Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 189: Pain

April 24, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used to think that emotional pain was somehow different from physical pain. As the years have passed, and as I’ve learned more about how the brain functions, I find I was mistaken.

Emotional pain and physical pain are processed in the brain by synaptic connections; and the information is stored in the brain; and the brain prompts a reaction to that pain. The connections the brain makes, and the pathway the connections take will be similar. Sometimes pain becomes attached to a memory. If the emotional pain and the physical pain happen at the same time—an ‘accident’; an assault; someone getting pushed down a stairway after receiving a near-fatal blow [I watch a lot of British cop shows]—the memory of physical pain can become attached to an emotional pain.

The Japanese boy in the image above is minutes away from dying from the radiation poisoning that killed his his sister. An illustration from a Hiroshima Diary—the encounter occurred. After the bomb destroyed Hiroshima, what was left were children wandering through the rubble, trying to find their parents, who had already been killed by falling construction debris or ‘shrapnel’; or simply had disintegrated. The teacher who wrote the Hiroshima Diary [a genre in Japan] was looking for her niece and nephew. She had been away from home when the bomb dropped; upon her arrival home, and learning about the missing children, she entered the blast range. She survived, and lived to an elderly age, scarred by radiation.

There are no winners in a nuclear war. Certain Politicians often seem to ignore this fact.

In Hiroshima and Nagasaki there are ‘shadow people’ who have been ‘enshrined’. People destroyed by the blast; and before their bodies disintegrated, they provided ‘shade’ on buildings that were ‘bleached’ by the blast. The only thing remaining of these people was their shadows.

There are no winners in a nuclear war.

Lyrics from Jason Gray:
…wounded’s a part that I’ve learned to play well; though the wound may run deeper than I know how to tell.
Where pain’s an addiction that keeps me buried alive; but when it’s all that I know, I’m afraid to leave it behind. And bring my heart to every day and run the risk of fearlessly loving without running away.

I have a CD in the car, about 18 songs, that always plays while I’m driving by myself. Lyrics I want myself to remember; lyrics that help me define who I am. “Without Running Away” is on that album. Fearlessly loving, without running away, is one of my life goals.

I’ve mentioned this before, in spite of my inward desire to be anonymous; a desire that I am training toward transparency. I had a trampoline mishap in a PE class in my 3rd or 4th year of high school. I was supposed to bounce up and land on my belly; instead, I landed on my upper chest, and my legs flew backward over my head—my face on the trampoline fabric. Sort of like an Ω with my head on the right leg of the omega. I heard/felt the sound of a zipper as my vertebrae ‘popped’.

Being able to get to a doctor, there apparently was no need, in my parent’s view, for me to see a doctor. For a long time, I could not rotate my head to the side; when someone was next to me, I had to rotate like a door on hinges in order to face them.

I majored in architecture, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and we used actual pencils and paper for drawing. One spends most of their time while drafting, bent forward at the waist. By the time I graduated from college, and started building my parents’ house, I found that excavating dirt by hand was very uncomfortable. The back pain disappeared, for a time, after my future wife and I went to an evangelistic Crusade. I felt a compulsion to go to the stage despite my desire not to go. I chose obedience. I wasn’t aware of anything happening, while I was lying, embarrassed, on the stage floor. A day or three later, I realized the pain was gone. A Grace gift to encourage me on the strange Quest I had decided to take.

Three totaled automobiles; years of being a stupid contractor; working in a lumber yard and going back to drafting brought the high school injury back.

My first migraine happened in the winter of 1979; I spent a day on the floor of a house my partners and I were remodeling. Having gone to my doc, and having received pure caffeine as a medication, I continued to work on the following days, using the bathroom a lot, and my stomach being unhappy. Self-employed people don’t get sick days.

The migraines eventually became weekly, continuing until the early years of this century. I spent a lot of time on weekends in a darkened room with Blue Ice encasing my head. My brain apparently knew that I needed to work; my brain apparently considered being unconscious to be the equivalent of recreating.

The Neuropathy arrived in 2008; took up residence in the spring of 2009; and has taken residence in larger areas of my body, every two years. So, while my sensory nerves degrade, the degradation is accompanied by continual internal nerve pain. At present, I have no reflexes, and my feet no longer feel that I’m walking on a flat surface; there is an invisible ‘step’ on the underside of my feet. One of the good things is that my sciatic nerves no longer function well—I no longer have sciatica. I no longer wear a black wrestling glove to deal with tendonitis in my right hand.

The above is way more than I usually say. I refuse to define myself by pain.

Refusal isn’t always successful. There are a lot of days that I feel as though I’m addicted to pain. Unlike my past addiction to barbiturates, I don’t have solutions to the addiction to pain. And I continue to refuse to be defined by pain, or by my inability to walk on an unpaved surface [my ‘z’ axis is difficult to find—too little information from my feet]. It’s becoming harder to not define myself by being ‘uniquely abled’ [I refuse to use the d-word].

I distract myself from the pain by focusing on illustrations or client work; or by being engrossed by a video. Nowadays, I find myself limited by my inability to sit in one spot for very long. This requires more variety in my distractions.

Forty-six years ago, I began a Quest to find a new self by connecting with my Creator. There have been instances, like the Crusade thing above, where I have found a Grace gift of decreased pain. By and large, the pain has continued despite my connection with my Creator, and despite stupid things that church people say, ‘proof-texting’ [take a Bible verse out of context and claim that verse as a promise]. One of the oldest books in Hebrew scripture is the Book of Job—two-thirds of which is declared BS by the Creator. Job is about ‘shit happens.’ The Human Propensity to Fuck things Up continues throughout history. I learned that I can trust my Creator to enable me to get past the shit. Sometimes it means going right through the shit; but it isn’t permanent. While I am sometimes surprised by the events of my life, I know that my Creator is never surprised; I know that the shit doesn’t have to define me. It won’t be there when I die; and death is a doorway into a much larger life. That is a promise we are given.

There are people, some of whom are friends of mine, who talk about ‘the Victorious Christian Life’. It isn’t my life. Unless Persistence is the equivalent of victorious. I didn’t get into this gig expecting Victorious. I got in because I was lost; I had no clue how to live a life. One of the deficiencies of not talking with my parents—but I did not want their life. My wife and I have inherited all of their houses, consecutively; but I did not want their life. I didn’t see meaning in their lives; like Alonso Quihana, I sought a life that I read about in books. I wanted to follow a Quest. I wanted higher goals; I wanted something heroic; I wanted to stop being afraid of people; and to be willing to take risks.

In a post from a few weeks ago, I talked about Benjamin Franklin’s Quest to become a different person. I invested five years of my life learning how to become a different person. The reason I took on that task didn’t have the ending I’d expected; but the learning was immensely valuable.

Enough of that.

A thought, via Functional MRI

  • Illustration Tip #13: Repetitive Stress Injury

It’s a thing. IT IS POSSIBLE TO DAMAGE ONESELF BY ‘MOUSING’. I learned this a couple of years ago. I was attempting to help an author/illustrator to digitally publish a children’s book on Amazon by what used to be called CreateSpace—Print on Demand. There was an upcoming presentation, for which a stack of books was desired.

At the beginning of the project, I ordered one of my books for myself, so that I would know the turnaround time between the order and the delivery. That time frame because the calendar for progress on the book. The problem was that the author/illustrator was a perfectionist and kept changing the illustrations. There are rules and guidelines for printing in a book that aren’t applicable to printing a single page. Every time the illustration changed, I needed to tweak the illustration. For the last week or three I was probably working on the book continually, 6 hours a day; clicking my mouse button hundreds of times per day. Before we hit the ‘finish line’ I was using all sorts of methods to stop the burning pain in my neck. My trapezius muscle, which connects to the muscles of the neck and scalp was contracting on my right side. The back of my neck, on the right side only, had developed folds of skin because the underlying muscles were contracting. There were pains in m arm and hand as well [despite the Neuropathy].

I finally decided to try acupuncture. I went to one of the local schools’ clinics. On the first visit, needles in my feet made 90% of the pain go away. The next three visits, with different practitioners, had no discernable impact. I forced myself to avoid the computer for 2-3 weeks. It got better. It changed. The grooves in my neck flattened out again.

I still have repetitive stress issues; I found a CBD lotion that I use every night, and as needed during the day. An hour from now, the alarm on my phone will go off, reminding me that I need to stop working before 2a.

Mariana John Everitt Millais

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 188: Easter

April 18, 2019

My father had many faults; as far as I am aware, he was never cruel.
His brother could be cruel. I had another uncle that could be cruel. My assumption is that they learned cruelty at the hands, and belts, of others.

Every evening, while working on re-creating my Korean-language version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia, using the original text, I listen to news coverage of The Scandal in Washington D.C.

Recently I realized that the man who sits in the Oval Office is not only lacking in moral integrity, he is also cruel. Anyone who tries to weaponize women, children and infants seeking shelter from cruelty is cruel himself. The people who defend and justify the cruelty for the sake of power, are also guilty of the same cruelty.

I don’t know how we return.

We, as a nation, must desire to return to ‘liberty and justice for ALL.’ I know that when Jefferson wrote, ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal’, his definition of ‘all men’ was far different than many of us seek today. Such is the pitfall of law and language; language changes, with time and society. If Jefferson really meant, ‘all white males who own property,’ he should have written that. Instead, he used inclusive language. We have a national mythology that we seek to defend liberty; sadly, our actual history does not reflect the mythology.

Thomas Jefferson Writes from The Declaration of Independence by Melinda Lilly

Maundy Thursday
“Maundy” comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment.” After the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem early in the week, and encounters with various people and the Jewish elders, Jesus and his disciples share a meal towards the end of the week. After the meal, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, tried, and then crucified”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Supper

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

If only this commandment was followed more often.

Each of our lives is a story that we create; a story that others create through us; a story that others create with us, sometimes, without our knowing about it. I have a rather large prayer list; my weekday walks are my prayer time, as well as while I drive. The Creator does not need my instructions or suggestions as to how the world should work; in reality, there are a large number of people on my list that I’ve never met. I believe that my prayers, inadequate as they are, connect me with the Universe that is being created each day…

There is nothing in Scripture that suggests that Creation is complete. We live in Chronostime that is dependent upon Earth’s rotation and our sun [there are billions of other suns in our Milky Way galaxy, much less the entire Universe—billions of time zones]. The Creator lives in Kairos—the Eternity that exists outside our understanding of time. It is entirely possible that we are in the midst of Creation right now. The Book of Genesis, which isn’t a science text—light exists before the sun, moon and stars exist—Genesis talks about the stars in the sky, which are thousands and millions of light years away. The Days of Genesis would have to last for thousands of years, in order for the starlight to reach Earth.

Our life is a story.

From a Facebook Friend, Jacob M. Wright:
Life is beautiful. You didn’t have to be here in the first place. But here you are. Why? It’s a mystery and a miracle. Why you…why me… instead of some other person. Decades ago, as far as we know, we didn’t exist. But then we did. A unique conscious self-awareness contained within matter began blossoming in the universe. And here you are…
Ineffable wonders fill this world. And with every surprise our hearts become new. We’re always growing younger, as long as we awaken, as long as we hope, as long as we know the divine life that pulses at the center of our being. The longer that we are here, the younger we get, as long as we feed and thrive on that insatiable curiosity for beauty and truth. Keep your gorgeous curiosity alive. It will lead you to life. What is “aging” except our experience growing deeper and discovery growing wider and awakening birthing awakening birthing awakening forever.
Your heart is free, and you were endowed with a wonder and longing and unquenchable curiosity from the day you arrived into this reality; screaming and bloody from your mother’s womb. It can be a terrifying journey, this world, but no matter what, it’s love. It begins and ends in love. You awoke into love. You will never ever be detached from love. It’s what fuels everything, guides your destiny.

