Deadline closing in:

I meant to write this entry last night, but at 3 AM I realized that it was probably better to give it a rest. Or, give myself a rest. Little did I suspect that I would sleep until 1 PM.

I have wanted to get away from dealing with the subject of my Research Guide (Zen and Art) sometime today…I just don’t know if I’ll have the time. I have a few tasks clearly laid out before me, and they need to be done by Wednesday night. I also have work on Wednesday morning and afternoon, which I don’t want to miss; also meaning that I won’t want to stay up until 3 AM again, tonight.

That’s if I want my immunity to be high enough to be around patrons.

The major challenge is integrating all the information I’ve found on Zen and Art. I have narrowed my scope down to 12 books I can review on the subject.

Right now, I kind of just want to bliss out on some knitting or sewing, or something. I also need to do some laundry, and take a shower.

Maybe I should make a schedule? Or say, hey, I can start my laundry and sew until 4 PM or something, and then I need to get back to work?

I don’t anticipate falling asleep until 1:30 AM tonight — it’s what happened the last time I stayed up until 3 AM the night before. That gives me about 10 hours to work with…

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Strategy for the Research Guide on Zen & Wabi + Sabi

I’ve realized that I don’t have a lot of time to read deeply in all of my books, as regards my Research Guide. Perhaps I should have chosen something that I knew more about, rather than something relatively new which I was interested in! (I know about some other types of Buddhism, but not overly much about Zen.)

In any case, the Research Guide is the last major project I have to do. I have a mostly-complete project due in another of my classes, and a Mock Final, then a Final in my Database class. The Research Guide is the major thing that’s left to tackle.

(Actually, I just realized that I totally forgot about a couple of chapters of reading, due to the fact that I stopped recording assignments in my Bullet Journal about two weeks ago. However, this is just background information for the Research Guide, and can feasibly wait until after the Guide is done.)

I’m still feeling pretty good, about now; I’m just trying to figure out how to tackle this topic tomorrow. I’ll complete my reading in Six Names of Beauty and look in the two books on wabi sabi I’ve got. A fourth is by D. T. Suzuki, who helped popularize Zen in the West. I will have to look into the chapter where he talks about aesthetics…

And I’ll need to confront the bags of library books, tomorrow. However, I think it will be fun, which is the upshot.

Cultural location and creative context: Part 2

Part 1 of this series, where I introduced the fact that I (surprisingly) have come to view myself as more Japanese-American than I thought I could be (as a multiracial person), is at this link. (At this point, I wish my thoughts had been more together when I wrote it! Also at this point: I realize that I don’t need to try to be more Japanese-American than I am.)

What I had thought of, but didn’t have time to relate in that post, was the concept of being, “grounded,” in some sort of definite culture. Going on the assumption that most artists in the past didn’t necessarily have a global/multicultural/metropolitan viewpoint (which might be wrong; I haven’t checked it out yet), I find myself thinking that it must have been easier for them to locate themselves within a cultural milieu.

Or, as I found myself thinking in one of my Art History classes, we don’t bash Michelangelo because he didn’t know anything about Chinese brush painting.

Of course, I can’t be certain about the factual certainty of that: but…is it clear? There are so many cultures worldwide, and all of them have their own traditions and ways of approaching the world. Being good at one way doesn’t mean one is a “Master,” because we live in an era where being a Master at one thing means having taken time away from something else (and that generally means not being too great at it).

As an example, I’m a fourth-generation Japanese-American, and have found myself trained (though minorly) in linoleum block printing (a.k.a. linocuts), which I learned in high school. I’m closer to American than I am to Japanese, but I have a ton of underlying family influences which make me different from majority Americans and are traceable to the culture of one side of my family’s diaspora. At the same time, my training is Western in nature.

On top of that, now that I think of it…is the other side of my parentage, which is where I get my mysticism. Where that originates (other than with my great-grandmother, and where she got it from), I don’t know. But I’m trying to work it into my thoughts that it is okay to be a little non-rational. πŸ™‚

I was taught about linoleum block printing, but not woodblock printing. Thus, on initially encountering woodblock printing, I was ignorant of the vast differences between both techniques. I didn’t quite get a clue until trying to carve a block for the first time and realizing how differently wood behaves, than linoleum. It made me realize how skilled carvers had to have been, in order to create things so detailed and precise.

