Monday, November 13, 2017
In the past five years some companies have started up to sell shares in art collections. People enter with small amounts--$13 in one instance—to be part owners of artworks. Another, starting up with over a million dollars in seed capital, calls itself a platform for art investing where people with $10,000 or more can be part owners of entire collections, or blocks, of artworks.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
171029 A shared vision
Yesterday I wrote about the coffee bean-sized nucleus accumbens, a shared characteristic nugget tucked deep inside the brains of 99.99 percent of we humans which, given the right environment, care and feeding of the rest of our bodies, can advance a human being or destroy itself—and even destroy all humanity.
Image from the Web
Today I am feeling the benefits of this little morsel of organic material in the good feeling it both thrives upon and regenerates—the feeling of sharing. Many pleasurable sensations derive from the nucleus accumbens—looking at or making artworks, a beautiful sunset, culturally-attuned music, for example—and for me, sharing experiences, too.
Sharing looking at an artwork is perhaps more pleasurable than experiencing an artwork by myself. Being in a movie theater is better than watching a movie streaming on a home screen by yourself. Streaming a movie with Lynda is better than doing that by myself. I never do it, in fact, unless it’s to examine the exact words of an actor, such as I did not long ago with Proof.
It occurs to me I would like to share those lines with a reader, but I will postpone this and drive toward my point: Sharing in the printmaking experience is more important than making prints alone. The only pleasure I get from making prints alone, by myself with only myself to talk to or sing is the anticipation that someone, someday, will have the print I am making.
They may, at some point in the future, look at the print and derive some pleasure merely by looking at it. They may not know what it is in the sense of its meaning or what I, the artist, was thinking, but the essence of colors, line, texture, etc. may please them—give them pleasure. And I can thank the health of their nucleus accumbens for this.
In a sense, this other person—or people all gathered around the picture in a museum with a docent’s guidance—completes the act of making the art, or what some people call the act of creation. I venture to say we’re sipping dopamine together in a pleasant, nonverbal communication across time and space. The nucleus accumbens is the source of dopamine, an organic chemical produced in humans, animals and plants.
It is the source of art, you might say, and any activity associated with art in all its forms. This includes activities not considered art at all, such as truck driving or weight-lifting, science and deep-sea diving. I am exploring what possibilities there may be in Seattle a person or a group interested in partnering with me to develop my brainchild—offspring of my 50-year printmaking career: the Northwest Print Center Incubators. Perhaps the Uptown Arts & Culture Coalition. Perhaps Artist Trust. Maybe the Seattle Print Arts will change their minds and take up a conversation because they need a central office.
Or, maybe it will never be an existing nonprofit in Seattle which will talk with me and look at my plan. It is true that—as is said in stock investing—past performance is no indication of future performance. I am thinking how my vision has not drawn support in the past encounters with nonprofits in Seattle. They don't answer my calls for help.
I learned these lessons when investing in stocks via an investment club years ago. Now, this morning, as the eastern sky grows slightly lighter, I think of my friends far, far to the east for whom it is already past lunch time and who have a Halfwood Press somewhere in their home. That press has my fingerprints on it! It may be in a closet, but they have not disposed of it like so many mass-produced consumer goods they decided that were no longer of value.
They bought the press, paid dearly for the Halfwood Press (or the WeeWoodie Rembrandt Press) due to their nucleus accumbens’ indicating that if they did so, good things would come from it. Or, even if they didn’t use the press, they could admire it. Their friends could admire it, too, or their spouse. Those who gave the press as a gift can know that it was a nice gift to receive, even if hopes for an art career didn’t pan out.
I shall end this speculative essay now, finish my online Spanish lesson (Duolingo) which is my way of stimulating my nucleus accumbens into giving me hope that, in a circuitous way, will lead to the formation of the Northwest Print Center Incubators. For example, my long-held dream is that printmaking will be the nucleus of teaching second languages to kids (and maybe adults).
Ask me about that if you’re interested in your kids or your school’s kids learning Chinese.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
171028 A Town without Pity
Yesterday I did what many people in the art community might consider a strange thing, something out of the ordinary way of doing things in the Seattle Arts Community. It is something I did which many artists would say, “I sure wouldn’t do that!”