‘Awaking into love’—an audacious statement.
The reality is that we aren’t all born into love. According to statistics there are 360,000 births in the world, each day; many of these births come into a world of starvation, disease, fear and hatred. However, sometimes there is a moment, when the pain has subsided, and a young mother looks at the child she has carried for nine months; sometimes there is a moment, when a father connects with his child.

Generations
My daughter holding her brother,
My son holding his son,                 My daughter holding her daughter,
minutes after his birth                                  minutes after her birth

All sorts of people are ‘weighing in’ on social media regarding the partial destruction of Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris; the portions that suffered minimal damage; the portions that were destroyed. As usual, people attribute ‘miracles’ of Grace in relation to those things that weren’t destroyed to acts of the Creator. There are, accurately, the naysayers: why would the Creator spare a gold cross, but allow the innocents of the world to die?
I don’t know the answer.
I believe that the Creator has intervened in my life on numerous occasions; events I can’t explain in any other fashion. One of Jesus’ promises was that the Spirit of the Creator would live in us. In my opinion, this means that there are no coincidences in my life; no accidents. Even when shit happens. It becomes a surprise for me, but the stuff I don’t want to happen isn’t a surprise to the Creator.
Meaning? Maybe. I’m inclined to believe that intervention for me was on the order of ‘fringe benefit’. The gift a parent picks up for a child on the ‘spur of the moment’. However, the Creator has no ‘spurs of the moment’ in Kairos.

I like this answer:

“I don’t know how to save the world. I don’t have the answers or The Answer. I hold no secret knowledge as to how to fix the mistakes of generations past and present. I only know that without compassion and respect for all of Earth’s inhabitants, none of us will survive—nor will we deserve to.”
Leonard Peltier, Prison Writings: My Life Is My Sun Dance

Before one talks about Divine Intervention, as a participant in the Christian Church, I think some perspective is in order. Perspective that I have never heard from a pulpit or platform.
Matthew 5:18
Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Amen, I say to you that until Heaven and earth will pass away, one Yodh or one Taag [strokes of the pen, which add meaning to the text] will not pass away from The Written Law until everything will happen.

Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. When He taught, He taught from Torah. When Jesus refers to the Written Law, Jesus refers to Torah. The Apostles and disciples that followed Jesus probably [the New Testament isn’t clear] gathered on Saturdays at the synagogue to learn from Torah.

The Apostle Paul considered himself to be ‘a Pharisee of the Pharisees’—
If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to righteousness under the law, faultless. [from Philippians 3]

I never hear this mentioned from a pulpit: if I was able to tell the Apostle Paul that the letters he and the other Apostles wrote to individual churches, would one day supplant Torah, I think he would probably ‘rend his clothing’ and scream.
And yet, that’s what has happened within the Evangelical Christian Church—Torah [the Old Testament] is mostly used for ‘proof texting’; and the Newer Testament is the considered the part of the Bible that Christians should focus their attention upon.

Christians seem to readily assume that we are somehow the focus of the Creator’s special attention; that our being created ‘a little lower than the angels’ gives us Privilege. This sort of thinking comes from mostly reading the New Testament. If one reads Torah, one finds that the Creator set one family on earth aside, and that from that family the Creator would create a people that would be considered the Bride of the Creator. The majority of the prophecies spoken by Prophets state the fact that the Creator’s ‘chosen people’ act like a whore, rather than a Bride.

There are four centuries of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Creator had nothing more to say, for generations. The ending of the Creator’s speaking through prophets really wasn’t a ‘happy ending’. And there was no announcement that there would be a break in communication.

After those four centuries, John the Baptist announced to the Jewish people and whoever else was around, that he was a Prophet of the Creator; and that One would appear who was greater than John: One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

I am of the opinion that when the Creator does attend to us humans [this is Chronos language], it’s more like picking up a rock in the yard and looking what is underneath that rock, than anything else. The Human Propensity to Foul things Up covers the millennia of warring upon each other that we do. The savage warring that is occurring right this minute; the abuse of children, the abuse of women, the abuse of those who do not have the power to overcome their adversaries. You and I are doing nothing to stop this savagery. We feel powerless. Our government leaders fail us.

In spite of countless sermons to the contrary, the Creator did not enter time and space to save us from our sins. This salvation is a ‘fringe benefit’.

The Creator entered time and space in the form of a single cell implanted into the womb of a teenager; the woman who gave birth to Jesus; the Man who came to us to show us a new way to live. Jesus promised that through the Spirit of the Creator, we could change. Jesus said that we could learn to become decent people who don’t murder each other.

The religious elite, who had power over the Jewish people, had Jesus murdered in the most shocking way the Roman invaders had: Crucifixion.
Jesus did not stay dead.
You will not stay dead, either.

From Jim Wallis, of Sojourners:
I believe in the resurrection — the actual historical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Both my faith and my hope absolutely depend on the resurrection of Jesus. I remember a conversation I had, many years ago, with some of the Jesus Seminar New Testament theologians. One of them asked me, “Do you actually believe in the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ?” I felt the eyes looking at me. “Yes, I do,” I replied. “Well, the resurrection is more metaphorical for us,” they said. I silently pondered their statement, and whether to start up again the endless theological debates about the reality and meaning of the resurrection in the Christian apologetics. It has all been said before. Instead, another question came to mind, so I asked them, “Do you think a merely metaphorical resurrection would have been adequate for Desmond Tutu in South Africa?”
The question brought silence to the table and ended the conversation.”

Easter

 

I have no idea how this guy fits in.

For my sister: The Return of the Chocolate Bunny

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 187: Magical Thinking

April 12, 2019

All of life is beyond our control. “Magical Thinking” [for which I think I am an expert] merely gives us the idea that we have control.
I have long wanted to learn “3-D” graphics [they are really 2-D objects, because our monitors are 2-D; “3-D” graphics does not create holograms—but 3-D enables one to rotate the 2-D image around an axis]. I have long wanted to learn “3-D” graphics but have never ‘found the time’.
‘Finding time’ [as well as raising children] is not like finding an apple on the ground. It’s more like ‘finding an apple’ by planting a seed in a piece of ground that used to be a lawn. Given the right circumstances, an apple seed becomes an apple tree. If the tree is tended well, it will produce apples. The very last thing to grow is the fruit.


We live in a large, ranch-style house on an oversized lot. I started building the house when I graduated from college with the Bachelor of Architecture degree I didn’t really intend to use. By the time I graduated from the Architecture program, I had been drafting, every day, for about 8 years. I knew that any architecture job I was offered would find me drafting every day. I wanted a break. So, I convinced my Dad that I should build him the retirement home he wanted. One of the worst/best decisions I ever made. Worst because I knew nothing about actually building a house. I could design them—not very well, I learned—but was clueless when it came to putting the pieces together. Best, because it was the path that led me to where I am now. Not that I’m particularly happy with the life I now lead; but there have been so many experiences that have taught me so much. I don’t know if I would have learned these lessons on a different path.

You can’t tell from the aerial photos above, but there’s an apple tree in our backyard. I planted it in 1976. When a friend of my parents came up and kept the yard in the condition it was when I finished the landscaping, the tree produced apples. In 1985, we moved in. I have always hated yard work.
When our family cabin in the woods was sold by my aunt, I decided that I would let the Creator handle the landscape maintenance at our house, as the Creator had handled the landscape maintenance along the Sandy River. In retrospect, I became aware that there weren’t many apple trees growing by the Sandy River. Thirty-three years after I planted the apple tree, I think there was one apple last year; not very appetizing at that. The tree doesn’t get much sunlight because of the Douglas Fir that planted itself in our back yard; and the tree has been fertilized by several dead cats. I’m not sure that dead cats are good fertilizer for apple trees.

Scripture uses a lot of agricultural references. Having lived nearly all my life in urban environments, I often don’t understand the references in the way they were originally presented. When I worked as a contractor, we had a client that raised sheep and Great Pyrenees dogs. Everything with four legs was white; except when they were brown, from the mud. We were there because of the dogs—we built a bathing/ grooming/whelping room for the show dogs. In the process of getting to know the people, I learned that sheep are about the dumbest creatures on earth. When Jesus called us ‘sheep,’ I don’t think it was a compliment. I also learned that farming and ranching, even when pursued as a hobby, take a lot of work. Much like raising a child.

On the left side of the 2018 photo above, one can barely make out a drainage ditch that separates us from the road on the other side. I had built a makeshift bridge [in the public Right of Way] across the ditch so that our daughter could cross the ditch to catch the school bus. One day I was out working on the bridge with my two young sons, who wanted to help. When my adjustments had been made, I told the Creator, ‘I could have gotten this job done in half the time, and better, if I hadn’t been working with my sons’. The thought distinctly appeared in my brain “I know exactly how you feel”.

While working on that bridge I thought about the nature of the Creator and the nature of humans. If you pick up a rock from an unpaved surface, you will find a bunch of squiggly critters. The Creator entering time and space as a single cell in the womb of a teenager would be like my deciding that I was going to become one of those squiggly critters, so that I could show them how to live better. I wouldn’t do it.
Believers talk as if the Creator wasn’t that much different from a local deity—the gods of human history. They would never admit this; but that is how they speak. Non-believers often talk as if the Universe is so vast that there can’t possibly be a Creator. My faith in science won’t stretch far enough to accept the idea that all life is the product of evolution. I was just listening to a program about the human brain; and the guy said that, ‘people used to believe that soul was responsible for who we are. We now know that who we are is dependent upon the development of the brain. The plan is…’ What plan? He goes on to talk about how most of the information that seems to be hard-wired into other mammals is not present in humans; it is our lack of pre-programming that causes us to develop…’ etc. Again, what plan? How does ‘plan’ evolve? Plan means ‘design’/’choice’. People evolve over time, and there is evidence that leads us in the direction of having ancestors that were far less evolved than homo sapiens. “Adam and Eve” is a Creation story. Nearly all cultures have Creation stories; they all have similarities.

Rabbinical scholars from millennia ago did not have a problem with the notion that there were creatures present that were very similar to homo sapiens at the time of the Garden of Eden. After all, after Cain slew Abel [the first children of Adam and Eve], Cain left the Garden, married, and started building the first City [there’s a fascinating 20th Century book by Jacque Ellul about The Meaning of the City—the building of Cities is man’s response to the Creator’s treatment of man]. Who did Cain marry? If one takes Scripture literally, there were only four human beings. Scripture talks about these other beings:

The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown. Genesis 6:4.

There really isn’t a good definition of Nephilim, beyond the explanation that they were giants. “Daughters of men” doesn’t really provide an explanation for Cain’s wife, unless ‘men’ means mankind.

