Monday, December 31, 2007

A Glance Back, and a Look Ahead At "Nashville Art & Artists"

I'm one of those people who think you ought to see where you've been to know where you're going.

I didn't get to focus on "art and artists" exclusively on this blog like I had hoped and initially set out to do ... part of that was I didn't know the art scene in Nashville. In fact, getting acquainted with it was pretty much what I was hoping to do by visiting Galleries and shows and then "reporting" on it here ... but then transportation became a major issue ... and well, golly, you can't report on stuff you see when you can't get there to see it ...!

So then I got curious. Why didn't/couldn't I follow my initial trajectory anymore? I was literally stuck ... What was I doing then, here on this blog? This has become SO much less about the art scene in general and so much more about my teeny corner of doings, thoughts out loud and opinions. LOL

Then the lightbulb moment happened.

I realized I finally, finally -- ONLY JUST THIS YEAR -- have accepted and committed to being a freelance Illustrator and comic book artist. (Intake breath ... exhale ... smile.) It's a little shocking, I know. I thought I had been doing that all along when I moved here ... but I tried to hang on for as long as I could to the "safe" little extra doo-dad jobbies that were not art ... and not fully committing to pursuing getting art-work. But when even the side jobbies finally dried up, I found myself in a corner. My art and writing were all I had left to work with. Literally. I had to get work writing or drawing.

Oddly enough, I was in a "space" like where I was when I was 14 -- only it was 25+ years later! (you know how you sometimes repeat patterns in your life until you correct a behavior?) I discovered, hilariously enough, that by setting out to focus on Nashville art and artists, I have been instead forced to focus on my own art.

So this blog currently is really more like "Nashville Art and Artist". LOL

Hopefully I will have some good art and projects to share soon, then. Meanwhile, I will have to start to rebuild this blog's sidebar ... so that will be one of my primary focuses ... and I hope to share more posts with observations, concerns, comments, etc., all God Willing, with the New Year.

I wanted to also mention that I've enjoyed the small comments I've received from readers and visitors (some comments which are published, others not) who have shared websites and articles with me and/or just chimed in when they also liked something I posted about. It always surprises me when I find out who pops by and visits. It's so nice! Thanks so much for doing so.

It's New Year's Eve today. I'd like to share what I posted over on ComicSpace:

"Onward towards a New Year ... God Willing, we will learn new wonderful things, enjoy the company of family and friends, get good work done, read some excellent books, watch some terrific movies, share happy times, observe the incredible beauty of nature, and be inspired to do great things."

Happy New Year. :)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonne by Ellen G. Landau


I love Ed Harris' movie, Pollock.

I've watched it so many times, I've lost track. And sometimes I'll put it on the DVD player while I work, just to listen to it. I even have the soundtrack CD. Jeff Beal's music is wonderful.

The movie is a sketch of the life of the man ... and really a sketch of the last 14 years or so of his life, once he meets and marries Lee Krasner, and makes it HUGE in the art world. It's a moving film.

There are several moments that still make me cry even after seeing them like a dozen times ... Harris depicts moments (himself as Pollock) where Pollock just freaks out -- and those emotionally raw moments are just frightening. Was Pollock manic-depressive? Was he chemically unbalanced? Was he just spiritually lost within the sin of mankind and crying out for help? The moments are just so gripping because I know those moments, only too well from my younger days. Those days where all you can do is curl up in a ball on your bed or cry/scream and your emotions are on a hair trigger and you just. feel. lost.
Watching those terrible moments and understanding what he could have been feeling always makes me extremely grateful ... Sometimes being an artist and having so much easy access to emotional information to do ones work is sometimes also an easy way to an emotional overload.

I have struggled with being a Christian and an artist because sometimes they seemed to be vocations at odds with each other. But I have struggled to reconcile with them, because I have tried to give both up at different points in my life, and simply could not. I was not myself when I did, so I found I had to reconcile them, somehow. For me, I was finally only rescued out of that emotional spiral once I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord. Taking that particular step (which is actually another step past taking the "Jesus is my Savior" step) was like girding my emotional self with a safety harness of some kind, where I now won't tumble into the Hole of Hell.



When I shared with one of my sisters how much I loved the movie Pollock, she bought me Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonne, which is an astonishing and thorough collection of Lee Krasner's artwork. Lee was Jackson Pollock's wife, and quite a surprisingly talented artist herself before and after she married him, and after his death.

I finally sat with this book recently, and read it through, including all the prose/history bits. I was really impressed by the scope of her work and with how intensely she worked. People coudl so easily dismiss her as "Pollock's wife" and that is being terribly unfair. She was an Abstract Expressionist ... and I found several periods of her work (her vertical collages from '53 - '54, a set of simple, bold flowery shaped paintings from '72- '73, just for starters) really appealing.

