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Escher cookies

My roommate’s friend showed me a cookie cutter that he created using a 3D printer. It was a tessellation that looked like a puzzle piece. That’s when I thought it would be really cool if he could create one that looked like an M. C. Esher artwork, he did some fabulous tessellations. Then it would be edible fine art.

Later, the same guy showed me the design he had for a salamander cookie cutter for just that purpose. I can’t remember if he came up with the idea before I suggested it, or if he took my idea and decided to make it more of a reality.

Either way, people are really creative. I think that’s exciting.

At last!

Well, it finally finished. That long string of late nights and headaches? I think I finally have a bit of respite, and it feels great. I was really ready for a break, and I got it at last last night after I gave that burdensome twenty minute presentation. I still have things I need to do, some assignments that need to get finished, but… I feel like I can play a little bit and not feel really guilty.

It’s interesting, looking back on the past few weeks I’ve noticed that stress can manifest itself in a number of different emotional responses- I bet they vary from person to person, but for me the most common expressions are loneliness, envy, or homesickness.

 

But at any rate; life. Life is good. Right now I’m thinking about writing and stuff, because my sister’s sharing her story with me and I’m reading a book by James C. Christensen. I really wish I could write something. I suspect I will be able to one day complete some kind of creative writing work, but in the meantime I just struggle through some ideas. I’ll keep working at it. I think picture books may help with writing, as well as with my art, because they focus on simpler stories. And they’re shorter, so I can read a lot, and then have a big reservoir of ideas and influences. The thing is, it’s going to have to be the right kind of picture book in order for that idea to work, like the book that I’m reading now and the Lloyd Alexander picture books. Those were good.

I’m also wondering what sort of things I’ll produce with my art this year. It’s exciting to think about, though no doubt the whole thing will be far more arduous when I actually get started. But it will be good to be creating things. Right now I’m just allowing for influences and inspiration, which is fun in and of itself since it often involves being exposed to new ideas, and to looking more closely at things in life. Both are good things.

 

Honestly, everyone should be an artist in some way or form- though not everyone should be the kind who publish their work. But they should be engaged in creative activity. It’s what makes us human, it’s essential to the enrichment of our lives. It’s only beneficial. Failure is almost… impossible, since it is an exploration and an expression. I still think it’s more exploration than expression though.

About that…

Sometimes I think it’s funny when I give myself pep talks like I did yesterday. Usually it doesn’t take me long before I start thinking that things weren’t so bad after all. It all seems so temporary, you know? I imagine there will be a couple of peaks and valleys going on for the next week or so. And then again to a lesser extent for the rest of the semester. But in all reality, it’s getting close to over. The end of the semester really isn’t that far away. And then I’ll find myself a whole different set of problems to work through.

Nevertheless, I think I can get excited. I can get excited for the future and the things I’m going to do. I expect art will be included in there somehow. You know, although I’ve this nightmarish assignment I have in my Children’s Literature class involving picture books, I have come to some pretty good conclusion. I can’t help but think now that reading, looking through, and studying picture books would be great research for my artwork. I can take it in all sorts of directions, because of course picture book illustrations come in all sorts of varieties. It’s exciting to think about. Yes, there will be art in my future and there will be reading. And then… who knows? Maybe I can go out and conquer the world.

Absurdist plays- search for meaning

My roommate went on a date to see the campus performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It’s an absurdist play. I’ve only seen one absurdist play; Waiting for Godot. It was, I have to say, an interesting experience. It’s certainly not something you would go for to be entertained, but it does make you think. I might have joined my roommate in watching, but I didn’t because a) I knew she was going with this guy, and I wanted them to have alone time, and b) the tickets were sold out when she reminded me. But I did ask her to bring back a program, as they generally have more insight than I could gain on my own. The program explains: “The absurd refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek for meaning in life and the human inability to find meaning.” It was nice to have a clear, concise statement like that. And it certainly made sense in the context of my limited experience with absurdist plays.

Do you know what the really fascinating thing is? The really fascinating thing is that today I’m giving a Sunday School Lesson on the Plan of Salvation, which is all about helping us understand the big picture idea. Therein we find meaning and purpose. Were it not for divine revelation, humans really would have a hard time with the juxtaposition presented in that program.

How do you make them understand? How do you get them to realize that they don’t have to live life as if they were a player in an absurdist play? Oh it makes me think of when I watched Waiting for Godot. One of the actors looked so… forlorn at one moment, that I just wanted to get onto the stage and hug him (realize that this is an unusual thing for me to want to do to a complete stranger). And to think there are people out there feeling that way… Oh I wish they could know.

