Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Election and the Foundation of Humanity

"In dealing with the State, we ought to remember that its institution are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born: that they are not superior to the citizen: that every one of them was once the act of a single man: every law and usage was a man's expedient to meet a particular case: that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make as good; we may make better. Society is an illusion to the young citizen. It lies before him in rigid repose, with certain names, men, and institutions, rooted like oak-trees to the centre, round which all arrange themselves the best they can. But the old statesman knows that society is fluid; there are no such roots and centres; but any particle may suddenly become the centre of the movement, and compel the system to gyrate round it, as every man of strong will, like Pisistratus, or Cromwell, does for a time, and every man of truth, like Plato, or Paul, does forever. But politics rest on necessary foundations, and cannot be treated with levity. Republics abound in young civilians, who believe that the laws make the city, that grave modifications of the policy and modes of living, and employments of the population, that commerce, education, and religion, may be voted in or out; and that any measure, though it were absurd, may be imposed on a people, if only you can get sufficient voices to make it a law. But the wise know that foolish legislation is a rope of sand, which perishes in the twisting; that the State must follow, and not lead the character and progress of the citizen; the strongest usurper is quickly got rid of; and they only who build on Ideas, build for eternity; and that the form of government which prevails, is the expression of what cultivation exists in the population which permits it."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Government, politics, popular vote and the Electoral College have been discussed a great deal since the results of the election last week. There was and remains a great deal of noise in support and in opposition to the election.  There is fear percolating in our society. There is also hope. There is a desire to move to another country and a desire to stay and fight. There are clamoring voices and confusion. One could easily lose their voice in the flow of words and propaganda. One could also find their voice in opposition to and faith in the new regime. In times like these, I read, I listen, I think, I question. Reading helps in all those endeavors. While in Los Angeles recently, I went to my favorite bookstore - Iliad Books. I found an old volume of Emerson's Essays. One essay was called Politics. The essay began with the above quote.

Government and politics are not "natural" to man. They are constructs that reflect who we are, what we wish to be, our fears and our deepest desires. But man changes from generation to generation and so does government. We like to cling to the past. Many lawmakers and the Supreme Court even try to discern what the original Founding Fathers would do. It's a similar to WWJD bracelets and other merchandise I used to see. What would Jesus do? Well, what would you do in our day? Forcing government to align with the past misses the mark. Government should be fluid. A government that cannot bend fractures. But there are also lasting principles. The bedrock Constitutional principle is freedom of speech. This principle has changed over the years. Pornography was considered obscene until the Supreme Court affirmed it under the First Amendment. The Founding Fathers conceived freedom of speech in political terms. But decades of a changing society expanded it to art and commerce.

The recent election made me ponder speech and its inherent importance in a free society. We must be allowed to criticize, refute and joke about politics. We must be able to write unfavorable views of politicians. We do not have to serve the status quo. We need only serve what is foundationally human and protect it as society revolves. Take time to read, write and speak your mind every day. That is your duty as a human and not a political citizen. You do not owe your soul to the State. You owe only your commitment to your humanity

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Publishing and Vegetables

It’s almost October and the end of the year. My favorite time of year. The weather is finally cooling down in Phoenix. We are in the double digits rather than triple digits. Not quite full on Autumn but getting there. I have been busy finishing my first installment for Brain Bites – The Bloody Queen. I have also been working on illustration and design. I will be finishing MacBeth for Shakespeare Year at the end of the week. Now that I have learned typesetting in Scribus I am able to make the e-books look more pleasing.

I have contacted a manufacturing company that will put my designs/images on wallpaper, wrapping paper and fabric. Super excited about that.

I went to Brass Armadillo yesterday and basically cleared them out of Halloween papers and craft packs. I think I will be doing homemade cards for people or maybe if I can scan the pages, I can create unique cards. Or maybe I can create spell books. Obviously, I don’t have firm plans yet. But Halloween is creeping up so I better figure things out.

I have been reading a biography of King John since my next Brain Bite is on him. I have also been re-reading Jane Eyre. Wish I could say I was reading more but my time is limited and I have much to do on the business end of the spectrum.

I went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. It was fun and there is something exciting about searching for fresh fruits and vegetables. I bought a bag of beans for $5.00. I made Portuguese kale, sausage and bean soup. It was delicious and nourishing.

It’s Tuesday. Plans for the rest of the week: Publish The Bloody Queen and MacBeth, A Brief Exploration. Also, complete one design and three images for Very Long Ago. Busy week. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mary is Done

Just finished my bio of Queen Mary I of England for my series, Brain Bites. It ended on a flat note. Mary had a short reign and seemed to accomplish little. She also got the moniker “Bloody Mary” after death due to Protestant propaganda during Elizabeth’s reign. I actually feel sorry for Mary. Elizabeth was a political schemer like her mother though her life did not end with her head being chopped off. Elizabeth would have made Anne Boleyn proud. Mary was just the unfortunate first born of a man who stopped loving her mother well before Anne came on the scene.

I managed to finish a painting this weekend. Another abstract about snow. The temperature in Arizona is still hot thought it hasn’t been in triple digits for the past few days. As September unfolds, I am becoming more in the spirit of the holiday season. It’s a long march to Halloween but I am starting to savor the days as they get cooler and the autumn moon begins to glow and the starlight starts to sharpen.

I finished Game of Thrones a few weeks ago and am still missing it. I considered reading the books but my time is limited and I have far too many non-fiction books to read. I got a book on Old English and Chaucer’s Middle English. I also bought books on Old Norse, Icelandic, Inuit, and the Sagas of the Icelanders. This interest arose from Game of Thrones, which borrows from the North Atlantic languages and stories in much the same way Tolkien did.

I started watching Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on Netflix. When did magic in the West die? When did it begin? Was it the Druids? The Goths? The Vikings? The Picts? The Celts? Probably all of them and the slow progress of science and civilization eroded the power and use of magic.

Now that Mary is done, I will be starting a biography on King John. I am excited to explore the Magna Carta.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

MacBeth, MacBeth and Old English

What I’m Working On: Reached the halfway mark on my Brain Bite on Queen Mary I of England. The characters of the Tudor period are truly fascinating. There is so much political intrigue that I now know why so many books, films and TV shows have focused on this time period. I have also been reading, re-reading and watching various adaptations of MacBeth. The 2015 film with Michael Fassbinder is brutal, beautiful and hypnotic. Shakespeare isn’t something you get on the first read. You have to keep working at it and eventually you develop an understanding of the characters and plots. I am also working on paintings inspired by MacBeth. I did one and have ideas for at least two more.

What I’m Watching: MacBeth (2015 film version) and Game of Thrones (completely addictive).

What I’m Reading: MacBeth and Beowulf with a translation by Seamus Heaney. I recently bought two books on Old English. I also ordered from Amazon an Old English version of Alice in Wonderland. I am so excited to start improving my knowledge of Old English. It resembles German more than modern day English. Luckily, I am not new to German.

What I’m Searching For: Books on the Inuit language and Old Norse. I recently acquired the Sagas of the Icelanders. I plan to make a lifelong study of the Northern Atlantic languages. Are there websites out there where you can communicate with others in Old Norse, Inuit and Old English? If not, maybe I should start the website.

Art: Working on abstract pieces inspired by MacBeth. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Recap of the Week

Blogging has been going well on my other blogs but I keep neglecting my author blog. Here’s to getting back on track.

What I’m Working On: I have been feverishly getting Brain Bites off the ground. I have the logo and the first e-book cover. I also found a typesetter. The website is still under construction but the blog is alive and I have been posting to the Facebook page. I am also getting closer to my 20,000 word mark for my biography of Queen Mary I of England. I binged watched Tudors and Wolf Hall to get me into the spirit. I also bought the book Wolf Hall. No idea why I didn’t read it before as it won the Booker Prize. Thomas Cromwell is definitely an interesting character and I will be doing a Brain Bite for him as well. However, for the next Brain Bite for October launch I will be doing The War of the Roses.

What I’m Watching: I have been happily sucked into the world of Game of Thrones. I am on Season 4. I avoided it for the longest time because I thought it was based on a video game. It is exceptionally well written. Martin said he based the plot on The War of the Roses. That’s probably why I like it. Pure fantasy is not my favorite genre. I did a hefty dose of reality mixed in.

What I’m Reading: MacBeth by Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I by Anne Somerset.

What I’m Searching For: Blogs on the Tudors and Shakespeare. Interesting podcasts on history and literature.

Art: I completed my first wood burning project this weekend. I loved doing it and will plan on a Halloween project. Probably a haunted house. I also started an abstract piece called "Tangled Waves" using high flow acrylics. I don’t like it yet. I need to pour more than brush.

Fiction: My novel is tabled until October so that I can finish a few e-books for Brain Bites. However, If I start again in October it will be finished by the end of the year.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tulum Mexico - Mondays Suck


            I was limping. Something had popped in my knee in the Grand Cayman after snorkeling in choppy waters. It was close to 100 degrees with high humidity in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. It felt like 110 degrees. We had disembarked from the boat from Cozumel. It was a yellow and blue boat that was air conditioned. It looked very much like the boats I traveled on from Los Angeles to Catalina. The attendants were dressed in black pants with white collared shirts. They stood at attention with their hands behind their backs like military sailors when we boarded.
            Playa Del Carmen was just south of Cancun. It was a resort town and it seemed to be crowded with young adults on some sort of school break. It was October so perhaps it was fall break. None of them were limping and I felt withered in their youthful presence. Todd was bouncing around pointing at the clear blue ocean and the off-white colored sand. He was acting like he had never seen the ocean before though we had both grown up in Southern California. I tried to ignore him. I was miffed. I had a dream of trying to call him in my sleep. I was just in an explosion and somehow survived with my phone intact. I called Todd but he never picked up. Then the explosion was on the news and he knew I was at the mall that exploded. And he still didn’t pick up the phone. When the concierge on the cruise called for a wakeup call that morning, I was angry.
            “Why don’t you pick up the phone when I call?”
            “What?” He looked confused.
            “I was calling you in my dream. You didn’t pick up.”
            “Um…I will have to remember to answer your dream calls. Sorry.” He hugged me but I still felt frustrated.
            We weren’t staying in Playa del Carmen. We were boarding a bus to Tulum. A middle aged man in a small tan sombrero held up a yellow wooden sign that was etched with Tulum. He waved his arm and about twenty of us started following him. We weaved through streets and I hobbled along. Men and women kept approaching us hawking their wares. I was used to Tijuana. This was not unusual. But it seemed odd in such a perfect, pretty town. This was not the real Mexico. This was tourist Mexico.
            A man approached. “A hat for you lady?” He was dressed in an aqua shirt with a Calvin Klein logo and Levis. I had never been approached by a street seller in name brand clothes.
            I waved him off.
            “You’ll need one where you are going. Believe me.”
            I hated hats. I once made a New Year’s resolution to wear more hats. I wore one in January and then lost the hat. I stopped making resolutions after that.
            The bus was as large as a Greyhound and it was mercifully air conditioned. The man took off his sombrero and picked up a microphone. His English was superb though heavily accented. His voice added ambience. During the bus ride to Tulum he talked about Mayan culture. He said we would be stopping at a Mayan co-op for a bathroom break and to shop.
            “There is a toilet in the back of the bus. Only number one. No number two.” He chuckled. I wondered what would happen if someone went number two.
            The drive to Tulum was smooth. The highway was impeccably paved. No bumps or crumpled pavement like in Belize.
            I had dim visions of the Mayan co-op. The native population in Mexico were treated differently than in the US. They weren’t given reservations. The Mexican government acknowledged that their land was everywhere. They were granted land for co-ops but, for the most part, the native population blended with the new population. Perhaps because there are 15.7 million of them and they represent 14.9% of the population. There are also 89 indigenous languages spoken in Mexico and they are accorded the same rights as Spanish. Could you imagine Cheyenne being on par with English?
            The co-op was not as you might imagine. It was similar to a mall or high end business center in the US. The building was classically Spanish but was decorated with the Mayan language. Inside were clean toilets though lacking in auto-flush. The rest of the co-op looked like a high-end gift store you might find in a high-end hospital in the US. It was large, airy and riddled with local crafts. We selected a Mayan chessboard set. All the prices were in US dollars and were not cut rate as in Tijuana. There was also no haggling. It was orderly, clean and it felt a lot like going to Macy’s.
            Back on the bus the tour guide started talking about Mel Gibson. Apocalypto. I had porous recollections. I watched the movie in bed as I weaved in and out of sleep.
            “Oh, we Mayans nearly had a heart attack watching that movie. Mayans did not sacrifice people.”
            I perked up. “Yeah, they did,” I told Todd.
            “I know they did.” He was frowning.
            I flicked my hand. “Propaganda. What is he doing trying to rewrite history and subtly shove it down our throats?”
            “He doesn’t want Mayans to look bad.”
            “Wouldn’t that make the trip more interesting? And on your left is where blood gushed from captives in order to address a drought or, I don’t know, because it was Monday and Mondays suck. Can you just imagine the blood spurting from their arteries?”
            I must have been getting loud.
            Signs welcomed us to Tulum. The parking lot was dirt but orderly. All the buses parked in the same area. There were more buses than cars. The guide took us to a shopping and dining area.
            “Here is where you can eat fajitas and drink margaritas.” It was an open restaurant that looked to be in the throes of a busy hour. We continued on. On the right was a Subway. I had seen one in Carmen de La Playa as well. I didn’t like seeing the strip mall American staple nestled in a Mexican national park.
            The path to Tulum was long and winding. I kept replaying the Beatles song in my head as I walked along, grimacing and limping. Tulum was a walking tour and my snorkeling bum knee was slowing us down. When we got to the park it was expansive. But I was gob smacked by the beauty of it. The ruins were worn down like dog bones. They dotted the entire park like massive tombstones for an egomaniac or a head of state. Half way through the park I couldn’t walk anymore. The heat and the pain in my knee was crippling. I sat down on a gray stone.
            “Todd, go through the rest of the park and take pictures.”
            “I don’t want to leave you.” He looked sad.
            “Just go. I’m done.” I had reached my physical limit.
            He left with his iPhone ready to snap photos. I sat on the stone in the shade of a palm tree. Occasional gusts of coolish air from the sea calmed my brow. I could hear the ocean waves beating in the distance. I could see swaths of cerulean sea. Flashes of white sand. And then the iguanas. One crawled near me. We stared at each other. The iguana didn’t move and I didn’t flinch. This went one for several minutes and then the iguana lashed out its tongue and then quickly retracted it. It must have caught a small bug. I turned and four had crawled onto the ruins to my left. I was wilting in the heat and they were flowering. They seemed powerful and in my pain induced state I imagined them as beastly gods protecting me from the ghosts of Mayans ready to lob off my head. I thought of my blood trickling down the stone. I shook my head. Vacation was not a time to think of mortality. That was for Mondays because Mondays sucked.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

#Readathon Wrap Up

Which hour was most daunting for you? Hour five, if you can believe it. I needed sleep and I ended up spending a couple of hours napping. I fell asleep with my Kindle open and two books spread out across a pillow.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae. There is just so much information packed on every page and her style is innovative and hypnotic.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Maybe more Twitter interaction.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? The excitement.

How many books did you read? I read part of the Gray Notebook by Josep Pla, Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia, Che by Jon Lee Anderson, The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott, The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway, The Will to Meaning by Viktor Frankl, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. So 7 books that I alternated between.

Which book did you enjoy most? The Adderall Diaries.

Which did you enjoy least? None.

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I was not, but hopefully I will be the next time around.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I am definitely going to participate as a reader.