I think many women artists, within art in general and within comics specifically, struggle with whether we could possibly become "as great" or really, simply as accomplished as men artists often are in their own art work, both in sheer volume of output and in skill level ...

I think some of us -- I know I do, anyway -- struggle with the love, time and attention needed to create the artwork in the first place ... which we may feel is better spent on people. Creating artwork is a very solitary job. But it's also a fine line we tread ... since this love and attention should never be confused with idolizing the artwork that's being created, which I think some artists can do. Rather than idolizing, this emotional investment is being sensitive to and respectful of the souls of other people, those who share in the work when they observe the art, since most of them will innately be able to pick up on the emotions poured into the art by the artist ...

Ms. Landau's catalog of Ms. Krasner's work was very good (Krasner was the subject of her PH.D. dissertation). So few female artists gain the high-profile name recognition as males artists do, that seeing a woman having created such a large body of artwork is encouraging to me. I hope to root out Ms. Landau's book on Pollock as well ...

Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing The Will of God by Henry T. Blackaby & Claude V. King

My Dad sent me a copy of Experiencing God and I had put it on one of our bookshelves, knowing I'd read it eventually, but not knowing quite when.

I must confess I'd shelved it for so long because I judged this book by its cover. Sure it was shallow of me, but I didn't get it when I saw it. My copy has a black background with a drawing of an old, bearded man looking "off panel" to our right, with something lighting up his face. Kinda like the above, but the outside is all black. At the time I wasn't ready to examine it carefully, so I just didn't get who the old man was supposed to be. Was it supposed to be God? Was it Abraham? Was it Moses? Who was the old guy with the stick? Why did the cover have to be so dark? I was being crabby. So I shelved it.

Then I recently found myself in a spiritual-starvation state, needing to grow and to seek God more, so I started to look at the books we had around the house, to see what might help me meditate and spend more time in Godly thoughts ... and Experiencing God was one of the three I pulled out. Its subtitle is "How to live the full adventure of knowing and doing the will of God" ... and I was curious what it had to say.

It wasn't until after I had finally read it and kept it out, knowing that I wanted to blog about it, that I FINALLY really saw the cover and got who it was. Duh! It's a drawing of Moses when he encounters the Burning Bush when God speaks to him the first time. This is mentioned several times in the book itself ... why I didn't see it until now ... ! On the cover, the burning bush itself appears in the middle of the "O" in "God" in the title (OH!). Okay, so the cover doesn't annoy me anymore, now that I know who this is supposed to be. LOL

I found Experiencing God to be a really nice, solid primer with biblical perimeters and guidelines in recognizing God at work around us, and in approaching God for a more direct and personal relationship with Him.

Sure, it can be frightening to approach the Almighty God, but there is precedence for desiring this kind of relationship. We want to know why we are here. We want to know that we are part of a bigger continuity. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden! He visited Abraham and Sarah. Once Moses got them out of Egypt, God would have talked to all the Israelites directly, too, but His Holy Hugeness freaked them out so much they asked Moses to handle all that direct communication for them. To read a book where someone addresses those longings in such a matter of fact way is pretty amazing.

I think what is lovely about this book is its directness and simplicity in addressing what we expect and what we should aim for in a relationship with God ... and how all that seeking, pursuing, loving, watching, adjusting, obeying and experiencing affects the fruits of our labor. From God being constantly at work around us and how when we pursue a relationship with God that plugs us directly into that work, the 7 Realities outlined and covered by Blakaby and King on the book are terrifically practical. It's especially useful I think for those who now understand they have a Purpose and need to plug in with God to fulfill that -- as humble as that purpose may be -- but who are not sure how to pursue that more deeply and thoroughly. This guidebook gives some very solid biblically-backed principles that should help many on their walk with God.

I gotta read it again.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things ...

It was a VERY busy September.

I've been UPTOHERE working on a new project enough to plum not have had time to post blog entries ... and even though I technically don't have the time now either, I've also reached a "critical mass" state of "wow, I really should blog about that" ... so I gotta post some things, if only for the sake of making room in my head so I can sleep! LOL

In the midst of all this work I also had a birthday (note to self: be sure to schedule time off on ones' birthday), and it was wonderful. Because of my gluten allergy I didn't have a cake, but only because I was too lazy to make one (however, I'd recommend Pamela's Products any day. My favorites are her Brownies and her Chocolate Walnut Biscotti. YUM!) but it was still a good day, and I spent it drawing comics, which for me was just a great happiness and a great blessing.