And what does that mean I’m supposed to do? Plays seem to me to have a call to action. After presenting a problem and a conflict, they turn around and ask you, “So what are you going to do about it?” I feel like I’ve been given that challenge, and I haven’t even watched the play, I just read the program. And the truth is, I don’t know what I’m going to do about it. I mean, I’m going to write this post and pray that it reaches somebody who needs to hear it. But otherwise I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know who to reach out to. Yet surely there is something I’m supposed to do? Some way I could help?

Reading aloud- my vision

This is an extension of my previous post, ‘Read to your kids.’ In my Children’s Lit. class, we have been reading from Jim Trelease’s book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook.” I would recommend it to anyone (especially parents and teachers). It’s a fun read because it’s persuasive rather than just informative. In this book, Trelease discusses the many benefits your kids could have from being read to, including quite a few academic advantages.

You know how there are all these programs to take care of homeless and elderly, bring medicine to third world countries, feed the hungry, educate our youth, etc.? I think it would be great if there was a program in place to enhance the linguistic capabilities of our youth, by having read-aloud sessions by skilled performers; people who are funny and engaging.

Every time I read this book I have this kind of vision in my mind- a crowd of little kids sitting on the floor with a reader at the front of the room, a kind of guy who makes people laugh just by looking at them. He holds up the featured picture book and solemnly announces, “One fish,” in that way that kids can’t help but laugh at. He continues, with melodramatic influctuations. “Two fish. Red fish– this book is so beautiful. Blue fish– oh say it again! Everybody now…” And then the guy proceeds to beatbox, and then get out of his chair and dance as he repeats that first page, while the kids are rolling on the floor dying of laughter.

Okay, so maybe I have a bit of an active imagination.

But my point is the same point that Jim Trelease makes in his book; kids need to learn to associate reading with pleasure. The problem in our country is not illiteracy, but aliteracy. People know how to read, but they chose not to. They haven’t learned to find reading pleasurable, possibly because their encounters with reading in school have all proved to be negative. Reading becomes much less fun when you have stop in order to write the definitions to that unit’s vocabulary terms, you know what I mean? But when we can help people understand that reading can be fun– that’s when we build people up to be life-long readers.

Somebody has to read to these kids if their parents don’t. I just think it would be fun if it were done by performers, and I mean professionals. By people who will read… outside the box, so to speak. I mean, who says you have to sit in a chair the whole time while you’re reading to the kids? What if you got so excited you stood up from your chair so you could act out some of the scenes. I think there should be physical comedy, facial expressions, sound effects, comedic timing, accents, all those things that people enjoy. And I think it could be really great if we could figure out a way to get that to a bunch of people, to a bunch of kids. Especially those who are perhaps struggling with school.

I’m no expert. Not in reading to kids, not in starting up programs to enhance literacy among kids, but I think it would be great if somebody with more expertise could make it happen.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Facebook memes

In his essay, Self Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson says this; “Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.”

Whenever I read this, I can’t help but think of Facebook memes. Some of you are aware that Facebook memes get on my nerves. I mean, they’re all well and good in small portions, nice little anecdotes. But I find the sheer amount of sharing and reposting Facebook memes disturbing. It’s like what Emerson said, they’re imitating other people’s ideas– but the thoughts are not truly their own. I think we would do well if people spent more time thinking and less time receiving the thoughts of others.

Of course sharing ideas is important. But I worry that people don’t take the time to really internalize the messages they are receiving. It is to easy to repost the thing and have done. Moreover, it is important to react to and personalize the knowledge and the ideas that we receive.

Better still is to come up with our own ideas and to share them. Let’s not become a nation where we let other people do our thinking for us. If this world is going to produce future Beethovens, Shakespeares, and Platos, then we are going to have to trust our personal ability to innovate and to come up with ideas that are worthwhile.

Spasms of geekiness

I blame it on the Heros of Olympus books. I don’t know what everybody else thinks it has going for it, but I definately love the way the Greek God’s were handled in it. Rather than your typical urban fantasy about contemporary life with vampires or fair folk thrown in, these books take the archetypal approach that I really like- and there’s the idea that the Greek Gods travleled with Western Civilization, adapting to those various cultures. Which is why you get those fun mixes of contemporary america mixed in with myth and the culture of ancient empires. Long story short, it was really great that I read these books after my Humanities classes about Western Civilization. And I way prefer that aspect of the books to the whole ‘save the world’ sceanario.

So last night, I was thinking about my Fates. I told you that I created them sort of to be like the Greek Gods. I learned about the Greek Gods when I was in fifth grade. It’s one of the things I most distinctly remember learning in fifth grade. I thought it was so facinating. That fuled a great deal of my love of myths. And of course my mind, that great melting pot, collected other myths over the years, and stories and fairy tales. Archetypal characters were something I enjoy, I’ve always had a soft spot for tricksters. I also had a love of anthropormorphic personifications. This probably stemmed from my love of fairies and nature spirits as a kid, I’m also pretty sure Discworld had a lot to do with that. But at anyrate, over the years all this cooked in my mind, and what I decided I needed were my own set of immortal beings that meddled with the destinies of their mortal wards. So I called them the Fates.

