Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animations

An intellectual is an individual who primarily relies upon their intellect in such a way as to produce works that rely upon their learning, erudition, and critical thinking skills. Most intellectuals are patient, relying upon an internal endurance under which large volumes of information is digested and then exhibited in the form of works (books and papers, public discourse, artworks). While most intellectuals tend toward written or verbal discourse to convey the information they have digested, some intellectuals, with an aesthetic bent, tend toward artworks to convey deeper sentiments. 

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animation is one such example of an intellectual artistically conveying a profound message, one that reduces her audience to tears. Simonova appeals to and engages her audience with a thematic treatment of history and the emergence of a modern malaise shared by a culture. Her artwork tests the patience of the audience insomuch as throughout the performance they must remain focused on the message she is conveying as the scenes change and morph into entirely new ones, perfectly choreographed with the music. 

Her work causes the audience to engage in a new quest for intellectual, emotional, and, perhaps, spiritual understanding as to why certain events come to pass. While she does not offer answers or insights in her sand creations, she does present the very images pressed upon the subconscious of a people in a way that they can find the answers for themselves. This is the artistic component of her intellectual work, the part in which art is interpreted subjectively by the viewer. 

Creating sand art is Simonova's way of dealing with the profundity of sentiments pulsing through her mind. Sharing this artistic expression publicly is what inspires others to find their own intellectual or artistic way of expressing what can often times not be expressed with words alone.  

Simonova's performance piece begins with the lighting of a candle, a symbolic invitation to engage in a personal experience. She starts by first crafting a building, the central foundation of her message: "This is what life was like" before... 

As the performance unfolds, the invitation transitions from an implicitly romantic identification of an evening of romance and rendezvous. Two lovers sit on a bench, embracing under a clear night sky, but then abruptly the music and image fades. The image of the evening being disturbed by military planes bombing the city invokes tears from the central figure, which Simonova crafts out of what was just moments before two lovers embracing. 

The performance piece's relation with realism emerges and the opening lines of symmetry explode into images that cause her viewers to question that which cannot be answered. Nevertheless, the performance piece also illuminates a modernist irony on an aesthetic basis when it violently interrupts the sublime implications of metaphor as a carefully structured aesthetic trope. 

The refusal of the artist to respond to her own questions, however, does not necessarily imply that metaphysical issues are either unanswerable or hopelessly confused. A falsely heroic musical gesture (2:25-3:05) transports us to a French café where life is romanticized and woes are integrated with a history that speaks to us through the façades of a landscape forever memorialized. 

Then... suddenly, bombs explode and sand is thrown about invoking a Baudelairean sense of evil. 

An intensity ensues, and out of this movement appears an unnatural aspect of an apparently natural image, a beautiful face amidst the chaos (3:40-4:15), but she does not remain beautiful. 

The impermanence of her beauty, like the impermanence of peace, takes us deeper into our subconscious, reminding us of that which always lies ahead of society (so long as we take to war and acts of aggression as an answer to conflict). 

Simonova reminds us of our inability to surpass our own mundane condition and to substantiate our capacity for heroism and authentic creativity. The second reference to the image morphing from one of beauty to one of failing ideals adds further irony to the artist's representation of time and history. What begins to emerge is an icon of possibilities, of our ability to achieve an understanding of time that may be "metaphysical" and profoundly unsettling at the same time. 

It is at this juncture (5:00) that Simonova embarks on a series of reflections that demonstrate her culture's kinship with the tragic events that have marked and shaped their homeland; images and sentiments that remind fixed in the subconscious imagination as poignant expressions of indecision and self-consciousness. Simonova's images are clearly indebted to the series of violent events in the capital of Kiev, just the latest in a series of events in which Poland, Hungry, and Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s realized the harsh cold and sleet of triumph in a seismic shift Westward in the geopolitics of the region. 

"Razom nas bahato! Nas ne podolaty!" ("Together, we are many! We cannot be defeated!") The powerful civic movements ignited by popular fire resulted in a tightly connected sub-culture that links the many peoples of the region by their emotional reactions to turmoil. Irrespective of which side of the conflicts one may find themselves, the entire region is held in a domestic carousel, spinning around and around until the steady torrent of negative emotions come to a halt. 

(6:08) What emerges out of all of this remains fixed in the hopes and dreams of the people. Rather than present us with an image of how things could or should be, Simonova looks out of a metaphorical window, as much an inward invitation to seek out the answers to conflicts from within oneself as it is an invitation to engage outward. To see in others what we see in ourselves and work toward solutions that acknowledge the diversity of the region seems to be the underlining message. 