So I got a little "of everything" too so to speak, to make it not only a very happy birthday, but one I can enjoy for far beyond the one day ... For my TV/DVD Junkie side, my darling Chris got me Season 3 of The Bob Newhart Show and Season 4 of Monk! For my Artist and Comic Book side, my best friends got me a copy of DC Comics Cover Girls by Louise Simonson! And for my Nostalgic and Fashion side, my sister got me a lovely (fuschia!) vintage dress. (Reviews on all later on!) My other sister got me a b-day card with a sound chip in it featuring Linda Carter as Wonder Woman (YAY!) that cracks me up to no end every time I listen to it. In the card/chip WW sez: "Seems to me that you can put your powers to good use somehow." That card totally lives on my drawing table now! LOL

Let's just say I am VERY happy (it was a milestone birthday), very grateful and feel like a well-rounded human being (considering I'm basically a comic book nerd). LOL.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Joy and Delight: RAIN in Nashville at last!

I almost cried when -- while we were watching another episode of Firefly last night -- there was suddenly a lightning storm and then finally ... yes, finally! It rained! I ran to the window to watch.

WOO!

I could smell the rain, the green, the wet dirt and the wet concrete. (I missed those smells.)

In the long run, it rained just a wee bit, really. So by no means are we out of the woods yet. But I was SO happy and grateful it rained, I was dancing while thanking God.

Let's not get lazy now! Let's keep praying.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Affordable Housing in Nashville: Is It Becoming A Pipe Dream?

This is a greater kvetch, but I only have time to put up a (relatively) brief comment for starters.

It is always horrible when someone loses their home. To see the homeless on the street or families in shelters is heartbreaking. No one should be without a home. (and on a tangent I love what Habitat For Humanity is doing ... but again, that's a tangent.)

I do not enjoy the hysteria surrounding the housing market fallout and foreclosures that's been in the news lately. We're not even talking about the "poor" losing their homes anymore. (And this doesn't even address the people suffering and losing their homes with this flooding in the Midwest and fires to the West!)

We are now talking about the average middle class who are unable to make their hou$e payments because quite simply, the property and mortgage is priced beyond their means. And unscrupulous people who are being unsupervised are okaying mortgages in formats and interest rates that ought never be offered, let alone approved.

Losing a home (or apt.) used to be what happened to "bums" back in the day when I was a kid; alcoholics who drank themselves into irresponsibility. Or what happened to families who lost their means of support either through loss of a spouse or through loss of a job.

Now I know most people LOVE to have their own little niche. And everyone should have a home, whether it's a house, or apartment.

But geez louise, lately looking around Nashville, the ratio of "Luxury Apartments" to plain affordable apartments is becoming slowly but surely disproportionate. I'm not trying to be resentful. I'm also not saying it's bad to have the choice of a "luxury apartment" if someone could actually afford it, mind you. But DANG. Not all of us are music celebrities, Music City or not. Not all of us are middle management. Not all of us want to be or can be two-income families. Not all of us want those ugly [expletive deleted] expensive granite countertops in the kitchen of an apartment they just want to rent for a while. Why are these apartment building owners pricing regular working people out of rentals?

How are regular salaried families supposed to save the "20%" they're supposed to be able to have as a down payment on a house? Does anyone realize putting 20% Down on an average 2 bedroom, 240k house or apt is $48,000? That is more than a year's salary for most average workers! (COUGH!) We also can't use the "no money down" scenario as a practical reality, because when you do your homework, that adds additional insurance and makes the monthly payment way bigger, and makes the payout life of the loan longer.

I can't be the only one freaking out over these figures.

House, HECK. Just affording a decent apartment that's actually near the grocery store or public transportation and not out in the sticks is fast becoming a pipe dream.

This is so not good for families, this stretching them beyond reason.

Living off credit, falling deeper into debt, putting your family at risk ... my GOSH, losing a home is SO traumatizing! (Doesn't anyone watch Oprah or Doctor Phil when they have these people on? This is SAD. Look, I've lost my job and my apartment twice, I know what I'm talking about.)

Why are we forcing this situation? We all want safe neighborhoods and good buildings. Do the profit margins really have to be so wide? Is it really worth losing good people and putting up with the constant turning over of tenants?

Somebody needs to do the math. Where are the teachers and cops and hospital workers and retail clerks and librarians and bus drivers and waitresses and church workers and artists(!) and administrative assistants -- all our normal average neighbors who do normal, average jobs and enjoy them -- where are they supposed to live when the rents/mortgages are simply too high in proportion to their income?

Where did modest, safe homes in good neighborhoods go? They are just out of the average modest income family's price range.

