Please completely fill each bubble

Well, the past few days I’ve finally gotten back to work.

I spent a couple of days administering end-of-the-year science tests to eighth graders. Most of them were cool, but a few of students just couldn’t resist performing for the substitute, even though they were faced with a very serious test that determined a big piece of their grade. There was a boy in one class who folded one of his answer sheets into an airplane about five minutes into the test. I took it away from him, at which point he put his head down on his desk and pretended to sob (he was pretty good and actually teared up), making everyone laugh and distracting them from the test for a minute or two. I threatened to send him to the office if he didn’t quit, and after that the only thing he did was occasionally hit his pencil on his desktop in little rhythms, which is a little distracting to other test takers, but not as distracting as another dramatic display would have been, so I let it slide. I watched him at one point fill in about six questions worth of bubbles on his sheet without even looking in the test booklet. Oh well.

I started up a new account with 43things.com, allconsuming.net, &c. (all those robot co-op sites). I have this goal to pretty much listen to my entire music collection again, instead of the dozen or so albums I tend to get stuck on, and so I am keeping track of my progress on allconsuming, which is kind of fun. Of course, right now I am listening to some of those dozen or so albums on shuffle.

Gardening in the Rain

'Gardening in the Rain' by Brian Kershisnik
A few days ago I was talking to my cousin, who is an artist seeking to become fully professional (and who I would link to here if he had a website), and he told me I needed to go see an exhibit at the University of Utah’s UMFA by this painter that had “huge paintings” that seemed like they filled up the whole of the large three floor gallery in the center of the building. I could not remember the name of the artist, but I did remember my cousin’s enthusiasm about these paintings.

So on Wednesday afternoon I was goofing around on the Internet and decided to check out the UMFA’s website to see how much admission to the museum costs, since I’m not a student anymore and can’t get in free. To my surprise I discovered that the first Wednesday of every month (which happened to be that very day) the museum provided free admission. In a rare show of getting out of the house and doing something, I drove over there right then and saw the exhibit. It really is quite spectacular.

The painter’s name is Brian Kershisnik. And his paintings are great. What struck me most about them were some of their spiritual qualities. One of his main themes seems to be the intersection of the holy with everyday life. His paintings are visually very simple, and as my cousin said, have a folk-art influence, but they are soaked with meaning. At the risk of getting in trouble I have included a couple of them in this post. If you are Brian and you don’t like that, I will remove them.

At any rate one of the things that really struck me is a little quote they had from the artist on a plaque on the wall, in which he talked about his need for personal goodness and morality in order to receive artistic inspiration and express himself properly. It made me realize how little I seek for inspiration in my writing. If I want my writing to be truthful and project goodness and be beneficial, I need to be truthful and good in my life, I need to seek inspiration.

So I started a new journal, with the only parameters being that I must be honest and sincere and seek inspiration. I have always limited or compartmentalized my writing into different areas, but that is over. I’m going to be open to writing any type of thing at any time. Hopefully this freedom will help me figure out what it is that I really want to write and what I should be writing. Hopefully if I am open and diligent and honest, it will start to come together. I immediately started writing about this certain character that has been in my mind for years. I kept pushing her aside because I didn’t feel like that is what I wanted to work on. But I realize clearly now that I have been resisting inspiration.

'While Walking' by Brian Kershisnik (2007)

So Brian Kershisnik is our artist of the week here at the Froz-T-Freez. A link to his great website is right here, where you can see many, many images of his paintings, both current and old. And besides being a very interesting artist he may even have helped change my life.

'Treading the Basilisk' by Brian Kershisnik

You’ll probably never read this, but thanks, Clint!

STOMP YOUR FEET SCREAM NO

It takes me a while to come around to certain musical artists. I like to think that I am pretty open-minded about these things, but I have realized there is a certain situation where I have a negative reaction that instigates a pattern of events. It goes like this: 1) I notice a bunch of hype about an artist. 2) I go to itunes or some place where I can hear a quick sample of their music so as to see what the fuss is about. 3) I hear 30 seconds of a song and have an immediate negative gut reaction, often because of high-pitched, yelping male vocals. 4) I ignore all the hype about the artist and decide that I am better than all these people trying to be hip. 5) After a lot of time has passed and I see that people who have good taste like this artist, or maybe I have additional exposure by seeing the artist on tv or hearing them on the radio, I begin to wonder what the deal is and I decide maybe I need to give the artist a better chance than a fifteen second listen to one track. 5) I get the album from the public library (its usually just sitting there on the shelf waiting for me by this time because a lot of time has passed and everyone else who wanted to hear it has heard it) and listen to it all the way through. 6) I end up liking or at least appreciating the artist, usually because of their songwriting skills and not their voice, a year or two after their album originally came out. I have gone through this pattern so many times that it’s ridiculous. Some of the bands I initially hated have become among my favorites: The White Stripes, The Arcade Fire, Tapes n’ Tapes, Spencer Krug’s various projects (Wolf Parade/Sunset Rubdown/Swan Lake), and there are almost none that I don’t at least appreciate now. I don’t know if this belated appreciation pattern will ever end for me. Sometime soon I will probably be giving Joanna Newsom her proper chance, but I haven’t yet.

But there was one artist I thought would never give a real chance. Two years ago I clicked on the sample link, and I heard a whiny, effemanate voice shouting “Clap Your Hands!” over a hurdy-gurdy and choir of his whiny self, and I thought, “No way. We have to draw the line somewhere, and I am drawing it here. I officially hate this band.” I personally know dozens of people who can sing better than that. I think I can sing better than that. I remember thinking the guy’s voice sounded like the voice of the “Jerry-In-The-Box” character from The Island of Misfit Toys in the old Rudolf movie. I was going to make a moral stand against crappy vocalists by hating. At one point, I thought I might make a t-shirt that said “Stomp Your Feet Scream No” to illustrate my disdain (I still might do this). I was not going to stand for more crappy vocalists (although since then I’ve come around to Spencer Krug, who can be as yelpy as they come).