The soldier looking in, the child and his mother looking out, offer us a direct expression of how moral conflict can enhance subjective experience. Simonova simply provides the loose granular substance, a sediment of sentiment, if you will, sprinkling, smoothing, and polishing images overlaid with symbolism and deeply personal feelings of attachments and falsely identified notions associated with the active pursuit of consciously-posited goals. 

Kseniya Simonova's Sand Animation is a kind of tragic heroism in reverse, revealing the pathos of a culture's romantic predecessor and calling attention to a metaphysical horizon which foregrounds deeply profound questions and the promise that these questions conceal. Lost in the sand as one image transmutes into another, the images which came before are lost to our visual experience, but what remains is the sentiment, a new purpose despite the erosion of tranquility. 

This performance piece alludes to a discourse on time that plays a central role in the geopolitical structure of eastern Europe, an aspect of unification and division that cannot begin to reduce the distance that separates individual aspirations from an assumed experience of personal meaning. 

Finally, the possibility that Simonova presents simply says what she means and leads the viewers to invoke the fantastic figures associated with the shaping of their culture, but does not provide them with a satisfactory equivalent to a return from modernity more than it allows her to fuse meaning and intention in a single moment of cultural oneness. At the same time, this very powerful and evoking performance piece has a richly comic side, which also depends on the very same metaphysical horizon that adds poignancy to mundane concerns. In the end, viewers, despite being taken on a deeply evocative historical and highly charged emotional journey, arrive to a place where the absurdity of conflict is recognized, a release of tension in the form of a laugh occurs, and the result..? 

A powerful confession of cultural inadequacy that becomes a symbol of a people's power of imagination to relight the candle of the past. This aesthetic narrative confirms society's inability to communicate in ways that do not involve violence. Simonova provides a compelling example of an intellectual artist who transforms cultural concerns into highly motivated achievements. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Celebration of Color

Soph Laugh
Acrylic on Canvas, 24x24
Private Collection

I have just recently entered my first art contest with the Drawing Academy. My entry, titled: A Celebration of Color, is actually a happy pattern of reversal - a colorblind artist expressing themselves in a vibrant, colorful juxtaposition of color. How these colors speak to the viewer, I cannot say, for I am that colorblind artist. Thus, I must invoke my imagination to conceive of concepts my eyes do not convey for me. 

This pattern of reversal is a founding principle behind the artwork. Even a color-sighted person must imagine what the juxtaposition of lines, circles, and splashes of color mean to another person. In this imagining, it is as if a reversal of thought is taking place, a presupposition of what another sees and feels and interprets based on what is seen, felt, and interpreted within. Does the viewer see what the artist saw? How do art critics define art when it is so highly predicated upon subjective interpretation? Is it the way the paint is spattered on the canvas? Should the paint be smooth and free of unintentional marks or blemishes or should the paint be bold and impasto'd in way that the shapes the paint creates are geometrically pleasing to the eyes? Should a painting incorporate elements from the masters? Should it have an underpainting? Should it be clean and pristine and yet spontaneously executed? Should the artist's care and precision be visible, thus inferring purpose and intention? All these questions and more cross the mind of the artist, the viewer, and the critic, and lead to a dramatic disunity of opinion as to the structure and tone, crudeness and folly associated with art production. 

Viewing art is as much about examining the life of the artist and what led to the artwork's production as it is about the medium. While skill, dexterity, and vision are most certainly a major factor in determining the worth of a piece of art, what collectors seek is a sentiment that speaks to them. A bridge that connects beauty to the individual appreciating it. The themes of fortune, pride, or adversity come into play in the aesthetic appreciation of art. Behind the striking quality of any given piece of art is the successful conveyance of an overtone that speaks for what would otherwise be a mute object of worth. Overall, the artwork must reveal an indecision and tentativeness on the part of the artist. How can I convey what I see? ...and then show it, is the pattern viewers seek to follow. And when they find it, that is the moment when the artwork speaks to them. That is when a viewer says, "I get it" or "I feel the same way" or "Wow! I never thought of it that way" (whatever "it" is). 

Art is taking a lack of unity such as subjective opinion and showing its light and dark contrasts, its intellectual sense of seriousness and potential, and its emotionally driven dramatic flare that ignites a sensation in the heart, stomach and mind of the viewer. Art is a source of dramatic excitement, tension, a way of intellectually investigating patterns that are not based so much on predictability but on contrast, irony, multi-layered inversion, and pleasing, or sometimes disturbing, concepts. 