I've kvetched enough for today.

TV Junkie: Firefly on DVD

I've mentioned before how we are both Joss Whedon fans. We love the Angel and Buffy TV series and we really liked Serenity movie, which was based on the Firefly series.

We had tried watching Firefly on TV but it was difficult. It has a dreamy, spacey, roomy-storytelling pace quality (which we do enjoy) and seems (upon viewing now) that it really would have worked better on a cable TV channel (like maybe Sci-Fi?) than on the network TV faster pace/more commercials channel it was on. We knew we were going to wait for the DVD after all was said and done. We saw the movie without seeing most of the TV show and just LOVED it, so we couldn't wait.

So we waited. It was on sale at Target (YAY!) so for Chris' birthday, he got the Firefly series.

It is just terrific -- I really love this cast! We watched episode 1 last night, and I didn't know until yesterday that the episodes were run on TV out of order; so that probably contributed to its being a bit confusing back when it first aired. I will know better once we catch up (I think episode 3 was run as episode 1).

Will probably gush more -- but gotta run and work now!

TV Junkie: NewsRadio Season Five

One word for ya: YAY!

With Season Five the set is now complete. (Now if only they would complete CHEERS ... !)

Anyway ... LOVE this show. More to post later.

Norman Rockwell's The Four Freedoms

Many years ago, a dear friend (twice!) drove a small group of us over to the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA. (There is also one in Vermont.) It was a fantastic trip. (I bought a felt hat shaped like The Cat In The Hat's hat ... I think I still have it somewhere ...? Good times. Good times...)

Even if the man's painting style may not be to everyone's taste, there is no doubt Rockwell was talented and was a man well-placed in his time period. The man could DRAW. Me, I love Norman Rockwell. He's one of my favorite artists.

In the midst of my fretting over the drought, reading online news and replies on whether or not it's a good idea to pray for rain (clearly "praying for rain" is not for everyone, but I do expect Christians to understand the urgency to pray) then further fretting about national political situations and then the ugly housing/mortgage fallout, a series of Norman Rockwell's came to mind. One called The Four Freedoms. Rockwell painted them based on a speech to congress made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 6 1941, during World War Two. The Four Freedoms that Roosevelt knew we were fighting for were:

"...In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world."
Wow. I loved seeing the paintings, and reading the speech "behind them" was impactful.

You know, I still do regret that we never did study much of U.S. History in school. I am no politics geek, by any means, but thanks to Nashville and its super community, I'm becoming more civics-minded in my old(er) age (LOL). Tennessee's reputation as the "Volunteer State" is amazing to me; this is good. This is proactive.

But do imagine my GREAT surprise when I googled the speech for this post, and found the last four paragraphs:

"That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
Since the beginning of our American history, we have been engaged in change -- in a perpetual peaceful revolution -- a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly adjusting itself to changing conditions--without the concentration camp or the quick-lime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

This is worth meditating over, and scrutinizing.

It is applicable to today, and it may NOT mean the easy answer some people may think it does. It is, however a call for Justice.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

This Is A Drought. A What? A Drought. A What? A Nashville Drought.

Oh a Drought!

So if Nashville has more churches per capita than any city in the country, then we best get on our knees and PRAY.

This drought sucks. Literally.

Rainfall has been stuck in the midwest; creating terrible woes to our families there with flooding.

There have been more than 12 days of 100+ temperatures IN AUGUST and we are at less than 1/4 the typical summer rainfall totals. A great deal of the state of Tennessee is now in official Extreme Drought Alert, with about 1/3 in EXCEPTIONAL Drought Alert. (Holy moley, I didn't even know there was that level.)

Focusing in on our state, it's making me sad to see the plants browning, and the animals panting, let alone people passing out and some dying. FROM THE HEAT! (Just watch the news.)

Our crops have suffered. Our farmers are in financial trouble. Livestock in Macon County now have to drink treated waste water (and you really think that isn't going to trickle down the food chain? O.M.GOODNESS.)

Time to stop being lukewarm.

The nation is pretty obviously in travail. Look at it. Don't freak out. LOOK.

Let's get busy, then.

So we're Christians, huh? So we believe in the Living God, Creator of All Things, huh? Then let's pray. Put your belief to work.

WORK IT.


Maybe we are in a Job situation. A "Hey, I'm not a bad guy, why are we having all this trouble?" type of situation.

A "Yeah, but wake UP!" type of situation.

What, pretending this isn't happening will make it go away? Nope.

Affliction passes. Make no mistake. We are in affliction.

But affliction passes.