There is a BBC-made PBS video about Madagascar, and the unique vegetation and unique creatures that live on that island:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00pd2fk

The vegetation on the south end of the island is almost entirely covered in spines/thorns. There is very little water on the south end of the island. Little leaves sometimes grow between the spines, and the reptilian creatures get their necessary water from these tiny leaves. I’m sorry—I cannot stretch my mind to accept the notion that these spiny plants evolved from the plants that grow on the luxuriant north end of the island. Evolution depends on small changes to the genome that prove beneficial over time. Using that concept, black becomes white by way of a whole bunch of grey. I can understand variations in the greyscale; but black becoming white in a small series of large variations stretches my brain too far. I prefer created-black and created-white. And I am not referring to skin coloration. We are all shades of brown, with differing hues, brightness and contrast. We humans are all one family. This has been demonstrated by DNA studies.

In human genetics, the Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all currently living humans, i.e., the most recent woman from whom all living humans descend in an unbroken line purely through their mothers, and through the mothers of those mothers, back until all lines converge on one woman.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

Getting back to critters under a rock: ‘imagine, if you will’ a Creator for whom the Universe is in some sense small. ‘Small’ in the sense that the design of an entire skyscraper, down to the nuts and bolts and knobs, can fit inside the mind of an architect. My guess is that the Creator of the entire Universe ‘turns over the rock’ and looks at the history of Humanity and sees cruel and fearsome creatures who spend all of their lives killing each other.
You reply, ‘that doesn’t apply to me.’ Sure it does; it’s only by Grace that you aren’t living in a tribal situation where one tribe is willing to kill another tribe because they don’t think the same as you. The history of homo sapiens is a history of rape and pillaging. With brief exceptions. When preachers talk about our sinfulness, I think there are some who see our relationship to the Creator as something akin to my looking under a rock.

With exceptions.

I am of the opinion that Penal Substitutionary Atonement [you are evil, and god cannot stand your sinful presence, so god killed his only son to pay for your sinfulness] is a result of human guilt feelings. We are guilty; many choose to think that they are fooling the world and our Creator by pretending they aren’t guilty. When politicians become preachers and pronounce their understanding of Scripture that omits everything that Jesus taught, they are using the wrong book.

Jesus did not come into Time and Space in order to be the scapegoat for your sins [the scapegoat concept is part of the Hebrew religion]; Jesus entered Time and Space to show us a new way to live. In another time and place, I could be stoned for making this assertion. Yes, the ‘scapegoat’ analogy also fits; but I have trouble believing that this was the whole point.

Preachers who seem to love the word, “Repent!” are unaware that what the word means is ‘to see the world through new eyes.’ Human beings just like ourselves killed Jesus for His audacity; people like us did what homo sapiens always do. Jesus dared to tell religious leaders that they had made a mockery of that which all of history pointed toward.

Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose from the dead and told His followers that they could do the same. People have a really hard time with this idea. We are locked-in to the idea that what we are is our bodies.  At 66, it’s so much easier to believe that I am more than this crappy body.

I’m reading a book about the Gnostic texts found around the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls, but with a lot less ceremony and publicity. Possibly because they were written in Copt. They sat in a museum for about 40 years, when they weren’t floating around the Black Market. The theory is that these texts were buried by a monk in around 200AD, because that’s when Bishop Irenaeus wanted all the Gnostic Texts burned. The Gospel of Thomas is one of the most well-known of the 50 or so texts that were not included in the Christian Bible. Bishop Irenaeus was building the institution that eventually became the Holy Roman Empire. A religion built on a set of principles that were readily transmitted across countries; and were dependent upon a religious hierarchy. Those who practiced Gnosticism had a much wider base. Some of the texts seem to have come from Seventies San Francisco; others teach about spirituality that doesn’t come from a book, a spirituality that is based on experience. Something reflective of my own faith journey.

Easter is coming

 

Enough of that.

 

  • Illustration Tip #12: Tax Time

This will probably get posted before the 15th of April, so your deadline is drawing near, in spite of the Government Shutdown earlier this year. The IRS does not sleep.

BE ADVISED; I AM NOT PROVIDING YOU WITH ANY INCOME TAX ADVICE.

I will not offer any tax advice beyond the following: Don’t Cheat; you will get caught. Maybe not this time, but somewhere down the road when you’ve forgotten that some practice of yours was actually a cheat, when you first started it.

I have been audited more than once; in addition to having uncomfortable consequences to the digestive system, it can be very expensive; presuming that the reason you were cheating is because you discovered that you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service, and you hadn’t set funds aside for this unexpected contingency. Millionaires and Corporations cheat all the time, but they have expensive lawyers who can somehow call ‘blue’, ‘red’ and no one sees the problem.

One of the advantages of being self-employed is that you can deduct the expenses of running your business from your income. “Deduct” does not mean ‘hide it under the couch cushion.’ There are rules. If you are starting your business, and steadily lose money rather than earn money, the IRS will question whether or not your business is really a hobby. You may be able to deduct some of the expenses of living where you live. Generally, in order to be able to deduct expenses related to living wherever you live, you need to have part of your home set aside for working. Ideally, a room. Trying to convince an Auditor that your dining room table is your office is awkward, if you ever eat at your dining room table. The percentages of your utilities and rent that can be deducted from your income is based on a square foot percentage. If you live in a 200sf apartment, and your dining room table measures 18sf, you can do the math for the percentage attributable to business. But you better not eat at the table when you aren’t working.

Keep records of your spending. The Government likes PayPal, because PayPal is very transparent for bookkeepers. I use an ancient My Money program; it is low-maintenance, it makes for easy categorizing of expenses, and will provide one with reports on annual spending. Being a dinosaur, I don’t bother with far more advanced software. I’ve been using it for more than 20 years [yes, dinosaur-software runs on Windows 10-64; Microsoft would prefer that you don’t know this].

Computers are expenses that generally need to be depreciated. Depreciation means that there is a method by which you can deduct the cost of more expensive office equipment over time. Over time, these pieces of equipment lose their market value. Computers, and other spendy items in an office can often be depreciated over 5 years each.

You are not required to deduct any expenses from your business income. I do all of my income tax returns ‘by hand,’ meaning I do my own calculating. This provides me with the opportunity to make choices. When I’ve used online programs, I’ve discovered that these programs are written by someone who has a perspective on the Tax Code that I don’t have. Do not cheat.

Tax Codes are written by bureaucrats; bureaucrats tend to write with complex words; plan on looking for definitions. I used to write building code provisions; there’s a geeky part of me that likes to figure things out.

Norman Rockwell Daydreaming Bookkeeper

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 186: When does an Idea become a Fact?

March 25, 2019


An Idea. The most powerful force in the Universe.
When does an Idea become a Fact; and when does a Fact become an Idea?

In this context, I have to explain what I mean: I believe that Ideas drive us further than simple Facts. “Naia” above, is a fact; her DNA consists of combined Asian and Siberian strains in a pattern that is not found west of the Alaskan longitude. Her DNA is consistent with all the Indigenous peoples that populate the Americas [some of this information comes from the study of a younger skeleton, a male child found in Montana, which did not have a representation of his face constructed]. The face above is not what most of us would call, ‘an American Indian’. Naia’s face is not our Idea of an American Indian. But “Naia” is a fact. It requires an Idea for us white folk to understand that all the Indigenous people, throughout the Americas, are Naia’s forebears’ descendants. One family. This Idea is shown, scientifically, to e a much earlier time.

In human genetics, the Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all currently living humans, i.e., the most recent woman from whom all living humans descend in an unbroken line purely through their mothers, and through the mothers of those mothers, back until all lines converge on one woman.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve

Does science therefore prove that the Bible is correct? The Older Testament contains a Hebrew story about how the world began. Many civilizations have similar stories. The Book of Genesis also talks about the Creation of the sun, moon and stars. Stars that were light years away from Earth. Starlight from stars that take years to reach Earth.

The two [nearest] stars [to our solar system] are Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, which form a binary pair. They are an average of 4.3 light-years from Earth.
https://www.space.com/18090-alpha-centauri-nearest-star-system.html

How many stars are there within 1,000 light years from our Solar System? The space within 1000 light years is (1000/50)³ = 8000 times as large. Assuming a homogenous distribution you can expect 7 to 8 million stars in this range.
https://www.quora.com/How-many-stars-are-there-within-1-000-light-years-from-our-Solar-System

Scripture does say that to the Creator, one day is like a thousand years; and a thousand years is as a day…

People throughout history have overcome the Facts of their lives by focusing on an Idea that carries them beyond the Facts. An Idea that becomes the driving force of their lives.

For generations, there has been an Idea that all mankind are members of one family, our brothers and sisters. A Fact.
For generations there has been Idea that only those people within our generation of people are our family—often the people who our grandparents sired, or the people sired by our great-grandparents. Another Fact.
Research into our ancestry can enlarge our view of how we came to be. An Idea.

You are an Idea.

You are more than an Idea; however, when someone asks for information about yourself, you probably describe yourself by your job, or your role in life. You possibly identify yourself by your passions—sports, gaming, mountain climbing; the person you are married to, your children, your famous relative…these roles are facts about you. Or facts that you wish were about you. What you choose to do with these facts can become your guiding Idea.

People with a mental illness struggle with finding their identity—a post-medicated identity that doesn’t match the person they were before the medication. Being unable to reach a personality they no longer have. The struggle to understand who they are now. They need to find a new Idea of who they are going to be.

People with physical illness struggle in the same fashion—they can no longer participate in a life they enjoyed before. The athlete who is missing limbs, the singer who can no longer sing, the musician who can no longer play their music. The ‘ordinary’ [I believe we are all extraordinary—but we have been taught not to be] person who can’t walk anymore, or can’t climb trees, or walk along a mountain path. They need to find a new Idea of who they are going to be.

When one is a high-achiever by nature or learning and can no longer achieve to the level they consider necessary, they struggle with finding value in lesser achievements. The person with large dreams for the future who finds that the dreamed-of future will never happen.

I currently deal with an unexplained fatigue, on top of my Polyneuropathy of Unknown Cause. I can’t do what I used to be able to do. To a degree, I can’t do what I could do last year, and this is only March. The wrist that won’t support my weight without collapsing. The pain involved in getting out of bed. The morning walk that drains more energy than it did months ago. I won’t go through the details.

However, I refuse to describe myself by the things that I cannot do. This refusal is an Idea. The Idea that I have a choice about the way I see myself; succeeding or failing. On many days, I don’t succeed; I still refuse to accept the Idea of failure, as my self-definition. I am uniquely able, rather than using the dis- word. Life was simpler when I thought life was about facts.

Each of us is an Idea. We all make the decision as to what that Idea is.

The reality is that a large portion of the world’s population has no Idea at all. There are those who never seem to make it past adolescence, no matter how many years they have been around. There are many who are never permitted to have an Idea of who they could be. There are those who have lived in Privilege [however that is defined], whose world collapses underneath them; and now that have no privileges at all. The ones who have the weight of the world on top of them, when they were on top of the world last week. Then there are people who are uncontrollably damaged through no fault of their own. Shit Happens.

Who we become next is an Idea.
Where do we find the Ideas?

This is going to upset some people:
The Creator [aka God] is an Idea. I happen to believe that the Creator is also a Fact; perhaps The Fact of human existence. But I can’t prove this to be true. Countless wars have been fought, are being fought, because opposing peoples can’t reconcile their Idea with someone else’s Idea. Frequently wars are started because opposing peoples cannot agree on how a Book should be read. I’m a heretic. My most substantial evidence for the existence of the Creator does not come from a Book or Books; my evidence comes from my experiences. The Books back up what I’ve learned by way of the Spirit of the Creator.