Unifying the minds of the viewer to the artist cannot guarantee an aesthetic success story. If the artwork lacks a unified tone, fails to appeal to the aesthetic appreciation of the art critic, or if the piece is flat and leads to disinterest, it becomes a typical deus ex machina, moving the story of the piece forward by the artist painting themselves into a corner. With no other way out, an artist finishes off the piece and Voilá! the painting comes comes to a happy ending. This convention of Greek tragedy is present in many pieces of artwork that employ similar resolutions. But the piece that manages to spare the life of the artist is the one in which the artist gives up something personal, conveys something they would otherwise keep silent just so that others might know it through their aesthetic efforts. It is this sharing of something new or something entirely personal that elevates a piece of artwork to a masterpiece, irrespective of how the paint is applied onto the canvas. 

I am not a trained artist and thus lack the professional skills a masterful craftsman might employ, but the aesthetic discomfort I feel in using color is the experience I had, as an artist, in crafting this piece of artwork. It is this added degree of unexpected, uncomfortable, reversed, and perhaps, paradoxical detail that makes my artwork's story familiar. I'm not suggesting that there are many colorblind artist, but rather acknowledging that I do have this impediment. But despite this impediment, or maybe because of it, I am determined to participate in the experience of art. And more personally, in the experience of color. 

Art allows one to experiment fully with a language for the purpose of finding freedom in expression, a principle of unity in how we convey an unsettling thought or experience before an audience. Showing one's art to an audience can feel similar to that dream we've all had... you know the dream, the one when you get to work or school or stand up at a podium to speak only to discover you're not fully clothed! 

It is precisely this nature of triumph despite tragedy that is so very beautiful in our aesthetic consciousness, a consciousness that substitutes itself for moral consciousness, something that ultimately defines the dramatic illusion, detaching the audience from the character, thus making it possible to experience the parodic dimension of the moment of the artist for oneself. 

Artists are artistically self-conscious characters who contend with reality by creating visual images and by engaging an audience in a symbolic or ritualistic action that relates both to role-playing and role-acting. The result of this highly developed aesthetic consciousness is a cast of characters who define their existence through art. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Continent of Childhood

In a land that lies between... 

"Ancient times" 
"What the future may hold"... 

The Continent of Childhood, a place where youth is endlessly overvalued, and people have not ceased to genuflect before the youthful features of their youngest citizens. The Continent of Childhood is in a state of continual preoccupation with the period between childhood and adult age; a period associated with freshness, vigor, and celebrated adolescence. Boyhood, girlhood, childhood... "the next generation" is the favorite generation to which everyone wishes to belong. 

He's "still young" is the catchphrase of this land. Wooed by the time of life when the biological processes of development and aging seem to take on a mythical appearance, the Continent of Childhood began to demand the qualities of youth. No longer content with "growing up," the youth of this land filed a proclamation that adulthood was associated with a state of catastrophe in being. In order to meditate on this new concept, the entire land took 

A Great Nap


The Great Nap was a period between the 1960s and the 1990s in which society began priding themselves on their "youthful appearance". To become an adult became a synonym for catastrophe. Aging became a tragic and tyrannical mistake in a land where children, even the youngest, had more to teach an adult than visa versa. 

Slowly, all the old folks (those individuals over the age of 40) were rounded up and sent off to the country's coastal forests where they could live out their days in a wooded mountain overlooking the region from afar. Against a backdrop of ice mountains, the adults lived out their days reminiscing about what life was like when they "were young". 

As the Peter Pan Syndrome swept across the land, the adults were reduced far below the ordinary standards of viability and extracted from civilized life. This, of course, naturally brought about an underground industry of identification reassignment and reconstructive surgery. Anything to "buy some time" for the citizens of this youth-loving society. 

This extolling of youth culture resulted in a society who simply refuses to leave the world of the imaginary. To speak to the youth-loving populace, scholars, initially content with their lives as adults, began analyzing fairy tales, seeking out the philosophical or psychological significance in children's comics, and classifying Dr. Seuss as great literature. To write on any topic not associated with childhood was considered Captain Hook'ian-like blasphemy. 

What became of the adults in the Continent of Childhood, you ask? 

They disappeared! 

There is a legend that tells of a group of renegade adults who, tiring of being undervalued, began searching for the famed Fountain of Youth. Setting up laboratories along the country's coastal forests, they began experimenting with the raw materials they scavenged up around the wide area of treeless marshland that lie beyond the coast forest. Roaming countless small islands and channels of water, they discovered a sea urchin that lived for an extraordinary long time without showing signs of aging, or other age-related diseases. Due to their high genetic similarity to humans, the renegade scientists in this group of misfitted elders soon discovered that these sea urchins were directly relevant to human biology. Supposedly they discovered how these animals lived such long and healthy lives and began identifying novel strategies to keep humans looking younger for longer periods of time. 