It’s typical of me, though, and therein lies the core of my creative soul—the tiny bit of my brain which Elmer Gates studied, the source of dopamine his Collie dogs demonstrated to be the possible key to intelligence and what he called Mind Growing. Today it’s called the nucleus accumbens located in the so-called pleasure centers of my brain and which resembles that of almost everyone.
Image from the Web
What is it that I did? I wrote a blast email to the entire staff of Artists Trust—from the topmost Executive Director to the new Interns. I asked them to consider partnering with me on the development of the Northwest Print Center Incubators.
In a similar vein, I sent a blast email to my colleagues on the Uptown Arts & Culture Coalition. This is a key group whose purpose is to encourage cultural and artistic endeavors in the neighborhood where we live and have our family’s art gallery.
The nucleus accumbens is the source of dopamine, an organic chemical produced in humans, animals and plants. It is the source of art, you might say, and any activity associated with art in all its forms. This includes activities not considered art at all, such as truck driving or weight-lifting, science and deep-sea diving.
My blast email was, and is, part of my deep-sea diving insofar as I am exploring what possibilities there may be in the Artist Trust staff in partnering with me to develop my brainchild, the Northwest Print Center Incubators. The same goes for the Uptown Arts & Culture Coalition. Is there any interest, I wonder? To date (and I am writing less than 24 hours after my email and have not, at 6:30 AM, checked my email).
Past performance is no indication of future performance, I learned, when it comes to investing in stocks. Years ago, I formed an investment club to learn about investing—one of my many exercises driven by dopamine. In other words, I have communicated with Artist Trust in the past. In fact, I was in touch with the founders of Artist Trust from it inception, notably Anne Focke and David Mendoza.
When Artist Trust was started, the group was to address as many of the deficiencies in the artists’ support infrastructure as possible—from housing to health insurance. Lobbying and grants may have been the most successful aspects. Health insurance was, I suppose, out of its capacity. My personal wish was that it would address educational deficiencies artists find and, today, Artist Trust is possibly the best source of education in matters of economics, i.e., the business of being an artist in today’s economy.
For example, Artist Trust lists almost twenty resources on line—ranging from asset management to laws that effect artists and their families. Many artists, I think, who would scan this list of resources would experience a tiny hit of dopamine just reading it because there is help available on pressing questions like, “What about copyrights?” and “What about grant-writing?”
Artist Trust espouses community-building. Anne Focke’s life has been a life of a community builder, and Artist Trust would not exist were it not for hers and David’s vision and design plus their political acumen in getting support from the monied people in Seattle both in industry and government.
I shall end this speculative essay now, finish my online Spanish lesson (Duolingo) which is my way of stimulating my nucleus accumbens into giving me hope that, in a circuitous way, will lead to the formation of the Northwest Print Center Incubators.
Ask me about that. And if you’ve read this and wonder why I gave this essay the title, A Town without Pit, it’s the title that popped into my head—a title of a song, the lyrics of which are, “It isn’t very pretty what a town without pity can do.” It’s about the possibility that my blast email will not receive a single answer from a staff member at Artist Trust, as has happened with my emails to the UACC asking for partners to develop the NPCI.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
171026 I can jump start your small business in printmaking
Feeling heady today with my success record, I’m entertaining the idea, Yes, I can! A word of caution, however, and this comes from the story of the Little Red Hen. She had an idea to grow wheat to make flour, and she asked all the barnyard animals for help. No one would help her, and with each refusal she said, “Then I will do it myself.”
When, after she tilled the field and her wheat was harvested and milled into flour, she made a cake! Then all the animals came to ask for some, but she denied them. The trouble then became that she ate her cake alone, with no one to talk to. Moreover, this bred envy and resentment and I don’t like to think what happened after that. It’s too ugly to think about.
I am the Little Red Hen, because I designed and made a number of things. However, I always had help from those around me—my family, first of all, who supported me and who continue to do whatever they can within their abilities to support me. This is the thing for which I am most grateful.
Then, too, there are my friends (I hope I can call them my friends) who support me in many ways—with “Likes” on Facebook, for example. There are former students who, even today, join me in my projects such as the Vladimir Chichinoff Interactive Sketchbook project, and buying the last of the Halfwood Presses.
