Actual and Perceived; getting at truth

So…I found a book the other day at a bookstore, which I checked out from my library a long time ago. I was given the choice to buy it, but figured I would take another look at the free copy before investing the $15.

This book is The Sixth Extinction, by Elisabeth Kolbert. It’s written in a style similar to another book I own, Savage Dreams, by Rebecca Solnit. Both of these books, like The Midnight Disease, by Alice Flaherty, could be classified as creative nonfiction. That is, they’re writing about things that actually exist, but in a way that is accessible, and which sounds a bit personal. It’s kind of similar to Evolution’s Rainbow, by Joan Roughgarden, in that way.

(And yeah, I’m looking at this now and noticing that all of these writers are female.)

I’m thinking that when a person cares enough about an issue — especially if the work is a labor of love rather than contract — it’s becoming more accepted to write in a style acknowledging one’s investment.

As for how any of this applies to me, I’m thinking that this style of creative nonfiction could be a really good niche for my style of writing. What I wrote the other day, here, (which I’ve set to Private for now), I realized later, could have passed for either reality-based fiction, or embellished nonfiction (when I say “embellished,” I mean that I have chosen a path out of a presently ambiguous situation which may not endure. It’s something one does in fiction, but which can damage one in life). Which, I suppose, is appropriate when it’s difficult to separate the actual from the perceived. Expressing that difficulty and finding someplace to rest, is an extremely strong element in my work.

Speaking of which, I’ve also been putting some of my artwork into frames. In one piece in particular…I find a way forward out of clear realism or total imagination. I think I posted this one a while back, though I disliked it at the time, and I don’t think I showed it in my final portfolio. Let me find it again…

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Fire — cleansing, shaping, life-giving, destroying.

Alright, it’s to the left, there. Apologies for the watermark; this was originally posted a while ago (likely Spring 2016, when I was ending my AA in Art).

This also looks like a work-in-progress, as I hadn’t yet untaped it from the Masonite which was holding it flat.

Anyway, you can probably see what I’m about to mention, already.

In this piece, there are multiple overlays of different elements, some of which look as though they could plausibly be resting in 3-D space, and some of which are flat and 2-D. They appear to be overlaid on top of the 3-D image.

That’s not a mistake. I had been looking for a way to combine the psychological and the representational. The gryphon is something which had special significance to me, as did the incense, the orb, the pinecone, and the acrylic, “gems.” In a way this piece is really metaphysical, kind of overblowing it in that way. Not to mention that the majority of these symbols are personal, which I wouldn’t expect anyone but myself, to understand.

In particular, that orb, the pinecone, and the gryphon are things that I have recognized in the past as important, but which I haven’t perceived as totally harmless. They’re things that I am aware of and find beauty in, though.

If I go any further into this, I may reveal too much about my mental state (then or now); but I’m just noting it as an example — to myself — as a way to move forward. If I did unpack the symbolism of all of these, visually, I could make a series. The problem is that it might be a disturbing series…the content of which, I may not want to touch (I don’t anymore have the mental state that inspired this symbolism).

In any case…I’m thinking back to my freshman class at University where we read, I, Rigoberta Menchu, and discussed whether it was actually biography or not (the author cobbled together a bunch of other peoples’ stories and presented them all as — when viewed by the general reader — her own. But it was normal and accepted in her culture for her to tell these stories and claim ownership of them, as the people these stories had happened to were members of her community, and she identified with them).

The largest issue I have with writing is finding a way to tell the truth, especially when some people whose stories I know, don’t want that. And…yeah, sometimes expressing an emotion truthfully, does mean that the means of expressing it, may not be literally true.

Probably, I should back off of this and get some rest. Maybe tomorrow I can write, or something. I still need to finish my work for Programming, too…and maybe I should just try and get it done as soon as I can, and not rely on the deadline.

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Housekeeping

Tonight I started to tackle the mess in the office. And reorganize the bedroom. My folks found some bookends for me (though I hear store staff didn’t immediately know what “bookends” were), so now I’m able to have a bunch of “recreational” reading material in my bedroom.