Anyway, I was thinking about these Fates, and I thought about Origin Myths, something we covered in my Heroic Journey class. Some origin myths show similarities to eachother, they call it patternism. There was often ‘order coming out of chaos,’ or it may include a flood or a lot of water, there would aslo many times be a ‘breath of life’ sort of thing- breathing into a clay figure and giving it life. This stood out in my mind particularly, I think it’s because maybe the myth I looked up for a homework assignment included this. But I thought about that, and then about some of my Fates, and I started working out how the Fates helped create worlds.

I wondered if  maybe Fates are not as immortal as their mortal wards think. Perhaps the Fates merely live longer than the worlds they have stewardship over. So Fates have the opportunity to be stewards over many worlds before they die, or their essence is recycled into a different being- like the way archetypes are treated differently in different cultures. Same sort of idea, different take. And so the essence of the Fates changes, giving the idea of immortality.

So then I had to figure out which of the Fates were around at the start of this new fantasy world, and which Fates came later- either born to the First Fates or created from the world itself- from the ideas, thoughts, dreams, desires, fears, and so on from that particular realm and it’s inahbitants.

Unfortunatly, I fell asleep by trying to think it all out, and trying to add in what I had learned from Humanities classes and such, trying to have it all make sense.

Maybe it doesn’t have to all make sense. It’s not like a lot of the Origin Myths really do. A lot of mythology doesn’t make sense. But it is so much fun to play with.

The Hobbit- Kiddo’s book report, and my rant

So my younger brother (he’s a teenager, but I dubbed him ‘Kiddo’ years ago) is doing a book report on The Hobbit. He told us last week that his plan was to do a diorama, but he had no specific idea in mind. So I started throwing out suggestions. The great thing about The Hobbit is that it has plenty of things that are perfect for dioramas. In fact, we got so many ideas that… well… we decided, why pick just one? We kinda got excited (‘we’ meaning myself, the brother in question, and a few of my sisters). So currently, we  have it worked so that we have a mulit-scened diorama. We have three boxes back to back (as close as you can get to ‘back-to-back’ with three boxes), for Bilbo’s house, Gollum’s cave, and Smaug’s treasure hoarde. If we’re really on top of things, we’ll figure out how to set up a sort of forrest on top of the boxes, for some of the important scenes above ground. We’ve already collected a toy bear, and a couple of those plastic spider rings, just in case we find out a way to stick them in. We also have a toy barrel to set somewhere for Bilbo. It’s been a fun project. Why have none of my book reports been this awesome?

 

 

I’ve read The Hobbit twice. The first time I read it… I wasn’t so into it. I mean, it was all well and good, I suppose, but not quite what I wanted. Now that I think about it, maybe it was the lack of girls. I like my books to have at least a little bit of romance in them, and I always enjoy witty banter if I can get it. I’m generally very character oriented. But there was something else. I remember reading the killing of Smaug, and going “Wait, that’s it?!” And then there were still all those pages afterwards. It felt so incredibly… anti-climatic. You would think that killing the dragon would be the big finish! Well, it wasn’t, and it threw me for a loop.

Then I read it for my Homer to Tolkien class, and I liked it much better the second time through. I knew what to expect for the end, so that didn’t throw me off, and I was reading it while we were learning about the Heroic Journey. That was one of the things I especially loved about my first Humanities class, learning about Joseph Campbell’s Heoric Journey Monomyth. It’s so wonderful, because you can see it in your average entertainment, it’s not some obscure concept that only literary gurus can see and decipher. Shakespeare can challenge some, but if it’s taught right then everybody can see elements of the Heroic Journey whatever movie they choose to watch that Saturday night.

But that was a side note. The point is that when I read it, I remembered that one of the things that I liked about Bilbo is that he really wasn’t the adventuring type. He loved all the comforts in life; a chair, a fire, and regular meals. I could connect with that. It made Bilbo seem more real to me. So, if we thought about this from the perspective of the Heoroic Journey, we could say that Bilbo was tempted to refuse the call because he liked to be comfortable. And if he had chosen to stay within the lines of what was comfortable, he never would have gone on the journey. My Humanties teacher once said, “The Heroic Journey is not the journey the hero makes, it is the journey a person makes to become a hero.” And then there is of course what everybody says, growth doesn’t come in one’s comfort zone. That, for me, was the ‘insight’ that I gained from reading The Hobbit again (see, that particular Humanities teacher was really big into the idea of rereading a piece of literature, or relistening to a peice of music, and to gain insight, so that you can become truely educated instead of merely ‘schooled. He was a great teacher, very animated, and he truely loved what he was teaching).