The Honolulu Art Museum has a rather famous collection of woodblock prints going back…a very long time, I would say over hundreds of years, at least from theΒ ukiyo-eΒ era forward through shin hanga and sosaku hanga to what might possibly reach modern mokuhanga? (–although that is a flash in the pan, comparatively.)

I’ve mentioned this before: while I was there I picked up a book titled Shin Hanga: The New Print Movement of Japan, text by Barry Till. I’m hoping the Reader will pick up on my last mention of this book; otherwise, I can hunt for it after I post this. (EDIT: my first mention of this book, is at this location.) In any case, I picked up the book because it reproduces a great number of color prints which have beautiful composition and flow. I had hoped that studying them could help me learn how to improve composition and color usage in my own projects.

What happened later is that somehow I began searching out information on mokuhanga (so far as I can tell, this is the modern version of Japanese woodblock printing). There are some sources existing on this; the one I found (and bought) was Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop by April Vollmer. Not realizing the difficulty of what I enamored to undergo, I set about collecting tools to use to draw my own prints.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but it seems obvious to me now: Japanese woodblock printing evolved within a relatively insular society. This means that there is a unique way of doing things. This also means that there is a unique, apparently self-contained way of doing things, which does not necessarily cross over with superficially similar methods of other cultures.

For example, there are special brushes used to disperse pigment over the surface of the wood block, which have to be prepared a certain way (the ends of the hairs have to be singed and grated against “dragon skin”, like a metal rasp; sharkskin was used prior). (Vollmer 83) This means — for a Westerner — if one wants to have the possibility of doing things precisely like professional Japanese artists do, one will have to go out of their way to find, buy, and prepare specialty brushes which aren’t widely available overseas (except as imports).

Of course, there is not really a point to a Westerner trying to mimic ancient techniques (except to preserve them), because for one thing, a lot of these prints were made in production workshops, not just by one single artist.

Sosaku hanga, a term used for “artist’s prints” (I am not sure that’s the direct translation, but it’s what I can remember and not find right now in Till — the book lacks an Index), differed from these and came about after the opening of Japan to the West. They focused more on the total control of the artist from concept through production of the finished print.

Before that time, the total control of the artwork being in one person’s hands, doesn’t seem to have been a concern; but it came to be felt that the spirit of the work was not as pure if the artwork was a collaboration. (I don’t know exactly where this idea originated, but I think I read it in Till.)

Of course, though; there is a big emphasis on collaboration and teamwork in Japanese culture, generally; whereas expressing individuality…I’m not entirely certain where that philosophical idea comes from. I would make a guess that it is someplace and sometime in Europe, and I’d check the Renaissance, first.

Anyhow, what I mean to get at is that we each have our own cultural locations, and I think they’re getting more complex. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be more difficult to locate oneself in culture, if one happens to have a ton of differing cultural influences (not limited to one’s family, but including work, peers, community, food, religion, gender, philosophy…).

Having these cultures colliding means that generations like my own have choices about what techniques to employ and whether to employ them fully traditionally, or whether to mix our influences. There’s a choice between trying to preserve an old way of life and going on to make something entirely new, but still based on what came before. Innovate, I guess.

I read somewhere that it had been an ideal in some cultures to mimic what the artist saw. I believe this was in Six Names of Beauty by Crispin Sartwell.

“Art, both in Japan and in the West, is traditionally accounted for as a mimesis of the world…[yet] in suiseki, nature is used as an imitation of nature, earth of earth, reality of reality, truth of truth…Plato’s critique, in which he condemns representational arts as deceptive, is entirely out of place.” (Sartwell 119-120)

I think what’s holding me back within my art (particularly drawing and painting), is this idea of representation, of trying to copy what I see — but for what? Why? Why are things so important? Why are bodies so important? Physicality?

I think it’s because no one has really — directly, at least — taught me any other way to approach image-making.

I also think it’s because my education was lacking in philosophical breadth. And I didn’t realize I was lacking the information until I read something which had a message different from the one I was familiar with.

I am going to try and get back on the Zen train and read what I have, even though I’m not sure I knew what I was getting into when I embarked on the quest.

But I don’t think I’m Zen. I actually am doubting whether I still want to hang with Buddhist philosophy (though it does come in handy when I need a reality check). My draw to Zen occurred because I associated asymmetrical composition with wabi sabi, but I am thinking that this isn’t exactly accurate; I think the love for asymmetry predates wabi sabi. And I’m doubting anatman (the doctrine of no-self: conditional arising negates the need for a concept of a soul or identity), at this point.