Utilizing these sea urchins as model organisms to identify pathways involved in cellular resistance to the effects of aging and disease (which helped them target the development of anti-aging treatment in humans), as well as the mechanisms involved in maintaining a youthful state, these grown-ups, previously considered "washed up" had actually accumulated enough knowledge as the years went by to figure out how proteins from young sea urchins could be injected into humans to resist age-causing agents, to increase cellular defense and repair mechanisms, and to regenerate and repair tissue. 

Mitigating cellular oxidative damage, the adults, heretofore ostracized from their homeland and looking younger than they did when they were first banished, began sneaking back into their old bedrooms. Running back home became the new bedtime story for generations of children fearful of the time when they too would grow up, and would have to face being excluded, by general consent, from society, friendship, conversation, and the privileges of their land. 

Rumor has it that the return of older, more experienced adults resulted in a general dissent from the underbelly of society, a revolution of adulthood, a counterculture message that adulthood could be a wonderful state, more intense, richer, more exciting and more intelligent than the world of the child. An opportunity to end the reign of the Child King and the myth that one is "all washed up" after "a certain age". 

There is still great dissent among the citizens of this land that demands the qualities of youth: a quality of imagination, an appetite for adventure over the life of ease, but those who have journeyed here claim that the 'carrot-and-stick pedagogy' is slowly changing into a 'carrots are good for you mindset'. 

It may sound ludicrous to imagine such a continent, but it is very real... just look outside your door, turn on your television set, surf the web to see 'what's trending now' and you'll not see grown-ups pictured on those images, you'll see tiny little whippersnappers, ankle-biters, and teeny-boppers. 

Children rule the markets, dictating adult buying decisions, and are now the largest consumer group in the world. Unless you want to return to sleeping on Spiderman or Littlest Cupcake bedsheets, you might wish to consider whether or not you wish to buy into society's dictum that youth is the supreme state of being. If you buy into this mindset, you might just be setting yourself up for expulsion from the world you've worked your entire life to build ... 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Turning Point, Part VI: Why Writers Write

Continued from:
Turning Point,
Turning Point, Part II
Turning Point, Part III
Turning Point, Part IV
Turning Point, Part V

Fairy Tales

When I said that I wished to rewrite fairy tales or create fanciful tales of my own making, I wasn't talking about 'bourgeois' or 'refined' culture, but about popular culture. What counts is the transitional character of works: I mean the fact that our characters act as moral, emotional and intellectual guides for our inner child. It is this inclination which has been present since the emergence of my own journey into writing. 

Writing requires meditation or quiet contemplation, and needs transitional elements within the work on the basis of which our emotional and intellectual selves might grow. We can write and write to our hearts desire, but there seems to be a natural requirement of sorts where we need to articulate a concrete growth in our writing, be it in the development of our skills or in the maturation of our ideas. Fairy tales and myths are brilliant from the literary, psychological and metaphysical points of view because they provide this type of growth as the adventurous story unfolds. 

Castles in the Sky
Greg Olsen

In many modern day stories and writings, there is a type of puritan prohibition and censorship occurring. We water things down so as not to dual with our sense of morality. While not everyone, myself included, must write as did the Brothers Grimm, there does seem to be a need for a type of writing that is not so euphemized to the point that the story line cannot develop in a way that frees the mind to explore that which lies within and to seek in fiction ways of answering our most secret ponderings. 

This style of literary freedom, in my opinion, is often times best suited for a traditional book writing and thus reading experience whereby we can cuddle up with a book (hardbound or ebook) on the couch or lie reposed, placing the Reader in a restful state where the mind is not competing with outside stimuli and can fully immerse itself in the reading experience. 

This is exactly what occurs when stories offer us that transitional experience on the basis of which our mental life can be varied, become more particular and concrete. We can't spend all of our time writing nonsense in a blog, as some call it ... we need to 'articulate' concepts. 

I've chosen fairy tales and myths, not out of any 'bourgeois' mindset, not so I can show off a 'refined' classical culture - even though there's nothing so wrong with that! -  but above all because fairy tales and myths enable us to have with ourselves, if not adult conversations, at least conversations on adult subjects with fewer inhibitions than is often times the case in modern literary works shared on virtual platforms. In all reality, it is difficult to do justice to character development in an online blog story as Reader attention spans are shorter than they are, typically, for printed material. 

Heir to the Kingdom
Greg Olsen

Without taking the Reader through the transitional exercises in a developmental fashion, it is only the writer that is growing from the writing experience, rather than the Reader and writer both. While there are some occasions in which blogs develop a following, allowing Readers to naturally grow and transition along with the writer, this is not the norm, and thus not the platform for this type of growth or experience. 