I think one starts with ‘painting a mental picture’ of who you want to be; imagining what characteristics the who you want to become would have. How that person would act instead of how you react without being that person.
In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. He created a ‘score card’ with thirteen character traits he wanted to have. He kept this list with him at all times and marked his chart whenever he demonstrated that characteristic. Over time, more of the characteristics were marked. Over time, he changed who he was. It works; I’ve done it myself.

http://www.thirteenvirtues.com/

There are two men in my life who are very important to me. Fifty years apart in age, they struggle in similar ways with the question of who they are going to be. Both of them explore the concept of ending their existence. I know that I can’t ‘fix’ either of them—we can never ‘fix’ another human being; the most we can do is provide an environment where change can occur, when the person decides that change is necessary—and yet I know that they can change. They don’t yet have a new Idea for their lives. I can’t download an Idea from my brain to theirs; and I know this wouldn’t work either, because it would be my Idea, not theirs.

Where do we find the Ideas? For me, the Ideas come from a search for new truths. I have a soundtrack that plays through my head for most of my waking hours. Perhaps during my sleeping hours as well, since the music plays 24/7. Maybe my ears pick up sounds while I’m asleep, better than when I’m awake. A soundtrack for the person I want to be, even if I’m not there yet. Last night I was listening to an artist I admire; however, his music is mostly from the ‘pop charts.’ I find songs from pop charts to be fairly vapid; and yes, I’m a music snob.

I continually read. Each morning I read something specifically related to my Idea; during the day I read about what’s happening in the world. I read novels a few times a week; I’m a fan of hero stories. Before going to bed each night, I watch hero stories on the black rectangle in the living room.

I believe the Ideas we accept for our lives begin with our upbringing; whether positive or not. I’ve come to the realization that what parents assume is being taught to their children isn’t what their children are learning. I realize that I didn’t spend enough time engaging my children as they were growing. Partially because I never talked with my parents; but that is simply an excuse. The reality is that I placed a higher priority on my own struggles than engaging with my children and their struggles. We can’t go back and correct our mistakes. I’m a fan of time travel stories; however, I also realize that time travel is science fiction.

Find an Idea. Make it yours.

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #11: More Marketing

Being self-employed, I need to be marketing my work all the time. I hate marketing myself; the guy that mutes commercials on the black rectangle; the one that hides all the ads on Facebook. I usually quit reading Fb when I’m tired of deleting spam. I mark all the spam as Irrelevant; my magical thinking expects that someday, I will reprogram the Fb algorithm.

So, this guy who hates commercials needs to create ‘commercials’ for myself, in order to make my presence known. I’m this guy:

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, and the internet did not exist, we needed to use print advertising to get our message out to the world. The rule of thumb at that time was that only 4% of our ads would create a response by a prospective client. To put that in a better perspective, if one sends out 199 fliers, one should not expect to receive more than 4 inquiries. If one sends out 220 fliers, one might hear from 8 prospects. The average number was an average; it wasn’t a guarantee.

According to the Netcraft January 2018 Web Server Survey there are 1,805,260,010 (over 1.8 billion) websites. Yes, the Internet is very big. However, most of those websites get almost no visitors. If I was really into marketing myself, I would tell you that “I have the formula for bringing thousands of customers to your website,” but I would be lying. There is no formula. MY guess is that the 4% number is probably still accurate.

Among the things I do, I make videos:

You may, or you may not, realize that most, if not all of the ads on Social Media now feature videos. The concept being that movement attracts attention. Movement does attract attention. For me, movement signals that I probably need to delete the ad…

I struggle with the Idea of what my business is. Creating videos is fun; it’s also tedious. If you follow the image link above to my mjarts.com home page, you’ll see a video that I enjoy, conceptually, but there is movement in the titles [vertical words] that shouldn’t be there. Correcting the movement is tedious. I think the plan was to do something different, rather than making the correction; my life being what it is, I forget what the plan was.

Even more than making videos is ‘photo manipulation’. When dinosaurs ruled the earth, and digital images did not exist, one sometimes ended up with a paper photograph that did not do the subject justice. Or one ended up with old photographs whose image degraded due to sunlight or other forms of abuse. Back then, it was called ‘photo restoration’. The need still exists, because people have old photographs they want to be proud of, and the photo is no longer cooperating:

I have just illustrated for you one Idea about marketing your business. Did it work? You tell me: marty@mjarts.com

[OMG: I posted my email address on a webpage. Yeah, that’s pretty much the point…yes, I get a lot of spam]

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 184: Telling Stories

March 3, 2019
Serra Pelada Gold Mine Brazil; Sebastião Salgado

I am a story-teller.
Sadly, I lack the ability to craft a narrative tale of any length. So, I tend to tell the stories of other people, mostly through my illustrations.

There was a time when I thought I would become a better photographer. Time and circumstance being what they are, I found that my neurological challenges won out over the steadiness needed to be a photographer.

The other night, I watched The Salt of the Earth; a documentary about the life and work of Sebastião Salgado, a Brazilian economist turned photographer, and his 40-year quest to show the world to the world. By the end of the 20th Century he had become heart-sick over the abject cruelty of the human race; and our continuing, endless history of warfare upon each other. He photographed genocide, starvation that could have been stopped and incredible poverty. By the end of the 20th Century, he had decided to quit photography.

Early in this century, he and his wife took on the ‘impossible’ task of replanting a Brazilian rainforest that had existed on- and adjacent-to the Salgado farm; but had been decimated by years of drought. Having planted over a million trees, over several years, by last year the Brazilian Rainforest had returned, along with its wildlife. Their work, called Instituto Terra, has been given to the Brazilian people in the form of a National Park; and has become the model of recovery for abused landscapes. Sebastião was healed by the replanting, and began a new chapter of his career, photographing nature.

Early in his photographic career, Sebastião Salgado went to the Serra Pelada Gold Mine in Brazil; when it was a giant hole in the ground being mined, by hand, by 50,000 men from all walks of life, lured by the power of gold:

“Though Salgado felt compelled to document what was at the time one of Brazil’s largest gold rushes, he was ill-prepared for the frenzied scene he encountered at Serra Pelada (or “Naked Mountain” in English). “I was left speechless… droves of men of all colours and ages were carrying their feverish dream of instant wealth, a dream that had led them to leave their families and homes…to dig for a dull yellow metal that promised them a new life..
“Swept along by the winds that carry the hint of fortune, men come to the gold mine of Serra Pelada. No one is taken there by force, yet once they arrive, all become slaves of the dream of gold and the need to stay alive. Once inside, it becomes impossible to leave.
“Every time a section finds gold, the men who carry up the loads of mud and earth have, by law, the right to pick one of the sacks they brought out. And inside they may find fortune and freedom. So, their lives are a delirious sequence of climbs down into the vast hold and climbs out to the edge of the mine, bearing a sack of earth and the hope of gold.
“Anyone arriving there for the first time confirms an extraordinary and tormented view of the human animal: 50,000 men sculpted by mud and dreams. All that can be heard are murmurs and silent shouts, the scrape of shovels driven by human hands, not a hint of a machine. It is the sound of gold echoing through the soul of its pursuers.”

Jesus taught about the dangers of pursuing wealth. ‘It is easier to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter heaven’. And the disciples were disturbed by this teaching. All sorts of explanations have been made as to what Jesus was saying. Some say the disciples were disturbed because they were wealthy men; perhaps they desired wealth. Some people talk about a narrow gate in Jerusalem called ‘the eye of the needle’—a place where a camel had to be unloaded before it could enter. People don’t like to take the teaching literally.

I had a digital conversation the other night with a guy I respect; his understandings of Faith are remarkable. However, he seems to be caught up in the making of money. Probably a good program; but I realized that he’d been running in the same ‘circles’ that I had run in a few decades back…
My wife and I spent several years in the company of people who put a priority on gaining wealth. Financial principles were taught in the context of Scripture and the ability to buy one’s freedom from a job. My own motivations were simpler, I simply wanted to be in the company of individuals I admired. I had some talent for selling tech; but I could never make it an important part of my life. I could not live with the slogans like ‘Jobs are for Losers’. Categorically labelling people as “losers”—something that happens far too often at this point in our capitalistic history—removes the possibility of change and growth.
Helping others to fulfill their dreams became important for me; but things fell apart when I nearly died, months after doing my utmost to make sure that my sister didn’t die [see my previous post]. Late in 1988 I did some research that indicated that adult victims of a ruptured appendix had frequently gone through a period of stress. All that I know is that my recovery ‘nearly killed me’—the metaphor. It was the rupture and a day of internal leaking of nasty stuff that nearly killed me. The rest was 8 months of frustrating recovery.

How do we return?

As supported by historical research in recently-released government records, Rachel Maddow and her team at MSNBC created a podcast called “Bag Man” which focuses on Richard Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew. Richard Nixon, despite his protests to the contrary, was a crook. During the early days of the Watergate investigation, Federal Prosecutors found evidence that the Vice President, successor to Richard Nixon, if he left office, was a real crook. For years, as Governor of Maryland, Agnew took kickbacks on lucrative government contracts; and sacks of money were delivered to his office on a regular basis. This practice continued after his becoming Vice President, and the sacks of money were regularly delivered to the Vice President’s office. Prosecutors having found evidence supporting charges of extortion, bribery, and income-tax violations, Agnew agreed to leave office having pled ‘no contest’ to a felony charge of tax evasion; and forfeited his license to practice law. Senator Gerald R. Ford was quickly confirmed to the office of Vice President; Republican Senators presented the Prosecution’s case against the President to Richard Nixon; he agreed to leave office; and was later pardoned by President Ford for crime[s] Nixon did not admit to having done.

This last week, the President’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, was questioned by Congress for three days: two closed sessions, and one open session. He will be returning this coming week, bringing additional paper records to support the allegations he is making.
In these days, when there is a week’s worth of news every day, the narrative sometimes becomes lost…

“…Just over a month later, on Aug. 21, 2017, Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty in Manhattan to eight felonies—including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and making false statements to a bank—before Judge William H. Pauley III. The federal sentencing guidelines call for about four to five years on those charges, which were brought by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, known as the Southern District.

“Surprisingly, Mr. Cohen entered his plea without a traditional cooperation deal in which the Southern District would write to the judge and seek leniency when he was finally sentenced.

“Last Thursday [November 28.2017], Mr. Cohen entered his second guilty plea in Manhattan, this time to a charge of making false statements, which was filed by Mr. Mueller’s office. In court, he admitted he had misled congressional committees about negotiations he carried out on Mr. Trump’s behalf during the 2016 election campaign on a proposed tower in Moscow. Those negotiations, he said, lasted until five months before the election, far longer than previously known, and Mr. Trump was kept in the loop.

“For lying to Congress, Mr. Cohen faces a potential sentence of up to six months under the federal guidelines. And although there was no traditional cooperation deal, Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors agreed to bring Mr. Cohen’s assistance to the attention of the sentencing judge.”

https://theworldnews.net/ca-news/why-michael-cohen-donald-trump-s-fixer-confessed-to-it-all

Not to attempt to ‘paint’ a convicted felon heroically, Mr. Cohen’s second set of indictments were not the result of an arrest; on November 28, 2017 Cohen walked into a courtroom and pleaded guilty to felonies, on his own volition. He was seeking to clear his conscience for the sake of his family; I’d begun to believe that consciences did not exist anymore in Washington D.C. and NYC.
During the open session, many members of Congress continually accused of Michael Cohen of being a liar [for which he has already been indicted—more lying would likely increase his prison time], but no one disputed his allegations. Let that one sink in for a moment. No one disputed his allegations. They simply did not like what he said.