What has been happening over the last few days has gotten me back to the point of thinking that what I experience is not my body. It is through my body, but it is not my body. The body is just a channel for something beyond.

And…now I’m talking like I’m philosophically Greek or (East) Indian…or a New Ager. Or a psychic/medium. Which…I can get into that, another time. Been there. (No offense intended to any of these groups!)

I just am starting to believe in souls, like I’ve started to develop a concept of evil, and I’m starting to develop a concept of Deity and the hereafter. And I’m thinking about what it means if everything I think I know is wrong. (Or, just some of it…)

WORKS CITED:

Sartwell, C. (2006). Six names of beauty. New York, NY: Routledge.

Till, B. (2007). Shin hanga: The new print movement of Japan. Portland, OR: Pomegranate Communications, Inc.

Vollmer, A. (2015). Japanese woodblock print workshop. Berkeley, CA: Watson-Guptill Publications.

Doing a project on Zen and Art.

Well. I did go to the art store. I also did go to the library…and now I have enough books on Zen and Art, that I probably don’t need to be looking for any more (though it still is tempting to look for more!).

For my final project in Reference & Information Services, I’m making a Research Guide. It began as an investigation as to Zen’s influence on Japanese aesthetics, particularly in art…though it may not end up as I intended. I did some reading last night and realized that my original idea may not have been based on accurate information.

It is, however, still really fascinating. In addition to books on Zen + Art, I have found books describing Zen practice…which is appealing to me, for the reason that it seems to be a religion without “religion.” By that I mean that it doesn’t encourage faith or belief, but is rather an orthopraxic religion instead of an orthodoxic one (i.e., “do the right thing,” as versus, “believe the right thing,” and not, “do the right thing because it’s right,” but rather, possibly, because it lessens pain).

I have a lot of reading ahead of me, though! Right now, I’ve been working for most of the morning, so I wasn’t too eager to jump back into reading…I only brought along my SQL textbook and it’s like (sarcasm) yay SQL amazing fascinating right (/sarcasm).

Anyhow, I’ve decided not to focus on that, right now.

I’ve still got a bunch of grading to do for my Instructional Design class…and a little bit of homework for Database Management. But after that, this is all Finals. I’m going to try and not be frightened about that, and instead, look forward to what is going to be happening during Summer. I may get time to work on my arts and crafts, and it’s possible I could have a really good time in the two classes I’m set up to take.

I know, I know. But it’s just four units. πŸ˜›

I get a little free time, and I stay up ’til 3 AM…

I now have free time…and I’m not entirely certain of what to do with it! The last few days have just been crammed with the Instructional Design work plus the Database work, plus the Honors initiation. And before that was the Reference Sources writeup, and my trip to Southern California. And before that was trying to get things out of the way so I wouldn’t have to study the whole time I was in Southern California.

So I suppose it has been a long run of stress.

I have books I can read — lots of them, and reading might help me prepare for my upcoming Research Guide assignment (which is due in 3 weeks!). I also can check on my lightfastness samples — it will be about four months since I’ve set those paint swatches in the sun, and I do want to see what they look like!

Speaking of time elapsed, I should also note that in about two weeks, I’ll be able to go up in gauge to 12g earrings…which has got me thinking about what I want to do with my ears. I know I don’t want to expand my piercings to the size where I’ll be wearing plugs, and I’m fairly certain I don’t want to go over 9g-10g. The thing is what to do with them if I won’t be wearing anything over 10g.

The thing I can think of, besides getting some tunnels so that I can put fine (easily torn) thread through them and from that, hang drops, is to get a second piercing on the left side. Probably a lobe piercing — I do not have enough trust in my environment and hygiene to discount the possibility of infection over (or within) cartilage, which can seriously (and permanently) deform the tissue.

Not to mention that I can’t bet on antibiotics working, which is the major concern. Even if I could, I don’t want to wipe out my beneficial gut bacteria (I’m the only person in my immediate family without stomach troubles).

So I do think that I’ll be looking at the color chart. I wonder if I should try something with watercolors again, or drawing, or playing with beads (the last sounds easiest, for someone who hasn’t been doing art regularly, but the first sounds most potentially rewarding, for a color fiend).

I could also play in my Art/Design journal with markers, which was really enjoyable the last time I was doing it. (There’s something just comfortable for me about experimenting with graphic text.) This might be fun and relaxing, just because it’s informal.

I should note as well that I have a couple of books here on watercolor that I could read if I were too scared to pick up a brush (which is silly, right? It’s just a brush…and they’re just colors! Stop thinking about how much they cost!).