In blogs, the writer grows more than the Reader. This is, in part, a differentiating aspect of the virtual vs. traditional writing experience. In a traditional writing experience, both the author and their Readers progress with the development or transitional phases of the writing. In a blog or virtual platform, it is primarily the writer that succeeds as most of the time Readers arrive to an Internet address by means of a 'Search' for something specific. The Reader rarely, if ever, then goes back to the first blog entry post and continues reading forward in a consecutive fashion. In fact, this is one of the reasons that I have taken this series of posts 'On Writing' and placed them in their own page: making the reading experience more natural and fluid, rather than requiring readers to continually click forward and backward, reading in a yoyo-like motion. 

The fact remains that there are different types of platforms for different types of writing. It is my opinion that transitional aspects or developmental aspects of writing are best conveyed utilizing the traditional publishing paradigms as Readers tend to bring to the experience a longer attention span than they make time for in the virtual world. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Turning Point, Part V: Why Writers Write

Continued from:
Turning Point,
Turning Point, Part II
Turning Point, Part III
Turning Point, Part IV

The Internet has considerably enriched and diversified our relationship with writing, and this has opened the way we deliver words to the world 

The way in which we write today has changed in directions that involve not so much the traditional limits our predecessors imposed on writing but the positive development of its potential. This is clear in the wider range of ways we write, in how we share those writings, and the many forms writing can take: from blogs and "tweets" to ezines and "pins".

Until the Internet, we treated writing as a preliminary to knowledge, in other words, what information the elite thought should be shared with the general populace. This is why I have taken into consideration the question of blogging, or better put: virtual publishing; if not negatively, at least mainly from the point of view of traditional writing elitism. Indeed, our societies have become hyper-consumers of information. There is a real risk of future writers becoming constantly tempted, irrespective of their familiarity with or ability to produce quality writing, to become boundlessly desirous for more rather than better, for novelties and page views, rather than masterful production. Instant publishing offers a sort of deceptive thrill, or even an addictive buzz, in that it allows writers to publish and re-publish, over and over again, in a restless pursuit. Each day, we are literally inundated with online articles of which a considerable number will be lost within seconds in some corner of the Internet, already cached or abandoned.

Here, too, I don't believe in breaking away from the marvels of the Internet in some pretentious, snooty way. To cut writers off from the Internet in favor of old-fashioned writing and publishing paradigms, only confines them within the narrow scope of traditional writing, living artificially on the margins of contemporary life. It is difficult to imagine a worse way of writing in the modern age. We need other means of navigating the online and offline world to develop a richer public writing life that speaks to the vastness of the inner life while not compromising quality writing.

So, if we are to raise writing above the sphere of mere production, we need to inculcate in ourselves the feeling that there are "orders of writing" and that they are not all equally valuable. Writing is enjoyable, of course, but we need as it were to prove to ourselves, in our craft and not just our words, that we can do better. I realize that this is very difficult at present, and that perhaps I am not the writer to expound on this given my own disdain for editing and challenges with traditional publishing, but the stories I can tell Readers when I don't have to worry about traditional formatting and the like far surpass the stories I would share if I had to invest all my time editing and worrying about perfection in my writing.

Whether I am rewriting fairy tales, creating fanciful tales of my own making, or twisting, for my own arcane pleasure, books into unrecognizable garb, I find virtual writing and instantaneous publication far more entertaining, as a writer, than following the purveyors of stodgy scribble down the pedagogic rabbit hole. I want to give my writing a dimension of culture that is - forgive me for saying so - as often as I can the complete converse of what is usually being written by writers. I don't want to write pop songs, nor avant-garde garb, nor internationally recognized contemporary fair, nor even a monumental novel. I just want to write and see where my own writing can lead without scripting its journey ahead of its becoming. I want gravitational penmanship to pull and tug at my words in directions never before recorded, registered, or inscribed. I want to communicate, to correspond, to stay in touch, to keep in contact, and to drop the world a line from every conceivable direction of wherever my metaphorical pen takes me.

Before beginning this blog nearly three years ago this April 17th, my experience with writing was primarily focused on commercial writing (to help market products our company launched) and in technical writing (creating training manuals, forms, policies and procedures). But my true passion lies in writing about other, more fascinating subjects, such as mythological tales that speak to our interests in life, love, death, our relation to the cosmos, justice, passion, and extraordinary adventures, I am particularly fond of the latter of these subjects.