In the weeks and months ahead, facts about the current President will become more well known. The open questions regarding his support of- or by foreign powers hostile to the United States will be out in the open; as well as alleged financial crimes committed by the President’s family corporation.
15-20% of the population will no doubt consider these facts, not yet in evidence, as lies promoted by “Fake News” and the “Deep State”. Half of the Electorate did not vote in 2016; refusing to choose between a morally compromised businessman, and a liberal, female candidate who came with political baggage. Those who did not vote are guilty of allowing the President to gain his office. They could have voted for someone else.
Less than a day after Mr. Cohen appeared before Congress, alleging that Donald Trump committed felonies during his Presidential campaign, and his Presidency; at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, CEO Mike Lindell stated, “As I stand before you today, I see the greatest president in history. Of course, he is. He was chosen by God,” Lindell told the audience.
“God answered our prayers, our millions of prayers, and gave us grace, and a miracle happened on Nov. 8, 2016,” Lindell continued. “We were given a second chance and time granted to get our country back on track with our conservative values and getting people saved in Jesus’s name.

Statistically, 80% of White Evangelicals who voted, voted for the President. While they probably would not have let their daughters date the candidate, because he was publicly, morally compromised, they did not object to his running the country, because he promised to place Conservative judges on court benches; and would oppose funding for apparently-offensive publicly-supported programs that serve the underprivileged and those not holding to the strict moral code the Evangelical Church was willing to ignore when it comes to Presidential office. For decades I heard Evangelical preaching as to how I was to raise my children—none of it included behavior boasted by the current President.

The Conservative Evangelical Church condemns those whose behavior does not match their moral standards; and yet are willing to ignore the fact that a Federal Court has determined that the President of the United States is already an Unindicted Co-Conspirator in the conducting of multiple felonies. The man is a crook.
Perhaps I have a better understanding now:

(Matthew 27:15-26; Luke 23:13-25)
6 Now it was Pilate’s custom at the feast to release to the people a prisoner of their choosing. 7 And a man named Barabbas was imprisoned with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. 8 So the crowd went up and began asking Pilate to keep his custom.  9 “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked. 10 For he knew it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas to them instead. 12 So Pilate asked them again, “What then do you want me to do with the One you call the King of the Jews?”  13 And they shouted back, “Crucify Him!” 14 “Why?” asked Pilate. “What evil has He done?” But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify Him!” 15 And wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

The Garden of Gethsemane

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #9: [I know, I’ve jumped from #6 to #9]

Keep lists. This will help you keep information straight, when your brain gets too full; like when jumping from Illustration Tip #4 to Illustration Tip #7 without realizing it; because I hadn’t started keeping a list of these tips…

I keep lists of keywords, I keep lists of websites where I have portfolios of some sort. These two lists are in .txt files—a digital file card that takes very little space on the computer and can be useful in telling me when I need to restart the computer. If I can’t save a change, Windows 10 needs restarting. Windows 10 often needs restarting…

I keep passwords in lists. After twenty years of digital marketing, I sometimes have trouble remembering why I have a specific website on my password list. If I was really diligent, I’d go through and clean them up… As it is, I receive extortion spam from people who claim to have access to an email address I may have used for a month, a few years back [if you use MySpace, change your password]. I have no idea what my password is for that site. I forward the extortion spam to the Feds. I do not have cameras on my computers.

Back up your work. Another form of list. I have tens of dozens of DVDs, upon which are twenty years of illustration/graphic art/consulting work. Some of my larger-scope projects have required a dozen DVDs to store the images. Now I use terabyte drives. Since terabyte drives are not impervious to damage, I generally have duplicate backup files. Sometimes that isn’t enough…

Having your work visible in one spot on the internet is not enough. I have my work visible in a lot of spots on the internet and it still isn’t enough. Redbubble advises that having at least 15 tags/keywords per image increases the chances of getting found.

I have my images on a number of ‘retail store’ websites. Upload your image to a website, and have it duplicated onto clothing, tech cases, furniture. Eventually you will find that your work is making sales without your knowledge. Before you get too excited about the idea, your earnings will probably allow you to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks…

For me, the marketing of my illustrations is painful. Mostly metaphorically. I’ve had ‘agents’ who’ve claimed that they will sell my work for a small commission. I do not have a problem with sharing profits with people who are willing to do the work of marketing; they seem hard to find.

Over the years I have paid for ads [usually a full sheet of paper] in printed workbooks; paid for advertising in digital catalogs and paid for inclusion on ‘graphic art’ websites. I have an IMDB listing for creating a movie poster. I pay a company in the UK to advertise my work. My general standard for deciding whether or not I should continue that advertising is fairly simple—have I gotten inquiries from the source? I don’t focus on sales as much as on inquiries. There are many factors involved in generating sales as a commercial artist. Sometimes there are factors that have absolutely nothing to do with my work. An upcoming exhibition in London:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 183: I don’t believe in ‘random’.

February 27, 2019

Not an original image. My hope is that 2019 becomes the year that is worth talking about again. When the guilty are brought to justice.

I don’t believe in ‘random’.

I handed the idea of ‘random’ over to my Creator in the late 70s, when I gave back to my Maker, the life I had been given. So, when one or two songs out of the 1689 songs on my ‘random’ playlist start up at the exact moment I’m writing someone, or thinking about something specific, I am no longer surprised. From the seemingly inane to the incredibly portentous events of my life, I believe things happen for a reason. I also believe that I am probably not yet wise enough to understand what that reason might be. Small things; huge things; ‘miracles’, by which I mean events that seem to happen in an ‘interventional’ way, for no discernible reason. I believe the Spirit of the Creator intersects with moments in my life, moments that may have nothing to do with me, beyond allowing me to be a witness…

And then there are the Awful Things that the world has plagued with from the beginning:

The Human Propensity to F*ck things Up

I know a lot of people who say that it all happens according to a Plan. I believe that is a mistranslation of Scripture. I believe that we, our souls, the part that makes us, us, is made for Eternity. The Creator exists outside of Time. We are incapable of understanding the concept. The beginning of time [Kairos] is happening simultaneously with the end of time here [Chronos]; The Creator knows about our lives here–in all of its ugliness and all of its wonder. The Creator is never surprised by our actions or the things that happen. Bad stuff happens; it is not ordained; it is not permanent. Our souls are permanent, and we are not able to understand what this means.

Clive Staples Lewis was a brilliant man, a scholar of English Literature, which also made him a scholar of history. While at college he encountered Faith; an encounter that came within a dislike he describes as ‘a mouse looking for a cat.’ He and I encountered Faith at much the same time in our lives, with much the same opinion. One of my favorite works of C.S. Lewis is an anthology of his writings, which filled volumes. One of the works that makes me wish I had an eidetic [photographic] memory; so many ideas that I would like to be able to quote at will…

There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of ‘Heaven’ ridiculous by saying they do not want ‘to spend eternity playing harps’. The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold, etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. Musical instruments are mentioned because for many people (not all) music is the thing known in the present life which most strongly suggests ecstasy and infinity. Crowns are mentioned to suggest the fact that those who are united with God in eternity share His splendour and power and joy. Gold is mentioned to suggest the timelessness of Heaven (gold does not rust) and the preciousness of it. People who take these symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.

Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch. 10

I love movies. I think I began watching visual stories as a means of understanding how other people think. The reality is that I don’t understand things that the mass of people seems to understand. Within the realm of visual storytelling is my love for science fiction and time travel. ‘How would my life have been different if…’

Within the realm of understanding of the nature of the Universe are the people Lewis mentions above—the people who take the religious Scriptures literally—these people exist throughout the Abrahamic faiths; and are, in truth, the cause of war and terrorism in the Middle East today; and for centuries across Europe. The idea that only one idea can be the correct idea. A source of discord in American society.

There are those who believe that the Universe consists of an infinite series of parallel universes where each of our decisions create separate realities. I can’t wrap my head around that one. There are those that believe we are each, ‘ideas within the mind of God.’ I have less trouble with that one, when I realize that none of us are solid creatures; solidity is an illusion. Every atom is composed mostly of electromagnetic forces; we are each composed of atoms; therefore, we are each composed mostly of electromagnetic forces.

Getting back to ‘random’ and my lack of belief in ‘random’.

An intersection of my seeing someone across the room, a person I wanted to meet, but lacked the nerve; who, years later, was still in the same place when I returned. The person I eventually ‘adopted’ as my sister; who was plagued by the deaths of family members every other year. The person who had her own ‘death warrant’ delivered to her; the mother of the son who would become an orphan because the hospital that was willing to transplant her liver would charge $185,000 in 1988—an impossible sum of money. She had no insurance, worked part-time and had a retired mother of her own, living on Social Security. I took her son to the State Capitol one day, to be part of an explanation to State Legislators about the challenges of people in dire health situations who do not have health insurance. We had started a fundraising campaign [the internet did not exist] with beef jerky containers on countertops, asking for spare change. On that day in Salem, Oregon, there was a reporter from the Washington Post looking for an interesting story, and a reporter from CNN on the same mission. Two people from far away who ‘happened’ to be in Salem, Oregon on the afternoon when my sister’s son cried for his Mom in front of the State Legislature. He was 12, then; he’s in his 40s now.

We did interviews with the two reporters in the following week; within a couple of weeks, money started pouring in from across the world. The Post article was on the front page of their ‘Living’ Section; that article inspired other articles from writers across the country. Newspaper stories about the working poor and the high cost of medical expenses [again, 1988, before the internet]. Having made all of the arrangements with Baylor including preliminary medical tests, when the reporter from CNN contacted me about an offer of a free transplant from a California hospital that was beginning a liver transplant program [the doc in charge saw the CNN report while in Hawaii—who watches CNN while vacationing in Hawaii? Pocket computers did not exist]; I gave the CNN reporter the contact information for an Oregon woman in the same condition as my sister. I recently learned that she had received the transplant, around the same time as my sister’s.

My sister was turning green when I wheeled her into Baylor University Hospital with a check for $185,000 taped to my belly. She was nearly dead when an organ donor ‘turned up’ and once again, a life was given for another. Something like 30 years later, the drugs that kept my sister alive caused Cancer. She survived chemo. Only to come up against Breast Cancer. She survived again; chemo and radiation. Then she learned that blood transfusions over the years had led to Hepatitis C. She survived that as well. Her joints are damaged from the steroid use.

Her grandchildren turned four, recently. A miracle she never expected [their survival had not been guaranteed].

Every now and then I send an update to that Washington Post reporter. He saved two lives. According to the Talmud and the Holy Quran, the saving of one life is the saving of the entire world.

My sister’s story is the most dramatic ‘interventional’ story; there are countless smaller ones.