I just figured that there wasn’t any actual reason for me not to read fiction. It’s still a valid mode of communication, after all. (Just, not always a straightforward one.)

Right now, things look pretty terrible in here (the office). But. Most of the CDs that I had (and didn’t know I had) are now actually organized and in one container. The fiction is in my bedroom; the metaphysics/psychic/energy work/channeling stuff is waiting for review, but unobtrusive.

I’ve gotten tired of the, “yes this is possible, but don’t try it because HORRIBLE THINGS may happen. WOOoOo.” Right now I’m taking the prolific warnings as discouragement from trying anything in the book because then the reader will know if the author is a fraud…although I have had interesting psychosomatic effects with energy work, for whatever reason (and if hearsay is accurate, I’m not the only one). Particularly, extremities (hands, feet) heating up despite the fact that I haven’t moved.

The irritating thing about dabbling in this stuff is that then you have to deal with attracting the “astral wildlife.” The phenomena of which, for whatever reason, seem to co-occur when people start playing with psychic or life energy. It could be self-generated (fear manifestations), or it could be actual. The thing is, it would probably FEEL actual, regardless of whether it is or not. And that’s something I’m kind of happy without, for now.

After all, I’ve only recently been able to consistently distinguish my own hallucinations (sensed experiences without a physical component) and/or illusions (sensed experiences with a physical component, which cognition warps) from reality.

I won’t get into what those are. Suffice to say that I don’t always trust my brain, and I’m learning not to always trust the people who write these books.

…I won’t get any further into that, for now.

All the textbooks are now on shelves, except for one book on HTML4 which has sections that are still useful (we’re on HTML5 now).

I don’t have to do any more work for Programming until Tuesday, and even then, I’ve got a head start. I might want to look into it after having done some work at recovering order, tomorrow.

And I could try chatting up some people in my class. Why not.

I have a large inclination to go through my old class readers, spiral-bound notebooks, folders, and old textbooks, to see what is where — and what I don’t need anymore (if I ever did need it). A lot of these things are remnants of prior classes, going back to the time I first attended University.

That means that tomorrow, in addition to starting the laundry, I’m likely going to end up taking another shower (meaning why not exercise; I’ll have had the 48 hours of rest recommended in strength training…don’t know if that applies to cardio), and getting my hair trimmed.

I might also need to change the sheets and wash my blankets; I went to bed last night unwashed, after sitting on a dusty carpet.

The most difficult thing I’ll likely be dealing with, is deciding what to keep and what to toss of printouts and paperwork which have accumulated in this room over the last two semesters.

It would also be nice to have some way to tell what is in each frickin’ folder without opening it first…but I won’t know how to do that without opening them all, anyway.

Today I restarted reading a book that was over my head, when I first got it. It’s called The Midnight Disease, and it’s on hypergraphia (the constant drive to write), Writer’s Block, and creativity. Now that I’ve been through the Art program, I understand a lot more of it than I did when I first got it.

Looking back on it, it’s possible apparent that I did exhibit hypergraphia when younger. I know that I majored in Writing because it was something I constantly did; though no one really told me that obsessive writing could be a symptom of something else (which then might go away with treatment…or how to deal with it, if that did happen).

Alright, I’m turning this computer off, because I’m smelling something weird. We’ll see if I continue to smell it…

Going through the bookshelves…

I mentioned recently that I needed to go through my bookshelves to do what in the Library field is called, “weeding.” That is, going through books to determine which to get rid of (when shelf space is at a premium).

The bright side of this is that now I’m more interested in reading — specifically, fiction — again. I have 7 novels which I haven’t read but which are on my shelves, and 9 literary magazine issues or lit mag compilations. The lit mags are less intimidating in that they’re just little chunks of writing, not requiring a large commitment of time or energy to one author.

As well, there are some names in there that I recognize from my undergraduate work, and at least one which I recognize from my current Master’s program.

I know that it will be much easier to write creatively again if I resume reading creative work. Not just metaphysics or philosophy or religion; and not just, “Writers on Writing,” stuff; but things that will inspire me to write my own stories again (and possibly new ones, instead of the constantly evolving novella in my head). What I can see from what I’ve set aside (at one time) to read is that I’m very interested in science fiction…which somewhat surprises me. A little.

I would list some semblance of the organization of my shelves, but the order isn’t perfect, and looking at my books does give some insight into my interests (which I’d rather not fully reveal). I do have a lot of books I can get rid of, though, and more to explore, without dealing with the germs on library books (which is the major reason I buy copies for myself).

And…yeah, dealing with the religion thing, as I mentioned elsewhere earlier tonight…I’m not entirely certain what I’m doing with that now, but I know I’m basically in a fluid spot. I’d likely need to read more to narrow down what I’m actually thinking, as versus viewing the collection gained as a result of my curiosity.

The odd thing is circling back around to this. As creative pursuits go, writing is very inexpensive. Distributing it is something else; getting paid for it is another thing, entirely.

But I guess, hey, when you’re in the information industry…it might be a predictable offshoot.

It seemed a lot more intimidating, before I did it.

This was another day in which I slept for way too long because of not wanting to face schoolwork. However, the anxiety was pretty much for nothing.

I opened a window here and started typing out my feelings while I also contemplated dealing with my Programming homework, then switched over entirely to my Programming homework, and now am ahead in my studies!

It seemed a lot harder before I started!

Breaking things down step-by-step actually does help, which is useful because Programming pretty much demands breaking things down step-by-step.

So…tomorrow is Friday. I have the option of going in for extra hours, though to be honest, I really don’t feel like it. And yes, I know that if I don’t go in, the situation is just going to be worse on Saturday, but it’s not my responsibility to pick up all of the slack.

I did, however, just knock out my main reason for not going in.

What I can do tomorrow — to be useful, at least, and justify staying home — is to begin going into my archives to deal with this portfolio issue. It is the beginning of June: I should be getting to this.

What I can do is start categorizing things by class and then by Learning Outcomes, then go in there and deal with looking at and sorting through objects in each of my classes. It might help to start with the most recent, first, though I’m not positive on that.

I also might want to copy the entire directory and put it someplace where I can reorganize it.

And, right: my Programming class is just a taste of Web Programming…but so far, it’s actually pretty fun. One of my friends in Tech told me not to be a Programmer, and I don’t know exactly why they said that. Nor do I think I should really listen, at this point: it could have been a gender issue.

So, well.

Tomorrow, I can also work on the monpe model, and that may help me get out of bed in the morning. I can also exercise, which I haven’t done in a while.

And…there is the continued issue of the disorganized office. I need to go through my papers and books, though at this point…I wonder about what books to keep, and which to give away or sell back. The major barrier here is that I know I will have to shower afterwards (and I don’t know how to take short showers, and the hair is always always an issue), though if I combine this with exercise, it should help me feel like I earned it.

Sigh. Two more semesters left of this and then I can throw out so much accumulated stuff…though if you asked me today what I would get rid of, I wouldn’t exactly know. I am aware that I have a lot of metaphysics material that I have off-and-on felt was a waste of time to read; on the other hand, there’s some really creative ideas in there. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I think a major issue is just not having read deeply into a lot of the books I have, and some books I want to keep for inspiration, even though they aren’t worth much as reference material. Like the book, Gemstone Settings, by Anastasia Young (published by Interweave Press). It’s a really pretty book! Helpful? I haven’t found it so.

Like some other books I have, there is an introduction to technique, but not nearly enough information to practically and successfully attempt the process without outside help. It’s a good starting point for beginners who need to know what can be done, and who need basic background information, but it won’t take them all the way through doing it, if they don’t already know how. I guess I wouldn’t call it a really serious book, more than a book intended for general audiences. But then it’s like what do I expect when I didn’t get it from a specialty bookstore or jeweler’s supply shop.

Anyhow, this feels like personal Collection Development stuff, and I haven’t taken that class, yet.

Dealing with the bookshelves and the papers and the archives is going to be an issue taking more than one day. But it needs to be done.

Of course, the big fear is not being able to locate anything after the reorganization…

…nor am I certain whether to work on the portfolio or the mess, first. I guess it depends on what I feel like, in the morning.

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 theย ukiyo-eย 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. ๐Ÿ˜›