I’m grateful, too, for the little seeds of new ideas that are sprinkled in the minutes of my daily work—like the name of Lucy Garrick, which came to me in a complex, circuitous way which you might compare to an intriguing novel or mystery story. By tracking her through her online information, I came to an organization with the odd name of Scrum. It turns out it’s a move in a sport and refers to a strategic formation used to win by surprise (I think).
Off I go—like the Little Red Hen across the barnyard—to the Scrum Website, there to find Scrum is a source to connect with consultants who use the Scrum methodology generally known as lean and athletic, fast and thoroughly intended to win in business. I understand this thinking and I’ve practiced it in my way since the days I was a college professor; that’s another story.
Scrum appears to me to be ideally suited to my current project, the Northwest Print Center Incubators. If these incubators were to become real, then each of the units (I estimate nineteen are viable startups) might all be trained under the Scrum framework, which is here copied from the Web:
Here, again, is the rub: Where are the people? Who are the people who want to jump start a small business connected in some way to printmaking? The Little Red Hen had her barnyard population to which she could make her proposal and hope to gain their help. Who are my friends? Who will help me “take a “chunk from the top” which is the Halfwood Press line?
Like Bob Dylan said in Brownsville Girl, “Oh, if there is an original idea out there, I could sure use it now.” Sam Shepard co-authored the lyrics of that song—it’s one of my favorites. I read that during the recording the group came to a sticking point and they needed some new lines to complete it; Dylan, according to the story, went off by himself and in only a few minutes came back with the needed words—so fast that it amazed everyone.
Back to the title of this essay, I can jump start your small business in printmaking, what does that mean? In my email today I see two items by artists I know, both of them graduates from the UW. One of them took a drawing class from me in the late 1960’s; the other was a student at the UW forty years later and both of them are selling off all their studio and looking for storage for their art. I think to myself, I could have helped you prevent this if you had asked and listened.
But, this won’t happen, any more than I can help that Eskimo I wrote about yesterday. Those I believe will listen are those who have more at stake than their own needs—people who are thinking about other people, too, in a sense of teamwork and winning Big Time. People like Lucy Garrick, maybe, and her colleagues in the Scrum network.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
171025 Mistaken identity
– or – Don’t get me wrong.
People think I’m an artist just because I studied and taught art in college, made things that look like art and had art shows. Even the etching presses I make “art works of art,” they say. Maybe it’s true, maybe I’m an artist, but what good am I to the world? What good is art? What is art. As one woman said, my plan for the Northwest Print Center Incubators is on the scale of “solving Seattle’s homeless problem and all the elephants of the world.”
She nailed it. Those are exactly the things I work on. The making of an artwork, by comparison is a trivial, self-indulgent and pointless waste of materials and time. I will not add to the waste I see all around me when there is work to be done to help solve Seattle’s homeless problem and save all the elephants. I mean business, the only business I’ve ever been in is education.
It happens I can draw, and when I was a kid everyone said, “Oh, Billy, you should be an artist,” and that wired my brain to think so. Other options open to me were engineering, dentistry and the military (Air Force). Sports was out, and anything to do with math was out. At the critical point when the Army beckoned me, I opted to teach.
Yet, I would serve my country! In college I learned about American Values from conservatives like Giovanni Costigan, plus those of my dad and extended family (some of them, anyway!). I admired my professors and I said I would be like them, I would be a great teacher. Art, in and of itself, was not as important as the Big Picture. To me that meant helping to solve Seattle’s Homeless problem and all the elephants of the Earth.
If my ability to draw and make beautiful etching presses (and ugly ones, too, if that were necessary) is a help, that would be great.
The question is, How? How can art help the homelessness in Seattle? I looked into that. I talked to a homeless man recently. His name is Kiesek. He’s Eskimo, down here to get out of the cold. He told me his background: alcoholic, wife abuser, on the lam, and his name means “shoulder blade.” I wondered, as he told me his story, and I told him mine (Legend of Vladimir Chichinoff), can I help this homeless person?
The main thing he liked was my story of Vladimir Chichinoff. Partly it was because he knows about skin boats. On his Eskimo corporate ID, there’s a picture of a skin boat, in fact. He offered to buy me dinner, or drinks, whatever I wanted. He almost begged me to accept something from him. I deferred. How could I accept a gift from a homeless man?
I pictured myself a story teller in those minutes I was with Kiesek. The homeless need entertainment, too, if it takes their minds off their situation a moment. But would it help? I’m a teacher, but my teaching is limited to manufacturing beautiful objects, such as etching presses.