What I call my ‘Re-birthday’ is today; February 26th. My ‘end-of-random’ happened a few years later, when I better understood how the ‘interventional’ had happened in my life. So, I now also realize that the ‘dissolving’ of my body due to a “polyneuropathy of an unknown cause” also is not random. I do not understand ‘why’ but it is not required that I do. What is required is Trust. Every week, new heroes come into my life. People who, for me, are dealing with much more awful ‘train wrecks’ than I deal with. I subscribe to the ‘shit happens’ School of Theology. It happens; I don’t try to explain why. Job dealt with that issue 8,000 years ago.

If I could see, with greater perspective, much of my life might actually look like these images—a chaotic scene of dreadful moment, that is virtually invisible from a distance…

http://rebloggy.com/post/gif-mine-owen-wilson-steve-coogan-night-at-the-museum-rewatched-this-because-ram/15887816072

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #6:

Work for which I was not paid.

See image below. If you do Work for Hire; if you troll Craigslist for illustration/graphic arts jobs; if you subscribe to job boards, you will probably be asked to provide some sort of sample imagery to demonstrate that you can do the desired work. Sometimes I’ve created images specifically for a project posting that was different from work I’d done before; and the investment of time proved to be a poor investment. The client bails for some reason. It may be something that doesn’t have anything to do with you. The image below was created for a real project for a greyscale image book jacket; it didn’t happen. I never learned why.

I keep a folder of images called “Service Provider Samples” and have separate folders within the master folder, for specific types of work. Not that it’s particularly important, but I have over 1300 images in the folder. Twenty years.

I’m sure that there are smarter ways to work than I’ve used. However, I did not know what those smarter ways were. Next week I do a ‘Networking gig’; haven’t done one of these in several years. One of my most frequent clients retired last month. Serious dent to my income. So, I need to start looking for new clients again.

For one who prefers to spend solitary time in a room, interacting with ‘art’—however that may be described—rather than human beings; sometimes for a week at a time, it is not surprising that this person does not find interaction with like-minded professionals to be a positive thing. There are a lot of introverted artists in the world. The creation of art requires a different set of ideas, from the marketing of art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 181: The Blind Spot, Part Two

February 10, 2019

The majority of people with something like ‘normal’ vision have two blind spots’—one in each eye—where the Optic Nerve connects with the Retina. There are no light-sensitive cells in these locations. The reason that most of us are unaware that we have these blind spots is due in part to the fact that each eye views that which is in front of us from a slightly different angle. Consequently, there is an overlap between the two sets of images. The other part of the reason is that our brains ‘cheat’—they fill-in the missing signals with related, nearby information. Essentially, the brain essentially uses a ‘higher-resolution’ image than is necessary for vision [a concept, not a definition].

The concept can be demonstrated in ‘Pixilation’—Raster-based images use square ‘pixels’ of color to create images on a computer. The higher the resolution of the image, the easier it is to represent curves with square pixels. In the right-hand image above, there is a ‘sawblade’ demarcation between the darker brown color and the lighter brown color—the closest representation to a curved line the computer can make with squares. In this detail image, the ‘camera’ is zoomed-in to 1000% of the facial close-up. The computerized image fills in the space around the square pixel with square pixels of similar colors, camouflaging the ‘sawblade’ curved line by ‘shading’.

The absence of blind spots in our vision is aided by the brain’s filling-in of the missing ‘pixels’ of color by using similar colors to create a consistent image.

The mind-numbing part of this is that the brain does not have a flat-screen embedded inside the grey matter. What you see is an ‘illusion’—light transmitted to the brain by means of electro-chemical signals from light-receptive ‘rods’ and ‘cones’ connected to specific nerve cells, and ‘sent’ by the Optic Nerve to specific portions of the brain that translate those electro-chemical signals to something we perceive as sight. The ‘projection’ as it were, exists within our brains—signals between nerve cells. Depth perception is also an illusion, based on the degrees of difference in signals between the light hitting the retina on the inside of either eyeball. Our heads are less than a foot in depth, and yet we can perceive ‘depth’ over a large distance. We can also perceive ‘depth’ in a piece of plastic that has been designed for an illusion of depth.

How does our brain know how to do this? A very interesting question which many don’t want to answer. This illusionary process of ‘seeing’ really can’t be construed by the simple word, ‘evolution’ or the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’. Start with a ‘pinhole’ camera—the simplest camera that can be made. Then look at the camera in your cell phone. The finest camera made cannot duplicate the human eye—the camera cannot be connected to our brains.

Non-human animals can perceive light that is outside of the human range of visible light. Light visible by humans is a relatively small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Heat is ‘visible’ in the infrared spectrum; ultra-violet light makes for fun parties…

The ‘swath’ of religious perception seems to be nearly as wide as the electromagnetic spectrum, and of similar variety. Having been following Jesus for four of my six-plus decades, I’ve discovered that there are far more than two Blind Spots in most people of ‘religious persuasion’. There are huge blind spots when it comes to the subject of Faith.

We live two lives—the one you and I are reading this in; and the world of Eternity. The Creator lives in Eternity, without the hindrance of Time. The English language is deficient, in that there is only one word for ‘time’—in Greek, there are two words for time—chronos—clock time; and Kairos—Eternal time. ‘Eternal’ does not mean, ‘a really long time.’ Eternal means existence outside of Time. In the time-controlled-to-an-incredible-degree 21st Century, the concept of ‘life outside of time’ falls into the realm of science fiction.

The Creator exists in Kairos—our past, our present, our futures have been known since the moment of Creation. Our souls have been made for Eternity; not for a handful of decades. I believe that nothing we do can ever surprise the Creator. We have Free Will; at the same Kairos, the consequences of our choices are already known. ‘Known’, not ‘controlled’. The Creator ‘observes’ what humans do; the Creator does not ordain or control what we do. Religious people will balk at this—their Bibles say ‘God ordains’. The problem being that the Greek word translated ‘ordains’ has a different meaning:

Original Word: ὁρίζω [horizó]: refers to the Lord (literally) “horizoning” all the physical scenes of life before creation. From this Greek word, comes the English word, horizon.

Lutheran doctrine [about which I am not a scholar], says that we are saved by Christ alone and not by our works. Yet the Church, historically, places a great emphasis on Works—how we behave. Many people in the Church, today, seem to believe that behavior determines whether or not one is ‘saved’ or ‘condemned’. We believe our eyes and emotions; and apparently forget the Love of Christ. Myself included.

I believe that there are ‘lost’ people in this life. Thousands new each day. They make choices and those choices head toward ruin; they need to learn how they can find themselves again. I am not convinced that these people are truly Lost, in the sense of being condemned to Eternal Separation. People grow up in excremental situations. People begin their lives in ‘negative numbers’ through no fault of their own. Some never find their way to ‘positive numbers’. The Creator understands all of this. People in the Church condemn our fellow brothers and sisters every day, people who carry the face of Christ in their own; and have a story completely different from many who condemn.

I simply have trouble understanding how a Creator who Created each and every individual on Earth could condemn to Hell 3/4 of all the human beings that have ever lived. This is what many are saying, although they probably don’t think about it. Arrogant ones don’t care.

The Faith Jesus called people to was Judaism. Jesus was not a Christian. However, Judaism got messed up in 60AD with the destruction of the Temple and the obliteration of a place to make atonement for our brokenness. It is believed that all of the Gospels were written after the destruction of the Temple, about 30 years after Jesus’ Crucifixion. The chronology isn’t spelled out in the New Testament. Everything in the New Testament happened after Jesus’ resurrection. There were no journalists; there were no pencils, there was no paper. Paul dictated his letters to a scribe, who wrote at a desk, of sorts, in ink on parchment. If we told Paul and the Apostles that their writings would overshadow Torah, I think they would be offended. And yet, that is what has happened for most of the history of the Church.

I come from a background that does not include Church. I was reading Existentialists before I heard the Gospel. I originally ‘got in’ for Fire Insurance. For the first time in my twenty-plus years, I had friends. They were all these Christian people that I had avoided for 2.5 years in college. They told me Jesus was coming next month, and they were all going away, and I’d be Left Behind. So, I ‘signed up.’ And studied and tried to make sense of the very confusing world of the Church, the Bible and denominations. At the end of my 4th year of college, I went to a Retreat Center in the LA Hills [after the fires, I don’t know if it still exists]. There I encountered the Holy Spirit. Encounters I could not explain by any other means. These occurrences continued in my 5th year, and in the years that followed graduation. I would have to be a dolt to not accept the reality of the Spirit of the Creator in my life, without regard to what is written in books.

If one travels widely enough among the denominations, one finds that people believe all sorts of weird stuff; and they can usually find Biblical verses to back them up; apparently without any understanding of hermeneutics. [Hermeneutics was initially applied to the interpretation, or exegesis, of scripture, and has been later broadened to questions of general interpretation. Hermeneutics is a wider discipline which includes written, verbal, and non-verbal communication. Exegesis focuses primarily upon the word and grammar of texts. wikipedia]

There are people of all faiths, and none, who worship the Creator; using different words and different methodology. I choose to believe that worship of the Creator is worship of the Creator, without regard to practice. I know pagans [not a lot, but some—however, I avoid people who are strange to me] who are more devoted to the Creator than I am; they just don’t think of it in the same terms. And they certainly don’t want to be compared with members of the Church…

In the words of the late, great Rich Mullins—”bear in mind children, that they listen to you because you are kids; not because you are right. This is how the Father listens to us.”

 

Enough of that.

  • Illustration Tip #8: “Work Product” vs. Original Art

Who owns an illustration; who owns the painting? The person who creates the art, or the purchaser?

The language below was reviewed and agreed-to by the attorneys for the Yellowstone Park Foundation. I use it in all my contracts/ Services Agreements. You are welcome to use this language in your own Services Agreement as desired. I have yet to create the next Pixar image icon [especially because I don’t work for Pixar], so I’m not worried about loss of royalties that may exist in the unforeseen future. I always consider my work as designed for a specific client.

If you are certain that you are going to create a new ‘cultural icon’ in illustration, you might not want to use this language, because it causes you to give up your copyright to the Work Product; in return you keep all of your original images and sketches; and get a guarantee that you can use the work you created for your own self-promotion. They own the Work Product; you own what goes into the making of the Work Product.

I have never been taken to court over Work Products that I have created. I consider the concept of ‘going to court’ as having already lost. I may have clients who did not like the quality of Work Product they received; however, they have never paid for the disliked Work Product. If they don’t pay, they don’t own anything; and I have merely a disgruntled client. I do not have a client who has any monetary claim over work they were never billed for. That’s simply the way I do business.

Grant of Rights.  Upon payment, the Illustrator relinquishes all rights of copyright and hereby assigns to Client all rights of copyright to all artistic work delivered under the terms of this Agreement (“Work Product”), including all rights to reproduction, modification, distribution, public performance, and/or public display of the Work Product, and agrees that all Work Product shall be the sole property of the Client.  The Illustrator agrees that all such Work Product shall be considered “works made for hire” and shall be the exclusive property of the Client, and the Illustrator hereby expressly waives any right or interest it may have therein. The Illustrator agrees to provide such assistance as may reasonably be required by the Client in obtaining copyrights for such Work Product and in enforcing any rights and interests relating to such Work Product or to any copyrights resulting therefrom.  The Client will provide the Illustrator with credit on the Client’s credit page.

The Illustrator will provide to Client digital files in an appropriate format corresponding to Client’s permanent use, and the Illustrator will be entitled to retain all original artwork, including sketches and any other materials created in the process of making the Work Product. Client hereby grants to the Illustrator a perpetual, royalty free license to use and publicly display the Work Product only for the Illustrator’s own promotional use. The Illustrator shall not resell the Work Product to any one at any time.