And now it is two years later, and I am sitting here listening to the two full-length albums by that band known as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Nobody wants the library copies anymore, so they were easy to get. I’ve listened to them several times now, and I actually like some of the songs. I don’t think I’m going to go out and buy them, but they are interesting enough. I still maintain that their vocalist is extremely sub-par. They would be a hundred times better with a better vocalist.

I wonder though, how many of the people that said they liked them in the first place actually liked them, and how many were just going along with it because for a little while it was hip in some circles to like them? I actually think that when I start liking something, you can rest assured that it is no longer hip.

Wildflowers/Weeds

Am I the only person who thinks that dandelions can actually improve the appearance of a lawn, rather than detract from it?

You know what? That is not a strong enough statement. It’s too apologetic. I have the right and duty to go on the offensive, ignore the assumptions and reset the parameters of the dialogue myself.

I say if you happen to look upon a field of green grass with lots of little, yellow flowers growing in it and the only thoughts that enter your mind are concepts such as “blight,” “decreasing property values,” or “Why isn’t the city using weed killer in the public parks? I pay my taxes, damn it!” then there must be some kind of dark, empty hole in your soul. And if thoughts like “those are sure pretty colors, it’s a nice day today” come into your mind, but you push them aside so as to indulge your desires for propriety and control, and judge those beautiful little flowers as obscene…I don’t know, because I’m really no moral authority, but that might be even worse. The denial of beauty and goodness. I guess we all do it, though, don’t we? But since we are talking about arbitrary qualities, it is usually much more fun to choose to enjoy something that to choose to hate something. If you like something you can just enjoy it rather than catalog all its shortcomings and what must be done to change or destroy it.

It’s not like we’re harvesting any kind of a crop from our lawns and parks, and the dandelions are ruining it. The grass is just there to look at and to be an available place to play certain games upon, and dandelions do not really interfere with either of those purposes. I’m tired of living in a culture where the appearance of a person’s lawn serves as some sort of moral barometer. I hate that I see dandelions and they make me happy until I think, “Oh, those should probably be gotten rid of.”

They may not like it now, but I think my lungs will thank me later (if I don’t cough them up in bloody bits first)

In the past ten days I’ve started running, which for me is quite an accomplishment, as I’ve never been known to run (except for running-on with words in a blog or a letter).

Last summer I had the intention of starting to run. I went outside one morning and started running up the traffic-congested street/highway on which I live, and after five blocks I had a coughing fit because all the car exhaust triggered my asthma. I barely made it back home just walking, and I coughed for the rest of the day. And so I decided I would stick with hiking, up in the mountains. It’s prettier there anyway and more peaceful. But not as convenient for everyday exercise. So I didn’t get my exercise.

Early this year, I decided I would try again. I found an automobile-free road I liked (the closed road to East Canyon, for those who are in the know) that is only a few miles from my house, and I started going there when there was still snow on the ground. I went two times, and then I got sick and didn’t feel good enough to go again for a couple of weeks. And then a couple of weeks became a month, and so on, bringing us up to this day.

It seems like my lungs always conspire against the rest of my body. Everything else has to stay fat and weak so that they can cough and wheeze. You may have won those battles, lungs, but the war has only just begun!

So I started driving up there again, and running. I’ve gone three times in the past week, with decent results. It was actually kind of boring. When there’s nothing but trees and that mile-marker way in the distance, I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. And on Thursday evening it seemed like half of Salt Lake City was up on that road replete with their spandex and their bicycles. And they all went so much faster than my lazy legs could go, and smirked condescendingly as they passed.

And then this morning I wanted to go running, but I didn’t want to drive up there to Lycra-land. I decided I could run up a hill to a higher, residential area behind my house, and maybe the exhaust wouldn’t bother me up there because the streets aren’t as busy. So I tried it, and it worked, and I ran further this morning than I have up until this point ever. It seems silly, but I’m pretty excited that I can just do this from home because now it will make it easy for me to do this almost every day. I finally found a convenient way to get some decent exercise.

So despite my many failures as a human being, that is my big accomplishment for today and the past week. I’m happy and excited about it.

Oh, and every time I go running I wear my “Ohio Democrats for Clinton-Gore 1996” t-shirt. Maybe that is why I get all the condescending smirks from the cycling champions.

Spring is a time for new cliches

I think the battle for Spring has finally been won, and the victory, although late in coming, is so decisive that we are moving straight into Summer. In the past month the snow levels have moved up and down the mountains as often as a line of scrimmage in a football game. A month ago the mountains were bare. Three weeks ago, I felt a great rush to buy myself some new shorts. Two weeks ago there was snow in my backyard, and I got my sweaters back out. A week ago the snow held at about the 7000ft line. Now it’s relegated to the crags in the tops of the mountains, where it should be. Winter just never seems to want to give up on Utah, it just likes us so much.

But now that Winter is officially over, I can officially start posting on my new blog. I’m always hoping that a new blog will catalyze change. I’m in the market for some change right now. I want to move, and I want to find a new job, for starters. And maybe a new blog will inspire me to make my changes.

At any rate, this isn’t much of a post, but I’ve had this template sitting here for a week while I waited for good weather, and now it is good weather and it is time to begin.