Could I teach Kiesek to make etching presses? Actually, people like me have been trying to teach Kiesek to make a living, keep a family and sustain these things for over forty years and they—and he—failed because the sellers of booze were better at teaching. The alcohol industry, soft drink manufacturers and titillating entertainment know how to teach.
I have tried to steal those industries’ ideas and adapt them to American Values as I understand them from my history lessons. To some degree, I have succeeded. But for Kiesek, I have only a story. Any notion I might have of training a group of people—homeless in Seattle—to make etching presses’ parts and, better yet, own the market I created is stupid.
That part of Kiesek’s brain that is crucial to success of a healthy and whole life and style of living is owned by the industries that got to him first. Those industries beat the hell out of the well-meaning, non-native teachers from my culture. I can’t compete with the alcohol, tobacco and drug industries. No teachers can. The winner in this competition is death itself.
I’m pro-life. That doesn’t mean I’m against birth control and abortion; it means I’m in favor of living. Life is a gift. Every day I live, is a gift. My mother gave me life, assisted by my father and I see them manifest in my reflection in the mirror every morning I awaken. “What will you do with this life we gave you,” they say. “What will you do with the talent I gave you,” they say, like the lord in the parable.
Today is October 25, 2017, and I will work on Fox Spears’ press (he happens to be descended from the indigenous people a little like Kiesek). I will write a few more pages in my autobiography. I will enter my novel in a contest for adaptation to the screen. I will work with our daughter and my wife at assessing the value of our gallery’s contents and preparing it for sale or destruction. There may be surprise visits and emails, perhaps even another order for a Halfwood Press.
Many things await me. I’m grateful. As for the homeless, I wrote an opinion to the Seattle Times last year at the height of what appeared a renewed effort to help the homeless. I suggested building schools under parts of I-5. Education is key to helping the homeless; but are the homeless teachable? The answer is that it depends on who owns the rewards centers of their brains, and how do you compete with those owners? Can you save the elephants? That depends on the competition; can you beat those who are buying the products of the killings? Can you feed the families of the farmers whose crops are destroyed by elephant herds? Can you feed those elephants, competing with human populations which are exceeding Earth’s capacity to feed and water them (and satisfy the reward centers of those humans’ brains?
In short, can you handle it, teacher? Yes, I can, if the student can listen. If the student can handle it.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
171022 Six Million? Really?
Finding ways to jump start our small businesses at the NPCI
For nine years I have grounded my plans for the Northwest Print Center Incubators on a number: six million. I say, “Six million people in the US alone would buy a Halfwood Press if they only knew about it.” That’s a lot of people, and if I had a dollar for each one sold, I could retire—maybe, like the MTG founders, live like a rock star.
(Can’t you just see Bill and Lynda Ritchie living like rock stars! Makes me smile.)
Where did I get that number?
It was in 2008 when I wrote the first accounting of how I came to make the first Halfwood Presses. In my book I was working on a paragraph, writing under my pen name, Harris Sweed, to explain the dollar-value of my design.
I wrote as though interviewing myself. I gave an accounting in a little Excel spreadsheet, counting who had bought the first 30-some Halfwood Presses up to that year. Taking into account these people (and I knew them in quite good detail) as a demographic; and then I took into account the people I had met when I was an art professor teaching college.
I taught college for nineteen years—call it a generation. In that generation, the population of printmaking classes at the UW School of Art in Seattle was typical of many universities and community colleges in the USA. In other words, 15-20 people in each class of printmaking, ranging across the four printing processes of relieve, stencil, planographic and intaglio.
Digital printing didn’t exist in the 1980s (unless you counted dot matrix or pen plotters), but photography was making inroads in classic printmaking by way of photo-screen printing, etching and lithography.
Technical matters aside, by simple math I concluded that six million people had been exposed to printmaking over the twenty years I had been teaching it (1966-1985) and, at the time I was making the calculation, another twenty years (1986-2006) another number, perhaps equal to or greater than the previous generation—had been exposed.
The calculation at that time (writing my book in 2008) acknowledged but did not include how many people were “exposed” to printmaking (TV, workshops, art fairs, museums, etc.). Nor did my calculations consider people who came to know printmaking sideways, as it were, through photography, computer graphics, book arts, fabric design, collecting and crafting.