Work for Hire sucks. The pay is poor. On the other hand, it is a way to get published, and to demonstrate that one can create a series of illustrations. Creating one great illustration is good; creating another one like it is usually a requirement. One can begin to create a reputation for a style of work and demonstrate responsibility.

I’m sure there are better ways to break into the publishing business; but I don’t know anything about those other ways. I’ve been doing Work for Hire for twenty years. I was able to create illustrations; I got paid. Work for Hire comes with a minimum of artistic direction—one of the factors that distinguishes Work for Hire as opposed to ‘being an employee.’ The down side is that there isn’t anyone around to provide editorial direction—’perhaps you could view the scene from a different direction’. You get paid for a project, and as long as you meet the deadline with work that matches the description, the client doesn’t have a lot of room for argument. It’s best to get input along the way, before you invest a lot of time into an unsatisfactory project for yourself and the client.

“mushrooms, 30-40 feet high” an entry for a Jules Verne Exhibition; Journey to the Center of the Earth

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 180: The Blind Spot

February 3, 2019

Doug sent me a link to a scholarly article that presents a very thought-provoking idea—in Science, there is a Blind Spot.

https://aeon.co/essays/the-blind-spot-of-science-is-the-neglect-of-lived-experience?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=atom-feed&fbclid=IwAR1gF1WS-0jGyYwTGJuEMhehnFDz5b3f6msVOZTV_vkAOA1m5YKG0mqrUjs

“…the claim that there’s nothing but physical reality is either false or empty. If ‘physical reality’ means reality as physics describes it, then the assertion that only physical phenomena exist is false. Why? Because physical science—including biology and computational neuroscience—doesn’t include an account of consciousness. This is not to say that consciousness is something unnatural or supernatural. The point is that physical science doesn’t include an account of experience; but we know that experience exists, so the claim that the only things that exist are what physical science tells us, is false. On the other hand, if ‘physical reality’ means reality according to some future and complete physics, then the claim that there is nothing else but physical reality is empty, because we have no idea what such a future physics will look like, especially in relation to consciousness…”

The Scientific Method assumes that observation during an experiment occurs outside of the experiment’s physical limits; scientists cannot make objective observations from within the experiment’s parameters. However, all observation of our Universe takes place within our Objective Experience of the Universe; we cannot step outside of our Reality to observe our Universe. Consequently, the Scientific Method cannot observe Consciousness; although science is getting closer:

https://techxplore.com/news/2019-01-brain-speech.html

Brain waves can be turned into recognizable speech with the aid of artificial speech algorithms. Science can observe Consciousness; science does not yet have the capacity to interpret Consciousness.

We cannot make objective observations of our own Consciousness.

We cannot observe the Soul. Many people doubt that the soul even exists. In my opinion, the presence of the Soul is what Scripture means in the phrase, “made in the image of the Creator:” The Imago Dei. We are created in the image of Jesus; although it is probably more accurate to say that Jesus was created in the image of humans. Jesus claimed to be the person of the Creator—this is only evident when reading Scripture in its original languages. When Jesus speaks of Himself in the phrase, “Before Abraham was born, I am,” in English, He is referring to the unpronounceable Name of the Creator YHWH—the answer given to Moses from the bush. The four consonants [English] correspond to four breath-sounds in Hebrew; ‘the Name of the Creator is the sound of our breathing.’

There are many Scriptural literalists that would find exception to the above paragraph. For them, the Imago Dei means that the Creator has 10 fingers, and 10 toes, and sits on a Heavenly Throne all day; and has a vague resemblance to Charleton Heston. I won’t bring up facial hair.

We have a Blind Spot.

Technically, the majority of people have at least two Blind Spots, one in each eye. The Blind Spot refers to the portion of the Retina where the Optic Nerve connects to the Retina. This portion of the Retina has no optical receptors and is unusable for translating light into electro-chemical energy.

So, how is it that most of us cannot detect these blind spots? Two reasons—one, the two eyes are set a distance apart from each other; consequently, the light that hits the two Retinas contain information received from two different perspectives; and the brain merges the two images, reducing the visual overlap. Two, the brain interprets the information it receives, and ‘cheats’—the brain ‘photoshops’ the image we see on the imaginary ‘monitor/flat screen’ located directly in front of our eyes.

What we sighted people ‘see’ is electro-chemical-information-translated-into-images-by-our-brains. However, there are no monitors in our brains. This is why no two people see exactly the same thing. Colors are translations of electro-chemical-information by our brains. What my nearsighted, astigmatic, cataract-containing eyes see, without my glasses, is far different from what my corrected-vision eyes see. Since my glasses need replacing, what I am seeing now will be different if I ever get around to replacing my glasses.

At present, when one walks around any group of people, one will see people staring at the screen of some sort of Internet-connected device. You may be reading these words on some Internet-connected device, part of the Internet of Things.

You are staring at a piece of glass, behind which are tiny electronic inventions that emit light. As in the candle in the above image, the reflected light from that candle on your screen travels through your corneas, through your lenses [where the image is inverted—why aren’t we all upside down?] where receptors in the retinas turn the perceived light into an electro-chemical signal that travels along your optic nerves into specific portions of your brains [portions that appear to be outwardly identical to other portions].

Once in your brain, those signals somehow create the ‘imaginary’ image of a visible world. People who are blind and people who choose to close their eyes to the world, confirm by sensation that the ‘imaginary’ world exists. I reach out my hand, and I can still feel, to a degree, the keys on my keyboard [neuropathy sucks]. Because I learned ‘touch-typing’ in high school, if I can find the F and J keys, I can produce some reasonable facsimile to words that are also on a screen on my desk.

But all of these images, including this one, are constructs of our brain. There is no ‘flat screen’ in your head.

Enough of that.

The above image came to me from my Dad’s mother, at some point, long ago. I have a vague recollection that the story was that I had some relative I’d never heard of, who worked for Disney. This was long before I ever thought I would have a career as an illustrator. I did some googling tonight and was surprised to discover—searches of years past didn’t provide any information—that Milt Kahl was one of Disney’s “Nine Old Men”— illustrators that had worked for Disney from ‘the beginning’. 1937 [the year on the calendar next to Goofy] was the year Snow White came out. My life having turned out the way it has, I like thinking that I have some history in common with someone at Disney—I never had the impression that the someone might be famous. Milt Kahl seems to have lived his life in California; my Grandmother never left Oregon. The “Milt” signature could be from a different Milt…

  • Illustration Tip #7: The psd file and Digital Art

It may not be common knowledge that one does not need Adobe Photoshop to ‘photoshop’ images. One only needs a graphics program that can read psd files. The ‘magic’ in the psd file is that this file has the ones and zeroes in a formation that can create transparent layers. These transparent layers can be stacked to create new images that are independently alterable. All of my digital images are created using layered psd files; however, I only use Adobe Photoshop for specific tasks—tasks my usual programs aren’t able to accomplish.

Transparent layers created from the original image

Once you digitize an image, the image becomes a ‘thing’. Scan a photograph, and the photograph becomes a digital ‘thing’, that can be manipulated to whatever degree you want. In the above image, I’ve taken the original Café image, and distorted it using a ‘skew’ distortion. I am then working with a parallelogram, rather than a rectangle. The parallelogram nature of the image gives the impression of ‘perspective’. I can then remove the separate characters from the ‘background’ and I can re-create them in a separated background layer. I could colorize each of the characters, so that they weren’t in black/white. The possibilities of this technique are almost endless.

I use two Paintshop Pro programs [versions 6 and 8] from the 90s for 95% of my work. Paintshop Pro is a lot like GIMP—an open source graphics program that has the same features as Paintshop Pro. Version 6 of PSP can use Bezier curves to create Vector images.  I use Version 6 for drafting. These curved lines are versatile tools, once one gets the hang of thinking in terms of tangents. Version 8 does not include Bezier curves for whatever reason.

99% of my work uses Raster images. Raster images are ‘fixed-size’ images. One can shrink Raster images without pixilation; but enlarging Raster images can cause the stair-step outline that is obvious if the image has too few dots per inch. Vector images are actually mathematical constructs, rather than the lines one sees in the interface between monitor and computer language. It looks like a line, but it’s actually more like a GPS location at a tiny scale. One can enlarge Vector image all one wants to, and a line will remain a line, rather than a set of steps. Because the line only exists in the software one is using. The printed output can be very large.

Since I have never made the effort to learn how to shade a Vector image, I don’t use them. I’ve seen wonderfully shaded Vector images; I am an impatient student. I can create a Raster image at a high-resolution that will allow the image to be enlarged without Pixilation. A 600dpi image can be enlarged to 3x scale and still work well in a printer. 4x, depending upon the image. Printed images can usually work well at 200dpi; however, printers prefer 300pdi images.

The psd file for this image has 8 separate layers

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 179: Unexplainable Happenings

January 20, 2019

Okay… I changed my relationship with WordPress, and things have not come out, yet, as I had hoped. I hope to return to https://mjarts.blog

CPO John Seidman was my wife’s nephew; he died in a failed Coast Guard rescue in October of 2009…a tragic accident.
http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2009/11/photo-essay-memorial-service-for-rescue-1705/
Members of the US Coast Guard have a special place in my heart.
Today, the spouses of members of the US Coast Guard are figuring out where they will get their family’s next meal because members of the Coast Guard are working without pay, due to heartless politicians who have forced the country into a Shutdown. Legislation in Congress to stop the Shutdown has already been passed, Legislation that will allow the Shutdown to end; but these approvals are not being passed on to the President for his signature, or his veto of the Legislation; a veto which can be overridden by the two Houses of the Legislative Branch. The Shutdown can end today, if certain people will swallow their pride and do their duty to Serve. As do those Federal workers you and I employ to serve us.
You can support Furloughed Federal Government workers by donating to your local Food Bank:  
https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank

First Heroes For Freedom, Silver Moon Press, Spring 2000

Physical Pain.
It started in a PE class in high school. I was on a trampoline, with the goal of jumping upwards and landing on the lower part of my chest; what actually happened is that I landed on the upper part of my chest, causing my legs to fly over and behind my head: Э I heard my spine pop like my desk chair rolling over the bubble wrap on my office floor [I am by nature untidy]; for the next few weeks, when I turned to face someone, I rotated my body like a door on hinges. My parents probably did not have health insurance, and it seemed like, if you could get to a doctor, you didn’t really need one. From that point onward, I lived with continual pain in my low back, and recurring sciatica—burning pain in the outer part of my thighs from damage to the Sciatic nerve.

There was a significant amount of time when the pain stopped. My fiancée and I went to a crusade here in Portland; some evangelist whose name I forgot. The first evening contained some profound teaching on the subject of Faith; the second or third evening, he was ‘giving out the Gift of Tongues’—glossolalia. Glossolalia is found in a variety of religious experiences—speaking in unknown languages. The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, refers to ‘speaking in the tongues of angels’—and most importantly, if there is no one around to interpret this language, when spoken in public, it has no value. Glossolalia runs counter to my personality; but I felt compelled to go down to that stage…where I found myself lying on the floor, with babbling people rubbing their hands over me. After a few minutes, I asked the Creator if I could go back to my seat; the experience was getting embarrassing. On my way back to my seat, some gal with a clipboard asked me if I had ‘received the Gift of Tongues’ and looked confused when I said that I hadn’t. A day or two later, I realized that my back didn’t hurt—first time in years—when one deals with chronic pain, it tends to have a habitual aspect—I expected to be in pain, ‘so I was’. My awareness of ‘no-pain’ wasn’t immediate.

