just to end up giving it to you. If it's something special, made by your own hand or purchased from a store, it is by your own time well spent that it is yours.

Someday in the future, when I'm a rich genius, I'll invent some funky gadget that can give one person's time to someone else. Imagine what some people would pay for a few extra hours of time! I could charge a hundred bucks an hour and take just forty percent for myself, and sixty for the man who has time to spare. While other people's work days drag by like a snail chained to a rock crossing a tar pit, it would be over instantly for the employee. He'd arrive at nine in the morning, bottle up eight hours or so, and walk right back out only what seemed to him like five minutes later, at five. Side affects may include but are not limited to longer life span for employees and slightly accelerated aging for buyers. (obviously there are some flaws, but then again they'd only be shortening their life spans by eight hours at a time)

Actually, maybe it'd be funner to be an employee, rather than own the business. Then my career wouldn't wear away at my life until it killed me, as so many other people's careers do to them. I would never be tired after work ever again. Of course at times I might find myself wishing I could have some of my time back... but then again I'd barely have to work at all, considering what time probably sells for.

Time is money. It's true! But it is part of everything else, too. It's what we buy and sell, it's who we love, it's what we do.

Nothing is worth anything if it doesn't take time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A lazy afternoon

I found myself observing the rather famous painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Never before have I been impressed by it. I had always found it boring. Oh, look! A park! My, you never see paintings of those! So rare and original! Pffft. Not hardly.

Of course, that was then and this is now. As I looked at it, the teacher's voice blended into a mumbling background noise pointing out the use of shape and line and vanishing points. I saw a shadow I hadn't seen before that put everything into a new perspective. I imagined someday making a movie, and in that movie having a scene that copied the positions of people and water and trees in this painting. There was beauty and interest there that I can't put into words. Suddenly this simple, over-publicized painting was as fantastic as it must have always been. If only I'd seen it sooner.

I sat in a room full of people that seem to be from every walk of life, to a very ridiculous scale. Really it was truly amazing to see the large variety of people that take the early morning classes at a community college.

We have true to the 'T' starving artists, lazy college students that need a fine art credit (how such a species manages to get to school so early is truly a mystery to me), a druggie or two, a hippie (different from a druggie- he's a druggie with class!), a pretty Belgian transfer student, about three to five attractive guys from all different genres of macho male (ya know, gear-head, jock, rich kid, musician, et cetera) that all took turns hitting on transfer babe, Belgian transfer babe's posse composed of the remaining top 5% most attractive women in the class, a couple of those who love art and like to think of themselves as art buffs but really couldn't do anything artistic well enough to save their own lives, one handsome and inspired Mormon, and me.

Out of all of us, which ones looked up at the famous painting on the overhead and were truly impressed with what they saw? I always wonder, when I see a piece I'm not impressed with. Who likes this? And why? Are they seeing something that I can't see? Are they better artists than me and that's why they see it?

Or do they just look at it long enough to finally see its genius?

Friday, October 3, 2008

The crimes and punishement of being late

Whoops. There I went and did it again. No. I've never messed with your heart. I was talking about being late. Again. I'm late for life. Is that gonna affect my final grade? Because I've already got a pretty solid D-, and I'd rather not push my luck.

Although it may have taken your grade down a letter or so, I doubt lateness at school is going to affect your quality of life in general, in the end. Really it's what you do in your life, and with it, that will affect your "grade" in life.

Grade is really just another word for "judge", isn't it? Rather, I think judge is a bit better, when discussing your life and eternity or lack there of that you may think comes afterwards. Perhaps your destiny might be based on how you judge your own life in the end, once all is said and done. What if you find yourself lacking?

What kind of scale are we using, anyway? One to ten? Can we choose someone else to judge us? What if we're too hard on ourselves? What if we have no conscience but we're actually a psychopath? What then?

It is easier to believe that there's someone bigger who knows better.

Or maybe it is easiest to make sure that we are satisfied with what we did or didn't do with our life as we go. Do what you'll be proud of later. Yeah, that's even easier than a scale from one to ten!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Had only shadows offended, it'd already be mended

Whatever happened to civility between strangers? Didn't it used to be that we were only openly hostile with personal enemies, coworkers, family and close friends? What is an offense without it's personal sting? Tis only an expletive shouted out a rolled-down window on a crowded street.

Or is it?

What of the complicated relationship between the employee and the customer? You give us a tip, we give you extra wings with your order. You say something nice, or you're just really sweet even though we've taken way too long to get you your food, we give you the ranch for free (and we're supposed to charge you for it!). You shout at us and blame us for the sorrowful state the world is in, we spit in your pizza.

I watched, aghast, as two cardigan toting 8 year-olds tormented a library employee. They jumped out at the employee, who was sporting some truly fantastic gothic regalia, and began loudly mocking her sense of fashion. After about 20 minutes of this it appeared she finally tired of their loud mockery and warned them off with a threat to kick them out of the library. The mockery continued in a quieter fashion for another hour before their guardian finally took them away.

Their undivided attention to the torment of just one person surprised me. Why were they so persistent? Did they know how tolerant the girl would be of their abuse?

The young woman had such patience during the ordeal, but once it was finally over her true feelings were revealed. When they were finally gone, she left the public area of the building in tears.

A couple of bratty 8 year-olds brought a grown woman to tears, and customers have a secret bill of rights that includes open abuse of their servers.

Does anybody else's cold revenge shake taste like spit?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Knitting death-lists into scarves

It's a Sunday in late September. Fall is here. That means it's finally scarf season again. How about we do something impulsive and knit a scarf, rather than buying one? I've always had a special pride in wearing a scarf that I made, rather than something produced en mass by sweatshops in third world countries around the world.

Alright, perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. SOME of them are produced by enslaved grandmas in government funded nursing homes right here in America! No. That's not always true either.
Okay, rather than using controversial guilt trips to say why you SHOULDN'T buy scarves, I'll give a few awesome reasons for making your own!

Totally unique. I suppose that's a rather UN-unique reason, but hey! It's true!

It's really easy, and later you can brag to anyone that notices your new awesome scrap of neck-warming fashion. Yeah, I made it. All by myself. That's right. Uh huh, used yarn and everything!

Really, it's hard to get hand-knit scarves anymore. Most are just skinny fleece blanket cut-outs!

Dude, two words. Marketable. Skill.

Also, it's handy to have a pair of sharp metal needles with you when walking to your car in the parking lot late at night. "Gimme your money!" "Wait! just let me get it out of my purse...." And then BAM! Make sure to go for a killing blow. You're less likely to get sued for grievous injury if he's dead.

Oh yes. And never forget the evil Madam Defarge. Her only weapons were her knitting needles and some red yarn; and she managed a whole French style revolution, including the chopping off of heads! She was like the ultimate super-villain!

Unfortunately for Madam Defarge, she didn't live long enough to knit her own name into the scarf of death.