I want to write stories from all corners of where human is, and where it is headed. Stories full of suspense and excitement and that make wonderful topics of conversation. I am a storyteller. I am one of those people who naturally entertains their friends and family with a multitude of stories and anecdotes that incite further or deeper conversation to follow. I am naturally predisposed toward philosophical inquiry. My questions run deep and far, and more often than not, run away with my thoughts; in fact, they eloped years ago.

Growing up, I told my younger brother stories until either he or I feel asleep. I never knew what the story was going to be about, which made the act of storytelling all the more delightful. The words just magically came to me and we both went along on the journey. As the years went by, I became more skilled in choosing my words, which greatly enhanced the imagery associated with my adventurous tales, but never did I script out my stories. I just let them flow. This is perhaps key to understanding my love of instantaneous publishing associated with blogging. My ability to kick back with laptop on my desk or lap, as it so happens to be positioned right this moment, next to a warm fireplace, sipping my early morning beverage whilst ruminating on the subject at hand is, from my perspective, a skill different from planning out a writing project ahead of time. Between this paragraph and the next, I do not know what words will follow. Yet, when there is coherency between the paragraphs, or when they follow a specific order, in terms of building up toward a climax - I tend to end on high notes - I find myself pleased and take it as a sign of an orderly mind or, at the very least, a skilled mind indicative of years of educational brainwashing.

Irrespective of my own personal inclinations toward writing, when a writer can merely sit before a computer screen and instantly share stories with Readers, there appears to be a transitional occurrence: an everyday exchange. This everyday exchange in writing is what makes modern writing so unique. It is less scripted, more spontaneous. Similar in nature to storytelling, blogging (or instantaneous virtual writing) is intriguing. Rather than degrading blogging as being a "lesser form" of writing, it becomes instead a blank canvas: Steven Pinker's "Blank Slate", if you will, that allows a writer to simply "write" without worry about editing, about formatting, about page numbers and indexes, about book covers, and marketing paradigms, about number of books sold, and profits or losses from the whole enterprise.

I'm not saying that we should abandon traditional publishing, on the contrary, but blogging is akin to taking our children to another corner of the globe to instill within them the idea that there is more to life than what they experience at school, on television, or online. I am not suggesting we deprive them of the mass consumption associated with life in first world nations; I am advocating that we lead them toward a higher world. A world where culture is not understood as a product of consumption or of constant innovation and upgrades, but as a place of great works of art insofar as what nature and different mindsets can offer.

In this respect, I see blogging as a type of journey that takes a writer down a dirt road, off toward a new horizon. What we see while we're there is our own and largely indicative of the landscape, within and outside ourselves, but it is away from the standard platform upon which most writers write, and this, at least for me, is of value.

Blogging is the souvenir the writer brings back home. Blog posts are the snapshots the writer takes along their voyage, the receptacle in which they pack the thoughts they had while in a space independent of their daily life concerns (in this case, with the concerns associated with traditional publishing). Once the writer returns from this voyage, if they return, they have plenty of material with which to begin their magnum opus, should they decide to write one. Of course, rather than material for a great novel, the writer may instead find reason for leaving off on another adventure, writing as a way of capturing the journey much like how individuals take photos to record their vacations and explorations. The line of demarcation between staying home to write the world's next best novel and heading out on one of many adventures awaiting any of us might be more associated with that tour de force that leads some individuals out on extraordinary adventures of their own making rather than staying home to write about the adventures they imagine (or perhaps already had).

In this sense, writing in a blog suits the lifestyle of an adventurer who just so happens to have an inner compulsion to write, whereas writing books fulfills other needs and desires. The question of which is right for the writer is as much a matter of taste and lifestyle as it is a matter associated with orders of writing.

Belshazzar, the last King of Babylon, is famous for holding an banquet at which a disembodied hand wrote four words on the wall of his palace. Unable to understand what the words meant, he called for the prophet Daniel, who told him that the Babylonian kingdom was coming to an end. That night the Persian army entered the city of Babylon and Belshazzar was killed.

Like with Balshazzar, instantaneous writing found in blogging and other such virtual writing platforms represents the global version of writing on Belshazzar's wall - literally. What people share in their blogs, the matters about which they "tweet", the thoughts they share in their status updates, which post to their walls, are all indicative of a changing paradigm in which the masses are now writing. Writing is no longer the exclusive domain of the professional author. The Internet has changed and will continue to change how we view writing for generations to come. What comes of it all, we are just now exploring.

Exploration is the essence from which this blog arose. Personally I find existence to be the funniest subject of all, which is why I incline toward more humorous expressions of self. Ultimately, though, this platform serves as a receptacle in which my posts become literary snapshots of my thoughts, random or otherwise. Whether these posts are straightforward and can be taken literally, or are encoded in some arcane language for a specific audience, is for the Reader to decipher or wonder about. Irrespective, I hope the thoughts I capture here are entertaining, and that by being entertained, Readers might think deeper about what which entertains us all ... and perhaps, just perhaps, undertake a literary journey of their own.

You do not have to publish books to enjoy writing. That's the beauty of modern technology, and the opportunity that comes along with it.

Belshazzar, the last King of Babylon, depicted here in a painting by Rembrandt, was killed after he failed to read the writing on the wall.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Turning Point, Part IV: Why Writers Write

Continued from:
Turning Point,
Turning Point, Part II
Turning Point, Part III

The basic principle of writing is this: it is out of love, and not some traditional form of communication alone, that we write - however much we wish to profit from the enterprise. This is not a return to the romanticized pastoral sensation evoking purity, it's really just out of love that I believe most writer's write. 

There are some individuals who believe that a writer can simply show up to a job and work eight or nine hours a day writing, forcing their craft onto a blank screen that makes a writer want to throw up. I absolutely fail to see why some individuals impose something on a writer that they would not impose on themselves. 

One of my greatest joys in writing is telling myself that no one can tell me what or when to write. Often times the more pragmatic think they are doing the right thing. They want writers to turn their craft into a profession - a dreaded phrase that I can still hear reverberating through my mind as one of my professors paced back and forth across the classroom passionately telling us that we would never become writers unless we could harness our skill and behave as professionals. While many writers might laugh at this statement, stating that professional writers write according to their own personal schedules, there are some individuals who clearly believe that writing is no different than entering data onto a spreadsheet. Granted, these individuals are few and far between, but it just so happens that I bought into what this professor said, and for years was under the belief that I could never become a writer because the idea of "writing on demand" made me ill. 

Fortunately I did not have to concern myself with becoming a writer because I already had a career in a different field (I maintained a career while attending university), but the private dreams I had of someday becoming a "real" writer were affected because I imagined writing for a living as something quite dreadful. 

What I mean to convey by giving this example - which few people might relate to, I think - is that if someone who truly loves to write operates from an misconception related to writing - on what writing should be, or how writer's should work - they are losing sight of what motivates writers to write in the first place: a love or affinity for the written word. This is an excellent illustration of the fact that we too often hear of writers who write well, but cannot seem to finish "that novel" they've been working on for a decade or so. Forcing art onto a blank screen or piece of paper isn't writing, it's dictation. 

On the other hand, it's entirely beyond me how some writers indulge themselves in playing "the troubled writer" role: self-absorbed, thoughtless, distant souls who "in the name of their craft" (the same goes for artists) indulge in behavior that is so far removed from the normal arrangement of a functioning human being that other human beings oft-times mistake their madness for brilliance when they simultaneously produce a literary work that begs us to question life in ways never before questioned. We may deem that insight "brilliant," but their behavior, at least for me, is barely tolerable and it doesn't bode well in a space of civility. This lack of respect for others manifests itself towards one's friends and family, as well as one's colleagues. It's this lack of civility that affects the mindset of aspiring authors who buy into "the troubled writer" stereotype; waiting for their big break so that they too can indulge themselves in erratic behavior under the justification that their "noble craft" demands it of them. This might sound ridiculous, but I actually had a couple of classmates remark to me that they couldn't wait until they became famous writers for this very reason. 

As a guideline in these considerations on writing, the principle of love is excellent. We just need to think about what we really want to write, how we wish to convey ourselves, and which venue is best for our needs and style, and on the basis of our love for writing just go for it. This is the minimalist adage of doing what you love: 'Don't let others tell you what or how to write, just write for yourself.' If someone else enjoys what you write, they will find your work. This training in effort, civility, and listening to oneself, this training in calmness, hard work, and concentration, is part of brining words to life.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Turning Point, Part III: Why Writers Write

Continued from:
Turning Point, and
Turning Point, Part II

Vladimir Kush

Just as illusions are meant to confuse the eyes and senses, summoning the brain to make sense of things, so too can the respective roles of blogging and publishing confuse the writer. I wouldn't want serious authors to give up publishing in favor of blogging, not because I do not find value in blogging, but because I am of the opinion that crafting a book (including eBooks) produces a valuable resource. Of course, it would be unenlightened to say that blogging doesn't have its place in the world. 

There is a watertight division between what comprises blogging and what belongs to publishing; there is always an overlap between them as blogging, in the technical sense, is indeed publishing, only virtual, and often times, though not always, for free. Just as it is annoying to see writers endlessly disputing the authority of blogging and its legitimate pedagogic aims, the latter must likewise keep any initiative they take in blogging within the limits of the most elementary rules of writing and the principles of publication. 

A writer isn't here to give authority about the value of how readers receive their information, though many can write on the subject. Ultimately, it is up to readers to decide the ways in which they will receive their information. Many individuals I know, including myself, read the news online, research online, and yet, return to books, some old and familiar, others new, for detailed information on specific subjects, in particular on subjects pertaining to our professions or personal interests. Reading books versus surfing the web for information is essentially a matter of ease and convenience, and perhaps a matter of habit. As younger generations, raised on the Internet, begin building their libraries of knowledge, traditional books may represent costly, burdensome objects that take up space and are difficult to transport. In the same respect, even eBooks, unless they are textbooks, might seem too long to bother reading. Digital reading overlaps with the psychologies involved in digital surfing: less is more.

Antiquarian booksellers cater to an older audience for a reason; they are more accustomed to holding a book in their hands than they are reading a book on an electronic device, such as their phone or tablet. Initially, I had difficulty transitioning to reading books on my tablet, but once I started downloading more of my favorites, which were often times free of charge, I soon discovered how much easier they were to transport and how much easier it was to read at night. No longer was my nighttime reading interrupted by poor lighting. No longer were the pages of my book crumpled when I adjusted reading positions. No longer did I need bookmarks. No longer did marks from my highlighters and writing instruments bleed through the pages, as I can highlight with a swoosh of the finger - and remove it, just as easily. 

Let me make myself clear: I'm not arguing for one approach over the other. I'm convinced that, within the new framework of modern publishing, that both approaches are valid, albeit different. What is required is for the writer to know themselves, to know their audience, and understand which approach is best suited for their writing goals. We need to ensure that what we write is positioned in the space where it is most likely to be read. While some authors may disagree, I am still of the belief that the purpose of writing is to be read, even if only by the writer, themselves. 

It is the little shadows of doubt that plague writers and undermine their authority to publish. Questions like "Should I publish this?" and "Is my book any good?" and "Will anyone read my book?" are always at the forefront of a writer's mind. In this respect, blogging helps to answer these questions. While the statistics are never fully indicative of what people think about a writer's writing, they are an indication of what the general population is searching for - and reading. Even those who publish in a specific field will find readers flocking to their sites if their writing is easily accessible and reader friendly. Even sites built by the aesthetically challenged find readership if the information is of value to enough people. Here, blogging serves as a reliable testing ground to help authors (and publishers) gauge interest in written material. Of course, there are some blogs, such as mine, that offer a lot of visual feedback, i.e., pictures and artwork. Many visitors find their way to my blog searching for images. While this might skew statistics in the sense that visitors come for the pictures and nothing more, there are many who linger (according to the statistics of how long visitors remain on the page or click on new pages while they are on my blog) that read. When a visitor visits a webpage, for any given reason, and then clicks on another link, often times it is because the written subject matter caught their attention and piqued their curiosity. In any rate, blogging gives writers a chance to test out their material prior to undertaking the arduous (traditional) publication journey. Admittedly publishing is not as difficult as it used to be. With the advent of self-publishing, it is easy to publish books. However, the impetus to publish a book (eBook or traditional) is more than mere ease, it also brings into question one's motivations; be them economy, the desire for an object of worth, or general philosophies one holds associated with global sharing. 

I would like to take a moment to discuss eBooks, which are electronic versions of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device. While many eBooks can be downloaded for free, others are for cost. Sometimes the cost of an eBook is the same as a traditional book. Many authors write with the exclusive intention to publish eBook readers rather than have their books appear in print. One advantage to this is that eBook readers can include hyperlinks, they can be more interactive in terms of readers having the ability to highlight text, as mentioned above, to look up words with a simple touch of the screen, and also to have videos or gifs embedded within the text which can bring the text to life. In this series, I am not limiting traditional publishing to printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together and bound in a cover. In this series, when I use the word publication, it also includes eBooks. 

All of this information is so commonplace that it might be found a bit silly to dedicate a series to exploring the differences in writing, blogging, and publishing: but I think it touches on some profound issues in the writing process. Many writers do not arrange the type of writing they do into any kind of hierarchy, so they often put arbitrary, whimsical or pointless refusals regarding the different types of writing on the same level as the most essential aspects. For example, you don't publish full-length chapters in a single blog post (though some of my articles test this theory) because most readers won't read for longer than 90 seconds (the average online attention span). With this being said, it is crucial to understand which venue should be used for various types of writing. 

(To be continued)