Then there are the 5 Persian cucumbers which I need to pickle, a bunch of spinach which still needs to be eaten, and I have to pick up some more soba. Not to mention the two separate bags of radishes, one of which can go in with the cucumbers (though pickled radishes smell awful, just as a warning! I submerge them sliced and raw in a 1:1 mixture of cool unseasoned rice vinegar and sugar. They take a few hours to macerate. Cover them so they don’t stink up the refrigerator too much).

And then I can get back to trying to read in Japanese again, or maybe review the xeroxes I have on composition in Chinese brush painting. I actually do have ink (and brushes) for Sumi-e…not sure how related those two are. But if I wanted to work monochrome and nontoxic, there is a very good option.

Not sure if I should try and buy the book I got from the library on Chinese brush painting techniques. Looks like it’s out of print.

And oh! I totally forgot about the sewing projects! And the embroidery stuff!

Hmm…I did get a book just to learn new embroidery stitches. And I have the two new books on Shinto and one on the Atthakavagga…the latter of which may inspire at least one new story.

Which I can write in (or make notes on, in) my Art/Design journal as it arises. That sounds good!

So, tomorrow:

  1. Go get some more soba (and some kamaboko) so that your remaining two days of the soba tsuyu isn’t wasted. (It only stays good for three days.)
  2. Pickle the cucumbers and radishes.
  3. Eat soba with the rest of the spinach, kamaboko, and pickles.
  4. Look at the lightfastness chart and photograph for reference, if the sun is out.

And maybe:

  1. Play in your Art/Design journal, or
  2. Read in The Buddha Before Buddhism: Wisdom from the Early Teachings (by Gil Fronsdal, 2016, Shambhala).
  3. Write in your Art/Design journal.

I think that’s enough!

(Preliminary) reasons to write

I just got back from a library more useful than the one I work at πŸ˜‰ (I forgot how nice that library is), and am going to take a quick break here to note down some things I found last night, when writing.

I took about 20 minutes last night to begin writing out the narrative of the story I’ve mentioned recently. I’m actually feeling very good about it, and about having taken some time last night, to read in Drawing Words and Writing Pictures. It’s been a long time since I’ve dealt in fiction, but the value of it came to me when I was trying to fall asleep.

Fiction allows one to try out being different people and making different life decisions than the ones one has made, or possibly might make. It allows one to look at life from multiple perspectives, without necessarily validating one over the other (though to be honest, I don’t particularly strive for objectivity in my fiction!).

One of the things which has stopped me from reading fiction in the past has been the sense that some authors (particularly in the Classics) wrote for the reason of reinforcing and validating their own worldviews. I’m not sure anymore that this is the case; as I’ve mentioned before, my memories of my young adulthood are distorted by untreated illness affecting my cognition, and as such, they’re unreliable.

This is kind of a difficult truism to combat, though. If one believes it, it may prevent them from reading fiction at all, and from writing it as well. If one doesn’t read any more narrative after that, one just continues to hold the belief while the world around one moves on. It might not even help if one tries to get out of it by reading creative prose; often, we see what we are looking for, particularly when there is no one “right” interpretation of a text.

It’s generally accepted that in literary arts, as in fine arts, there is no one “right” or “correct” interpretation, by the way…because not even the author can know such a thing. There’s just too much subconscious and unconscious content for this to be true, and often the interpretation of a text has as much or more to do with the reader than it has to do with the writer.

In order for multiple divergent readings to be possible, we have to grant that the work stands on its own (that is, in fiction, we don’t judge the author for what they have written, even if we do judge the work itself) and that not one reading is “right.”

Hmm. Maybe that’s where I get my philosophical relativism from.

I also at times have felt a bit of…trepidation at letting the reader inside of my head, because I’ve attempted literary analysis on my own work before, and in the past it hasn’t been pretty. (Don’t do that, by the way. Especially not if you’re concurrently dealing with mental illness and cognitive distortion, as I was.)

What I have found is that taking time out to write enhances my productivity, rather than reducing it, as I had assumed. It takes time to write, but then it also helps when you come to things with a fresh mind, not burdened by unexpressed ideas. (Unexpressed ideas can turn into unexpressed obsessions, which is where writing serves well as a method of exorcism. Once you write it down, you can stop repeating it to yourself in an attempt to remember it.)