Nor did I consider the parents, or the children of print-loving parents, nor their spouses—people who in one way or another love prints, printmaking, and printmakers. I dropped my calculations at the portal of my knowledge: College-taught printmaking.
And that’s how I got six million. The simple equation of the number of students in typical classes, the number of classes taught in a year in the number of colleges in the USA at the time. I remember when I did this exercise in Excel, I distrusted my understanding of my formula because accounting is not my forte. The number six million persisted.
I was trying to assure myself that I wasn’t nuts and that I was making another big mistake in my career and my efforts to restore our living standard to what it was before I resigned from the UW. So I added the codicil: Only ten-percent of my former students continued in the art field after graduation, and of these only one percent would continue making prints in the manner in which they learned in college.
Thus reasoning, then six-thousand was a number with which I felt more at ease. Still, if we made and sold six-thousand Halfwood Presses over the next decade, my partner Tom Kughler's and my families could do well financially. At that time, Tom and I were only making Mini Halfwood Presses and selling them at the top price of $1,300. The larger ones—which sold up to a price of $3,500—were just a twinkle in Tom’s eyes.
I wonder: Will I look back (or am I now looking back?) and realize that, once again, I’m making a big mistake—like the time I put my faith in the integrity of the University of Washington’s Powers-that-were and lost my family's financial foothold?
Have I, again, gambled on a vision of the success of the Halfwood Press for thirteen years and now assessing my losses?
I find myself awakening in an era of big data—when success seems is measured by how many millions of dollars you can acquire as seed money to launch a startup like the Northwest Print Center Incubators. So it seems, from the meetings I attend regularly, dominated by high tech and a favorite pursuit of Millennials, dreaming of the Next Big Thing.
In these times, six million dollars’ income from sales of presses spread over a year may not be enough to impress anyone! However, like making an artwork from scratch, few can see how.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
170925 It’s education, stupid
Before you put the cart before the horse or the horse before
the cart, either way you must remember the cart and the horse are matters of
education. The conventional thinking is that horses always go before the cart,
however it occurs to the educated person it might be better sometimes to put
the cart before the horse. For example, in crossing a field of land mines.
Watch your step!
Education taught me four principles to keep in mind when
taking a journey across an unknown territory: recursivity, concurrent
engineering, complementarity and circularity. These are all matters having to
do with planning your journey through life—which is full of “unknowns”.
In the case of Ritchie Foundation, Mini Art Gallery, and the
Northwest Print Center Incubators, these endeavors solve the problems that, the
NPCI being the cart, that there is no center of learning in this region for
printmaking. Pushing this cart across unknown territory (no one has ever
attempted it) requires testing the uncertain path.
Like inching over a frozen pond. Will the ice hold this bold and vast plan?
People might point to the schools which have printmaking
classes, however the classes are incomplete because they don’t connect old
printmaking with modern technologies. I would teach that as printmaking is,
number one, the ancestor of all the innovative technologies and, number two, that
printmaking is a performance art.
Also, I would teach that printmaking has more in common with
games than it does with painting and in addition, you get results that are good
for society. Printmaking is a social art as well as a visual art. Because printmaking
is full of little technical problems, therefor printmakers can solve other kinds of problems
better than painters, I believe, because printmaking is an art of designing
Printmaking is self-satisfying, like painting, drawing, and
crafts, but because of its technical connections to the history of science,
technology, reading, engineering, art and math (STREAM) the self-satisfaction
goes further than those arts and crafts which have less to do with society,
economics and solving the problems we face today.
It’s especially important for kids from ages 4 to 14, in my
opinion, because there is hand and team work.
Therefore, as I proceed to develop the three entities in my
hands—Ritchie Foundation, Mini Art Gallery, and the Northwest Print Center
Incubators—I have a fourth entity in mind:
And I will not forget it
when I am discussing Sip and Print, Young Printmakers, Seniors Printmaking or
any of the nineteen segments of the NPCI.
Friday, August 4, 2017
mr170804 My mistake, too?
I’m writing my autobiography. Is it to be my mistake? Should I be doing something else? I think about the world situation, and I remember what Signora Maria Guaita said: “Only artists and poets can save the world now,” she declared to me when I visited her in Florence. An old resistance fighter during WWII, I pay heed to and I honor her view.
But, here I am, writing about my life. Is this what an artist should be doing to help save Earth’s human life sustainability? Is this what an Emeralda Warrior should be doing? That old warrior, Maria Guaita, has her story—and the story of Il Bisonte, her printmaking school—in books.
Seven months and 450 pages into my autobiography, I read a memoir titled, My Mistake, by Daniel Menaker, a well-known writer in New York. Menaker wrote an article about his brother’s death—the second article he’d written about this tragedy and his self-blame. It was rejected.
He told his analyst about it. But his analyst, he writes:
“Instead of responding to the umbrage I’ve taken, he tells me that my brother’s death is threatening to turn into a nuclear integrative fantasy for me. Nuclear because it is becoming the center of my unconscious emotional life. Integrative because it creates a shape, a terrible and beautiful structure, for everything in my life that came before it and has happened afterward. And a fantasy because for reasons of unconscious conflict and patterns, I’ve begun to inject its occurrence into many parts of my history upon which it has no rational bearing.”
The analyst illustrated this nuclear integrative fantasy by what we know of the lives of survivors of the holocaust. Menaker continues to illustrate, from his experience with an example of nuclear integrative fantasy in meeting a woman whose brother had died, and who dwells on this in conversations with everyone she meets.
Is this a good use of time?
Friday, July 21, 2017
sp170720 Stuff of a saga
In a time when story finds more interaction in video games
than opera or movies, the stuff sagas are made of is still the core of these arts.
In pop literature, I think James Michener did great things by the way he gave
his readers a grounding in primordial time and space in books like Hawaii, Alaska and others.
When I designed and built the Halfwood press, at times
working alone in my woodshop—a pencil and paper handy—phrases about the press’
origins came to mind. Like cookie crumbs I followed the trail of the press, a
serial of logical sequence. I compared this to movies like The Red Violin. I imagined people’s involvement with the Halfwood
press over time. I created a saga like that of that violin, a musical
instrument designed for beauty and functionality just like the halfwood press.
Someone observed that in the crafts and the arts that you
master your instrument and then the instrument masters you, or that artists and
their instruments become one in the making of fine arts, crafts and performances.
If I am an artist—living at a time when story finds its greatest interaction in
video games—then the halfwood press is the stuff out of which a saga may emerge—the
back story for a great hybrid game.
Taking my cue from Michener, I built a sequence of events
beginning with The Women Who Fell to Earth
and which courses through the history of sailing ships named the Emeralda I and
Emeralda II, then to the design of the etching press. My blend of printing
press and musical instrument, the halfwood press, travels from 18th
Century Spain to the muddy bottom in the Pacific Northwest waters. After
two-hundred years it emerges in another story—autobiographical in part—a digital
component added-on which makes it part of the Internet of Things—IoT.
My desire for a suite of Games
for the gifts of life, I have the right stuff for a saga, a back story for a
suite of games I call Emeralda. The
saga has the unearthing of skeletons of a man and a monkey, along with a halfwood
press chest. In another part a Russian man, dying in the far north, engraved
his life story on ivory parts of a facsimile halfwood Press, telling how the halfwood
press came to the northwest; and, in the finale of my screenplay, Swipe, a precocious Brazilian street kid
grows up to be a globe-trotting teacher of printmaking.
I love the chain of events in words I was given to write—the
best gifts I could have received for my part in designing and making of the halfwood
press. Now I want the stuff of its saga to be the spine of a video game and a
Who will help?
Friday, June 23, 2017
ap170623 Saving Earth’s human life sustainability
Why write an autobiography?
When I came into the world, the belief I met was that any little
thing was a chance for growing conscious of humanity in a relationship with
Nature. By the time I had lived twenty years, my belief encompassed all Natural
things—stones, trees, animals, birds, fish—and I took my role to be that of an
artist and a teacher. To be an artist, I had to teach. Survival of that element
of humanity to see every little thing as a chance for growing conscious of
humanity’s relation with Nature depended on me teaching cultural arts.
Mechanization was constantly growing, too; and often the
demands of mechanization were counter to consciousness of Nature and our
dependence on Natural forces. By the time I was forty, I had been adopted, it
seemed, by a being showing me both Natural and mechanical forces and they are
By the time I was sixty—around the year 2001—I could see the
balance of survival tipping to the mechanical. Now that I am seventy five, the
victory in the contest between Nature and mechanization is almost won by the
latter. Humanity no longer controls the forces of mechanization. It is a fact,
as one of the authors said in a book I read when I was in my ‘thirties, that
mechanization takes command.
Mechanization has disrupted even the simplest human
reactions—such as one human making eye-contact with another human meeting on a
sidewalk. Plugged in—either with ear buds or only mentally—most people I meet
walking avoid showing any signs that they know I am there. I feel like a ghost;
I can see them, but they cannot see me it seems.
People acknowledge a dog, yet do not acknowledge another human
being. Humans put out extreme efforts to husband their vehicles above all else—devoting
huge sums of money to buying and maintaining their cars while wasting and
ignoring Natural things such as humans.
Is it only Americans who behave this way? Probably not.
However, among the inventions of Americans is entertainment and the mediums to
distribute the power of mechanization overwhelming Nature, so that billions of
non-Americans fall under its power, too.
The endowment of cultural arts allows those who practice and
teach them to see the others’ meaning, and to sense an understanding of the
reasons that people hate Americans for having destroyed so much of Nature that
Therefore, when I was in my ‘fifties and my thoughts
encountered those of a few other Americans by way of the mechanical means of
communications—TV and books, mostly—I believed that my teaching and artistic
role had found a value that transcended my expectations as an ordinary, limited
Natural human. The mechanics of goal-setting is a helpful method to keep one’s
bearings when the forces of mechanization overwhelm me.
What is this writing - this blog - worth? Six months ago I made a
commitment to write my autobiography. This project is conditional, however. If I
wrote my autobiography within the same framework as autobiographies were
written in the past, it would be like wasting Natural resources. It would be
like a person facing a walk in a desert and pouring the contents of a water
canteen into the sand as if this were the first step toward a successful
It would be a waste of the most precious of all resources
given to me: Time. Therefore, in the spirit of human creativity, creating an
autobiography must have an artist and teacher’s touch. It must use the best of
what mechanization has to offer to achieve the most human of goals—Earth’s
human life sustainability.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
os170606 Tiddlywik-ing my autobiography
Inspired by an onyx apple
I am writing my autobiography, and I have been at it for about four months. I work on it every day—sometimes all day—when I’m not corresponding with people about printmaking and my Halfwood Press line. When I tell people about it, I’m probably guilty of humble bragging. That’s when you brag about yourself behind a mask of self-deprecation.
It’s something like this: “I have to realize that writing an autobiography today—if you’re not somebody famous—is foolish on two counts: One, you’re not famous so who cares? And, Two, no one reads books any more.
It could be that I am famous, but not famous to millions of people—only a few hundred. The only big number I can claim is the number of people who have watched my videos on Youtube. One of them got over 22,000 views the last time I looked.
There is another reason for writing my novel, and it’s a secret—even to me. I am what people call a visionary, or a creative person. I’m not happy about that because there’s no demand for people like me. (Humble bragging again?). Since there’s no demand, I’m lonely—an outsider to most peoples’ circles of friends and professional associates.
In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing.
On the upside of this, however, is that I’m free of encumbrances, such as non-business telephone calls and social obligations. Even my close family members leave me alone to do what I think is important to me (and what I hope, in the end, will be important to them, too).
Here’s the point of this essay—I have in my collection of memorabilia a red onyx apple. It’s one of the things that will be discarded when I die because it’s of no apparent value. They sell for about $20 from carved gemstone suppliers. Here I paraphrase one supplier’s claims:
“Onyx apples remind people of the magic and mystery of fairy tales, and the legend of good versus evil as in the Garden of Eden. Their properties are ever-potent, a symbol of trust, growth, sustenance, and bearing fruit. Apples have also historically been used for happiness and drawing love, as well as divination rituals. Onyx is a stone of inner strength, persistence, willpower, and concentration. It keeps you focused, to develop into a master of self-realigning perceptions, emotions, actions, thoughts, and more. It purifies your inner monologue, to help you think more positively. Because as we think, so we believe and behave. This is a stone that can change your life.” – Sage Goddess
Yet I wouldn’t throw away this apple as long as I live. It was a gift to me in 1965 from my teacher in graduate school, Professor Geoffrey Bowman. It is a souvenir from Mexico, and he brought it back because I took care of his house and cats while he was gone.
Now, writing my bibliography, the onyx apple is mentioned in connection with my description of the two years I was in graduate school. As I said above, there are two reasons not to write an autobiography—being unknown and no readers—and the onyx apple, as the Sage Goddess wrote, has the power to focus on becoming a master of self-realigning perceptions, etc.
This I interpret to mean that the apple onyx may lead me to a reason to write an autobiography, which is to realign the emotions, actions, thought and more. The “more” is to create an autobiography that is a game more than a mere tome. It might be simple: make the apple, including its image, part of the autobiography and then use a wiki platform to provide the user (reader?) with an interesting experience in pursuing the links associated with the onyx apple.
Online I find several types of wiki platforms, one of which gets high ratings by writers. It is a called tiddlywiki. I'm going to download it and try it.
Monday, March 6, 2017
ap170305 Close call: Wake up call
Yesterday I walked from our home in lower Queen Ann. I was
with four blocks of my destination—the Trader Joe’s store at the top of the
hill. It was there that Lynda and I planned to meet. We coordinated my walk
time and her bus time. It was about 1:05.
Walking on 1st Avenue North I came to Blaine
Street, and I was looking down the sloping street at the Number 4 bus, waiting
there. I was startled by the sound of a vehicle skidding to stop. There, about
ten feet from me, was a black SUV that had almost hit me! I froze—like they
say, like a deer in the headlights. I looked at the driver—she was aghast. I
felt meek and I hurried out of the way.
One second was all the separated me from serious injury or
even death. She may have been going about 10 miles per hour—a little slow
because at that intersection there is a jog where Blaine meets 1st
Avenue. It takes about 27 feet to stop a car going this speed—about one and a
third times the length of a Sports Utility Vehicle like hers.
As I resumed my walk, I began playing back what a difference
that one second would have made. At ten mph, a car covers about 15 feet per
second. One second would have been enough to smash into my right side, probably
breaking my hip and femur. I’d probably be thrown a dozen feet besides,
hitting who knows what on my body: My head? Shoulder? What the overall impact would do to my back—operated
on five months ago—shoulders, neck and head is hard to tell. If not killed, I
could have been hospitalized for months.
Visualizing different scenarios in my imagination as I
walked on, I wondered how, would Lynda be informed of my situation. Would
medics go through my things, my wallet and cell phone and know to call her (assuming
someone called 9-1-1)? Lynda would be on the bus by then, heading up the hill
to meet me. Would she hear her cell phone?
What about the SUV driver? Yes, this close call was partly
my fault because I was looking the other way, distracted. Was the driver
distracted, too? Was she looking at her cell phone, or paying attention to a
kid in the back, perhaps? Honestly, I was too shook up to think about walking
around to her car window and talking about this, cussing her out, maybe, or anything.
I don’t even know if we made eye contact.
I’m pretty sure it was a woman; and as I reached Queen Ann
Avenue I hoped I would see her parking her SUV. My thoughts collected now, I’d
be pretty sure I’d have a talk with her. I didn’t see her, though. From Blaine Street
she could have gone the other way down Queen Anne Avenue.
I would never know for sure what happened yesterday when I
was in that crosswalk, but I know it was a wakeup call. Old men like me shouldn’t
go walking unattended if they don’t watch out. My mind wandered; I wasn’t
watching out for cars—like a little kid. It’s cool to think young if you’re a
creative artist, but not cool if you are in traffic.
What if I’d been hit? What would happen to the art in our
gallery, and the software experiments I’m working on? I believe I am doing
things to ensure that the art and the gallery is useful and helpful to Lynda,
and to our two daughters and their families. I will die—run over by an SUV or struck
down by a fatal heart attack or stroke; and that’s the bottom line of why I
spend my time the way I do.
That is why I’m pay Nellie to learn and develop database
management for all that I’ve made; and bookkeeping, using our family assets as
content to her databases and financial accounting. That’s why I refer always to
the dumpster story
to underscore the alternative to valuation and dissemination of the gallery’s
contents for the benefit of my family and community.
 The dumpster refers to the inevitability of discarding my entire life’s work into a 10-yard dumpster at the time of my death in order to clear our gallery and storage room so as to leave no obligation to family and friends.