One more experience of Unexplainable Happenings in my life. Things for which I cannot find a logical explanation; things that seem to be a result of an act of faith. I cannot articulate ‘why’ the Creator would intervene in my life; nor can I predict when such things might occur. I know a guy who has heard voices that directed him out of events that would have cost his life. I’ve never heard voices; but I have ‘sensed’ that I was supposed to do things. These events add some weight to the results of my inner mental wanderings.

Three totaled cars, years working as a carpenter—the back pain came back. The reality is that I now have two stenoses in my spinal column. Damaged vertebrae and a narrowing of the hole through which the spinal nerve pass. I don’t know if the damage occurred in high school or is caused by some other deterioration. There are no past records I can check.
Some ‘good’ news is that I don’t feel Sciatic pain any more—those nerves are damaged by my ‘idiopathic polyneuropathy’—doctorspeak for ‘your nerves are messed up, and we don’t know why’. The reality is that Neurology is still in its ‘childhood’—Neurologists don’t know nearly as much as they pretend to. My understanding is that most neurological conditions have no label because the nervous system isn’t very well understood.
What appears to be occurring is that my nerves’ outer sheathing/protection is deteriorating. I liken it to wiring with its insulation damaged. If you connect the exposed wiring to something that conducts electricity, you get a short circuit. At the same time I have this growing superpower of being impervious to external pain/sensation, I also have my own Kryptonite; my damaged nerves provide a burning pain of their own, which never stops. Diminished by medication.
We each have the option of choosing our own self-identification; while I deal with constant pain, I work at not letting it become my self-definition. I believe in possibilities; my Faith tells me that Pain won’t be my self-definition when I end my journey here on this world.

Enough of that.

Promotional image for the Man of Steel

I decided, when I started this blog, that I wasn’t going to write anything, in terms of working as an illustrator, that wasn’t accurate. Consequently, I haven’t written a lot about being a freelance commercial artist. I know a lot of things that don’t seem to work very well. As a freelance commercial artist, I’ve wasted a lot of money on print advertising, I’ve wasted a lot of money on digital advertising and a lot of time trolling Craigslist. Most of my income, for the last twenty years, has come from my other business—Building Code consulting. The enjoyable part of that business is that I always need illustrations to explain Building Code concepts; and I have this in-house illustrator who makes my technical writing more understandable. I bill him out at an hourly rate

I cannot tell you how to become successful as a freelance commercial artist

I create images that people admire, but don’t particularly want to buy. When I started this gig—having been told by my doctor that I needed to change careers in order to keep my health—I collected a folder full of images that I admired. I mostly focused on ‘the Golden Age of Illustration’ plus other examples of realism that border on fine art. I invested something like ten years into being able to create the kind of image I want to produce, consistently. In those ten years the world of illustration changed. Illustrations for children’s books became cartoony and photographers became illustrators.
A reality that I do not like to admit is that as in the rest of my life, I am a dinosaur; and I have no desire to change what I do. Refer to my last post, with Illustration Tip #1.

  • Illustration Tip #2:

Portfolios, digital and otherwise: back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth, all advertising was done on paper. Color made of ink-on-paper can be very different from color-made-from-light. Not only is it important to set the ‘gamma’ of a monitor [yes, even today], it is important to know what sort of color setting [Printer Profile] the printer is using. Print images use CMYK [Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, black] inks and monitor images and photocopiers use RGB [Red, Green, Blue] toners and diodes.

First Postcard | Second Postcard | Third Postcard

Hire an Illustrator is a company in the UK who hosts one of my portfolios and sends out postcards to art buyers. The first time I sent them a card design, I neglected to find out what Printer Profile they use. The second card was better [too much green] and the third was tolerable [the other side is too dark, but tolerable].
Does this sort of advertising work? My usual measurement for ‘working’ is whether or not I’ve gotten an inquiry or work as a result of the advertising. I’ve gotten work through this vendor, so I keep using them [beside which, I like the people]

  • Illustration Tip #3:

If you are going to use online advertising via digital portfolios, you will need to provide the vendor with a title, a description of the work, and Keywords to locate your work on their website:

Third Postcard, above:
Doctor Who at Rainbow Canyon
fan art; promotional image, Digitally-colored graphite drawing, digital
Keywords: Fantasy, Children, People, Realistic, Children’s Book, Comic Book Art, the Doctor, TARDIS, Dr-Who, whovian, doctorwho manipulation

I keep a Keywords.txt file in my Windows-based office network, for every image I post online. In time, you will find that you do this A LOT.
Setting up illustrations for a new-to-me vendor is very tedious. I assume that Apple has some sort of equivalent to a text file.

  • Illustration Tip #4:

As an editorial note regarding Windows:

That grey rectangle after the colon: is not simply a blank space. In that space are all sorts of instructions for Windows in terms of font, spacing, and a bunch of other stuff. When you transfer the words in that box to some other format, such as WordPress in their new iteration, the phrase is messed up. The same thing happens from transferring Word to html and other machine languages. It’s best to do your copy and paste from a text file, which has no hidden attributes.
This can become a problem when creating a digital book through Amazon or some other vendor. If you attempt to create a digital book using a Word manuscript, you will encounter strange things within the text—that information in the grey rectangle. When I create digital books, I use Adobe InDesign- there are no grey rectangles. More tedious; better results.

Coast Guard Rescue












Chronicles in Ordinary Time 178: Abstraction

January 12, 2019
Nebula NGC 3627

ANY TIME that a human being writes something that is intended to somehow describe the nature of God, that human being is using an abstraction. The problem with many religious people is that they really have no idea what an abstraction is.
Abstraction, the cognitive process of isolating, or “abstracting,” a common feature or relationship observed in a number of things, or the product of such a process.

The term abstract is sometimes used to refer to things that are not located in space or time; in this sense, numbers, properties, sets, propositions, and even facts can be said to be abstract, whereas individual physical objects and events are concrete. The capacity for making and employing abstractions is considered to be essential to higher cognitive functions, such as forming judgments, learning from experience, and making inferences.
https://www.britannica.com/science/abstraction

This lack of understanding is the reason I refer to the Creator, rather than ‘God’—when people use the ‘God’ word, I really have no idea what they actually mean. The Creator is not located in Space or Time. I don’t even think the Creator is corporeal in any sense that a human can understand. Humans are trapped in Space and Time; nearly everything we know is concrete—things we can understand or experience directly; experiences that involve the five senses. There are some common experiences that go beyond the concrete—Love being a primary example. No one knows what Love looks like until they experience it. A baby begins to experience Love while in the womb; the bond between a mother and their unborn offspring [Love seems to exist beyond the human].
This Love becomes tangible at birth; or not. Not every child experiences Love. One of the saddest creatures on earth is the child who has never known Love. People who are Pro-Birth tend to forget this; not every child is born into a loving environment; not every child is adopted into a loving environment; not every child experiences Love in her or his life. While possibilities always exist, being born is no guarantee that a positive outcome will occur. People talk about being Pro-Life; I am of the opinion that if people were really concerned about the life of a child, they would show a greater concern about solving the societal ills that end up forcing a girl to deny her baby’s life. I walk through a cemetery almost every weekday; there are portions of the cemetery that are set aside for those who die early in life. Clearly one can see that even in death, the remembrance of the child is filled with Love. The Book of Ecclesiastes touches upon this notion.

In my last post, I raised the idea that I was going to write about my life. To fully understand me, one needs to understand the idea that I believe in the Creator; that everything in my life stems from my relationship with my Creator. This relationship extends from the most inane aspects of my life to the most far-reaching ideas of my life. This hasn’t always been true; I was raised as an atheist. Even that phrase is inaccurate; the Creator, in whatever form that concept is used, was absent from my early life. While I heard the word, ‘god,’ this word had no real meaning for me. Even less meaning than Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I was in my twenties when I first began to understand the Creator.
I really don’t care what you believe; my intention in life is not about convincing others as to what they should believe. My goal is to share possibilities.

One, I don’t believe that we are supposed to be uniform in our understanding of the world we live in; two, as the BBC’s Sherlock describes himself, I am a ‘high-functioning sociopath’. More academic descriptions, such as INTJ [if you are aware of Myers-Briggs] appeal to my wife. My ‘natural’ self really doesn’t like people very much; that self that I have been working on for forty-plus of my sixty-six years is more open to people. My digital self is more personable than my physical self.

I am a follower of Jesus. The Creator of the entire Universe created a single cell and implanted that cell into the womb of a teenage girl named Mary. Mary [Miriam in Hebrew] was a 1st-century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth, and the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran. The Creator entered Time and Space as Jesus so that humans could have a more concrete idea of the nature of the Creator
I don’t ascribe to a particular denomination of Christendom; at the same time, I’ve missed very few Sundays in church, during these forty-plus years. “Church,” I find, is one place where I can converse with other humans about the Creator. Generally speaking, if I comment about the Creator on social media, I find a lot of hostility. I have little room in my physical life for hostility—one of the reasons I vent about our government so much—it was never intended to be functioning so ineptly—the venting helps me to be the person I want to be; rather than that other guy.
My digital self is far more open to interaction with other humans.

I am in pain all the time. This situation began in high school. Pain is an indisputable fact of my life that, like my belief system, can’t be separated from the rest of my life; however, I do not like to define my life by my limitations. I prefer possibilities…

Enough of that.

An early sketch, pre-1970

I began drawing in the seventh grade, or something like that. I was bored, spending another weekend at my grandmother’s, in Condon, Oregon. Condon was small then; I think it may be smaller now. My grandmother had an old refrigerator box sitting on her porch, filled with magazines. In my boredom, I began copying photos from magazines. I had some talent.
In high school, pursuing the drafting proficiency I began in my elementary school shop classes, I was introduced to Technical Illustration and found the occupation that I thought I would pursue all of my life. It didn’t exactly work that way. In college I found out that it’s really important to plan one’s life. The college I chose did not offer Technical Illustration; that college was the only one I considered, because my cousin was going there. See all of the words above Spock. There, my choices were architecture and art. “Starving Artist” seemed to be a poor choice for an academic career. I didn’t want to draw houses [limited imagination], but I selected architecture anyway. Of course, the college I was attending didn’t really have an Architecture program. It took me two years to understand that; and I transferred to the State University that offered an Architecture program. After five years of college, I had a degree in Architecture. I had no desire to be an architect. I still didn’t want to draw houses [intentionally-limited imagination]. If one likes to draw, an Architecture major is a good choice.
Years later, in my third career, I began working as an Illustrator and Building Code consultant [the occupation that has allowed my wife and I to eat, for the last twenty-one years].

  • Illustration Tip #1: find a career that will provide you with an income while you begin your illustration career. The reality is that if you can’t juggle two occupations at the same time, you won’t likely survive as a commercial artist. The ‘day job’ won’t feed your soul, but if you don’t feed your body, you won’t be able to pursue a career that feeds your soul…

Further Tips in the future.
Watch this space.










%d bloggers like this: