2019: Fractal-blessings

Even though it has been in use for over thirty years fractal is a word that remains a little ambiguous to me. Oh, I’ve read many definitions to include that by the Fractal Foundation1: A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop… Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc.”

 …all of which is incredibly informative but a bit unwieldy to use in composition or conversation so I tend to think of fractals as: lots of little bits that all look alike and are used to make larger things that look like the little bits. I also use fractal as a found word2 for descriptions that lack a more exact term, a situation that has come about since my mobility became limited and my pain level increased. I am very goal-oriented and tend to think of life in big-picture terms, but I have had to learn to set fractal-goals and recognize fractal blessings.

Where I used to meticulously map out each week in terms days filled with interlocking blocks of time filled with work or appointments I’m now happy to make it to the bathroom and back unaided. Where I used to take my comfortable home life for granted I am grateful for the individual efforts of each member of my family. Instead of just plopping into a chair I am grateful for that one perfect pillow that isn’t too soft or too firm. I read and reflect on each name/like under the FaceBook posts.

Instead of a general “it’s all good” I’ve become more aware of – and more thankful for – each good thing in my life no matter how small.

The fractal-goals and fractal blessings.

___________________________________________________________________

Notes:

  1. A for-real  New Mexico-based non-profit organization advocating math and science education through the use of fractals.
  2. See 2019: Found Words

…counting down the days…

Midnight Son Draft Cover v4-2 Front 6x9 72dpi

…as my former brother-in-law Bobby used to say “It’s like being nibbled to death by a duck”

I am referring of course to the protracted production process involved in getting Midnight Son into print. Subtitled “Growing up in 1960’s Alaska” the book will include edited/expanded posts from this blog along with new material such as maps, illustrations and bonus text that will see print for the first time in this volume.

At this point I find it had to keep from hopping up and down on one foot or rubbing my hands together in glee – It’s taken more time and a LOT more work than I had anticipated (hence the opening quote) but the initial print run through Kickstarter will go live by September 1st so keep an eye out for the official announcements.

You also need to know if you want an autographed print copy of the book you’ll need to jump on the initial Kickstarter campaign. I hate those “limited time only // not sold in stores” advertising slams as much as you do but unfortunately I’m working against some very real physical limitations.

Midnnight Son Cover Art

2019: Found Words

Art Appreciation was the class I was least interested in teaching when I first took on college art instruction in the fall of 1988, but as luck would have it was the class I taught most often and eventually my favorite subject to teach. Looking back it should have been no surprise as the course combined two of my academic loves (history and art) but I also enjoyed it for all the new information I picked up on technique and philosophy.

One concept especially interesting to me was the use of found objects – everyday consumer goods, packaging and cast-off items – in work by creators such as proto-Pop artist Joseph C. Cornel. I adapted a modified version of this idea in my own work by recreating combinations of everyday objects from wood, paper and resin and the general idea continues in my work to this day, but since I am more prone now to word-crunching than paint-sloshing I look for found words instead of found objects to use in artistic expression.

Many of these found words I’ve borrowed from foreign languages. While my two sons have been blessed with the gift of tongues, my own foray into linguistics has been tentative at best. I started with German in fifth grade after listening to Wehrmacht troops growl their Teutonic lines on Combat!  and college entrance requirements herded me into Spanish and Spanish II classes in high school. In 1974 my pride earned me a borderline B- in a university Japanese class but for the most part my use of other languages was an occasional word or phrase that added emphasis or humor when needed.

As a teenager and young adult most of those individual words were swear words, and not surprisingly many of them were bogus words that someone had invented1 then passed off as part of another culture’s lexicon. However in the last few years through the debatable miracle of FaceBook I have learned a couple of colorful terms so useful that if not actually part of another language should be declared to be so.

One is kintsukuroi,  a Japanese term that translates as “to repair with gold” and refers to the art or repairing pottery with precious metals with the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for being broken and repaired.  Growing up on a frontier meant using things until they wore out and fixing them when they broke and that mindset has stayed with me throughout my life. When we were first married My Beautiful Saxon Princess could never understand why I prized my patched Levi 501’s over my $502 designer Hash jeans with the star embroidered on the butt pocket. It wasn’t until we went through lean times of our own that she began to understand the concept when she saw how I treasured the cut-off jeans I wore every summer in the late 1990s, shorts that I wore not for comfort but for economy  when I took the money I would have otherwise spent on new trousers and used it in getting our sons launched in life.

Hiraeth is a term I’ve just recently discovered and as I understand it comes from the Welsh or one of the other Celtic tongues. It refers to homesickness for a place that you cannot return to, a place that no longer exists or perhaps never was. As we cope with a heat wave that is excessive even for Tennessee while our current society  warps more and more into a condition that I struggle to understand, this word comes to mind quite often, and I long for a place and time that is much cooler in both temperature and temperament.

As for crapulent; yes it is an English word, but is has a Latin root so I include it with my list of found words. I first heard it years ago on a Simpsons episode and while technically it refers to physical suffering from excessive eating or drinking it’s much too useful in describing a general dissatisfaction with daily life – when I wake up to find the last bit of milk left for my Trix has gone sour, my shoelace breaks when tying my shoes and there is a tax audit notice in the mail nothing describes my situation better than to say I’m having a perfectly crapulent day.

Unfortunately one found word that I wish I could un-find is cultural appropriation, a term used in a pejorative manner when referring to the use of words of items normally associated with another group, as in “only a Japanese person should wear a kimono”  or “only a Native American should do voice-over work for an animated Comanche warrior.” While I understand the importance for respect for all cultures I came of an age when more effort was put into being inclusive  rather than divisive – if certain current social trends continue I wonder if there will come a day when I’m judged too melatonin-deficient to love old school R& B or in possession of one too many Y chromosomes to be a true Joni Mitchell fan.

Whatever.

Until that day comes I will continue to borrow and tailor words from all sources to better communicate with and sometimes bring a smile to those around me.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Notes:

  1. When I was in fifth grade I was convinced that my sister Robin had invented the word “barf” while my best friend Mark was convinced his older brother had coined the word.

 

  1. …which was serious money in 1977

..yet another peek!

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my creative career was that the last few details take almost as much time as the main process – and it turns out be much the same case with publishing. However, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and as far as I can tell it’s not the headlight to an oncoming locomotive.

The checklist for finishing “The Life and Times of A Midnight Son”  isn’t too overwhelming:

  • Three interior illustrations
  • Cover artwork
  • Final edit

We still have to hammer out marketing details but for now I will share the  the illustration that accompanies the final chapter.

Third Parent

 

Coming Attractions

(Be honest – after reading that title visions of  anthropomorphic movie snacks dancing across the screen while singing “Let’s all go to the lobby…” popped into your head.)

If it seems like new material has been a bit sparse lately you’re not mistaken – I’ve been caught up in some other endeavors that have taken me away from my keyboard.  Some of these activities involve visual art, but my biggest iron in the creative fire is a book project that should see print sometime between now and the Fourth of July. It involves reworking my stories from 1962 to 1967 into a volume dealing with growing  up in Alaska in the 1960s.

More than that I’d rather not say, other than it will be available in both e-book and dead-tree versions. I’m also doing the cover and interior spot illustrations.

I will keep you posted.

I Wish I’d Written That (Part 2)

As promised listed below are the sources for the quotes listed in my 19 NOV 2018 post:

“Gentlemen, we’ve got a date with destiny, and it looks like she’s ordered the lobster” by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden in  the 1999 movie Mystery Men

“Mists soft and transparent as excuses flapped across pastures the color of crap-table felt” P.J. O’Rourke from the chapter on Paraguay in his 1992 book Give War A Chance.

“She had that mistreated and neglected look, like an encyclopedia that had been owned by stupid people”. A pre-Dragnet Jack Webb from the radio show Pat Novak for Hire

“I’m not saying it’s been too windy, but there’s a witch’s feet sticking out from under the house and everything’s in color: by Steve Pritzker in the “A Dark and Stormy Night” episode of the TV series Silver Spoons

“He’s so (expletive deleted) dense – this morning after formation I caught him sitting in the cab of his deuce-and-a-half  trying to read an M&M”  informal job performance evaluation submitted by 2LT David Ralph Deitrick  during JRX BRIM FROST 1981

2018: I Wish I’d Written That.

It takes a certain level of hubris to “live out loud”1 as a columnist or blogger – you have to have a fair amount of confidence in your ability to crunch words in an effective and entertaining way.  I do a pretty fair job, but there are times when I’m taken down a notch or two –  humbling moments that involve me coming up against a passage in someone else’s work that just so FREAKING GOOD it knocks me back on my literary fourth-point-of-contact

…passages like the following:

  1. “Gentlemen, we’ve got a date with destiny, and it looks like she’s ordered the lobster
  2. “Mists soft and transparent as excuses flapped across pastures the color of crap-table felt”
  3. “She had that mistreated and neglected look, like an encyclopedia that had been owned by stupid people”.
  4. “I’m not saying it’s been too windy, but there’s a witch’s feet sticking out from under the house and everything’s in color:
  5. “He’s so dense – this morning after formation I caught  him sitting  in the cab of his deuce-and-a-half  trying to read an M&M”

Recognize any of them?

I’ll share the sources in a day or two.

 


 

A phrase shamelessly horked from superstar columnist Anna Quindlen.

Friend Events!

It’s tough maintaining a social life when you’re stuck in a studio most of the time,  so it’s a real treat when an unexpected  “frent” (friend event) happens in my life. It’s even better when more than one of these “frents” happen in short order, which is exactly what came about this last month.

The first good news involves  Oscar Hokeah, a digital-age friend whom I’ve never physically met but who shares a love for accurately launching words in the same way  an expert marksman likes to hit the “ten-ring”. Oscar just got a book deal and while most writers write because word-crunching is woven into their DNA it’s always  nice to get some of that external validation1.

The other “frent” involves a buddy from years ago,  and by “years ago” I mean decades. Dave Doering was a fellow member of The Happy Valley Space Academy 2 a  loose-knit group of artists and fans living in the Provo-Orem area in the late 1980s. We’d meet once a month to socialize and share our work but Dave wasn’t above about stopping by during the month as well…and more importantly wasn’t above serving as an impromptu model when I needed reference material and the deadline was short.

Dave is a writer/podcaster interested in the fan/mundane interface and since the early 1980’s has been instrumental in both the establishment and conduct of a writer’s conference dubbed Life, The Universe and Everything. Dave and I lost contact when my family and I left Utah Valley in 1987 and I was pleasantly surprised to get a phone call from him during an otherwise dismal week.

Below is an example of a last-minute modeling job Dave sat in on:

 

COL 2.00002