The problem with unexpressed ideas, as well, is that before they’re put into a format where they become objects, it’s difficult to manipulate them and see the deeper meanings behind them. Whereas, I know as a writer that when I encode things into English (as my first language), I start making connections and realizing ideas that I didn’t know were there.

And these two reasons can be enough reason for me to write, for now. I’m sure more (real) reasons to write will arise as I actually get back into fiction writing.

In any case, last night I didn’t get a lot written, so far as length was concerned — I was writing (legibly) by hand in a small sketchbook, which reduces my writing speed significantly. In turn, that makes me think about my phrasing (not to mention the art of handwriting), more.

I did, however, begin to lay the foundation for a larger story…and I was surprised at how much was already there, going unexpressed. It might actually turn into a novella (or alternately, graphic novel series).

In addition, I was immediately able to see opportunities to expand on what I had begun. This is where my degree in Creative Writing actually helps!

I guess it’s nice to feel multi-talented. πŸ™‚ Or that my undergraduate degree is actually useful for something.

I think that’s about enough time spent, here. Of course, there’s always more to say, but I will post it when it’s ready to come out. πŸ™‚

Yes, I made it!

A lot of hard work, starting at 7:30 this morning, and…I’m done with everything due tonight (with about two hours to spare), except for a reading with statistics I don’t understand. Luckily, I don’t think I’m expected to — at least, not now.

Right now I’m sitting here in a fleece throw blanket. The blanket allows me to sit on the couch and read instead of laying in bed and reading (which will apparently inevitably lead to me falling asleep). Or, as I’m doing now, sit at the computer and actually have some semblance of warmth.

What’s next is a paper on an interview and a discussion topic, due Wednesday; so I have about 2.5 days to work on this. After that, I’ll need to wrap up my advocacy class: I have about 8 days to do so.

After that, I should have more time to get into my readings, including the back reading for my database class. And…then I have about two weeks forced vacation (they’re updating some stuff at my library). It will likely be horrific when I get back, but I hope to be caught up (or ahead) with my schoolwork.

I’m still unsure as to what I should take during Summer and Fall semesters. Ultimately, the big choice is between a MySQL class and an Academic Libraries class, but I’ve also been thinking about Marketing (which could become a big part of my job, if I work in a Public Library). I had been putting off Marketing because I’ve already taken an Intro to Marketing course, at a different college.

…but, I just checked, and it’s a moot point: Marketing won’t be given again, before my graduation. It wasn’t given this semester, either. Hmm…

Regardless, I’ve been told not to worry about these decisions until I’ve stabilized.

And I also did, on a quick search, find a SQL tutorial; it’s just not specifically, MySQL. I’ve seen that MariaDB has replaced MySQL in some places, online.

I think maybe I’ve just gotta remember that I want to work online…not on the front lines. Even though databases are hard (they are!), at least at first.

It could be cool to be a tech-oriented librarian publishing cool resources online, though, no? (I have the urge to take 5 units during Summer, but don’t know if I’d be shooting myself in the foot [like I did with taking 10 units this semester]. It’s possible, though, just to take the Programming and Cybersecurity courses, and only deal with a couple of units.)

I’ve also got to remember that no matter how awesome Reference Librarians are, that doesn’t mean I in particular would have the temperament for it, and I might be better in a database/web design/web development role. That actually is where I had been pointing, until, “database design and implementation,” got real. With maths!

And actually, that’s where I’ve been pointing for years. I shouldn’t forget that.

Yeah…

I just looked over at my bookcase…I have some unread Graphic Design texts that I really do want to get to, including one from Builders Booksource…my sibling took me there, once: it’s a bookstore for architecture and design. I mention it by name because I don’t want to forget the name — like I just did — and have to look it up by location.

Also, there’s that whole Barnes & Noble layoff thing. I just looked at the TechCrunch article and got sick of seeing all the junk loading in my tray along with the desired information (I left because it’s anxiety-producing, even with high security), but…yeah, it doesn’t look good for B&N. The bright side of being a specialist bookstore is that you probably have regular clientele who might prefer to sponsor local business, rather than Amazon.

I don’t remember having mentioned this, but Oakland actually has a hidden but thriving art and design scene. Having Builder’s Booksource nearby is probably a great community resource…and they’ll only stay there as long as the money comes in.

Of course, I’m probably going to be busy for a while. I think I’m only on my fourth week of classes.

And maybe one of these days I’ll try and dip back into the maths. (I just like calling it, “maths.”) There are places around where I could build and/or rebuild my skill…