Do not let apparent hopelessness in the terrible things happening around us "turn your heart to evil".  (Read the entire quote from the Book of Job chapter 36). See past it. See how it unites us. See how it helps us understand people we may have previously ignored. This is a VERY. SMALL. PLANET.

A true disciple of Christ needs to get past the fear and not have a problem examining his mind and soul to see if there are stumbling blocks in his relationship with God. You want to make sure there are no stumbling blocks ever (And hey, the effort counts. So just make it. We all stumble. It's okay. Get up again. For a saint is just a sinner who fell down, and got up.)

Seriously, let's pray for eachother. We really need it.

Nashville, please, let's pray for rain.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Joy and Delight: You Are Part of this Beautiful Quilt of Reality ...

You are ...

not a rock.

Not an island.

Not alone (even if it may seem so right now.)

You are very loved.

God knows you (even if you may feel kindof ignored lately.)

Your love reaches out. And makes an impact.

You have an impact even if you think not. (We don't live vacuum-packed.)

You have an effect. (Make it positive. It's less strain.)

We are all part of the puzzle. And we all fit (even if it's hard or weird sometimes to find out just where.)

The world is a beautiful place and worth taking care of.

People are beautiful and worth taking care of.

You are beautiful and worth taking care of.

Look into your own eyes and know this.

Look into their eyes and know this.

People are worth the effort (even when they are sometimes just the biggest pains in the rear.)

Yes. Some people you need to stay away from their craziness to be safe. Be wise. But love nonetheless.

Forgiveness helps you to grow.

"Forgive and Continue" (I don't remember where that quote comes from ...)

Love heals. Even with the smallest of gestures.

Love is powerful.

Love wins.

Let Love's Grace cover you. And see it in others.

Hope is Good Food.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Searching, Meaning, Discipleship ... Commitment

Life is a journey.

What an amazing journey.

It's very "in" now to find your Life Purpose, to put out Good Vibes to get back Good Vibes; and to reach out and grab "the secret" of how life works ... and this is good. We all need to know why we are here. What makes us really alive. What we are here to do.

I am hoping this turns out to be more than just a fad; we are talking people figuring out their Life Purpose, after all, not just what shoes look great this season.

This figuring out stuff takes work. Don't be afraid.

Finding out what makes your soul peaceful takes work. Being alive takes commitment. Being positive takes commitment. Being hopeful takes commitment. Don't be afraid.

Tangentally, and personally, I find that people find it scary to be Christian after a certain point. As if it means they would have to run off into the hills and be a monk or something. On the other hand there comes a point where "Christian" is more than just a label. That means commitment. It means discipleship. It's not just to Doing Good Things to the great Vague Existence of Life. It means commitment. To the Creator God!

I think it also means a commitment of a kind we have flat out learned to misunderstand through ignorance, miscommunication and misinformation. Some Christians have set bad examples for what Christianity really means. (I know I've done it. I apologize. I want to do better now.)

Christianity and its expression in the very different denominations there are is really interesting to me because -- and not to be facetious -- it's like being good at a specific sport or something. Like if you look at it in a teamwork concept, then pull out and you see the teams play in a League situation. Please know I also speak specifically of Christianity since I know it first hand, and have much less experience with committed religious people of other faiths, I'll just be straight up with you.

I've said this before -- and not that I'm an AA member -- but I'm finding for me becoming a more effective Christian is a lot like being an AA member ... in the sense that sometimes all you really have is the strength to focus in and take it one day at a time. If we take the small steps, if won't all seem so burdensome a task at all.

[Further tangent: In theory it shouldn't be scary to be a Christian. There are good and compassionate examples of good Christians. If we strip all the religious trappings away for a moment and focus only on what Jesus Christ Himself taught, being a disciple of Christ isn't complicated or boring or mean. It's actually very simple and very freeing.

It's people who really complicate things.

Being committed to God isn't just for the "superhumanly holy". It's not only for those who are called to be "saints" in the way we have been taught to recognize them. I didn't know, for example that all God's people are referred to as "saints" in the Bible.*

(*Psalms #116, verses 15 - 16; Romans chapter 8 verse 27; Ephesians chapter 1 verse 18 and chapter 6 verse 18; Revelation chapter 5 verse 8 and chapter 19 verse 8) .]

But I am getting ahead of myself, really.

One step at a time ...

I just want to show someone kindness today.

I just want to send a happy email that makes someone smile today.

I want someone to know they are being thought of, and being prayed for today.

Word: Today from Luke

My big pile of books-to-read includes a lot of non-fiction. This week I read a short biography of Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) published under the "Heroes of the Faith" series. The bio was written by Rachael Phillips.

Reading this book was so to-the-core moving; learning what this amazing man went through, first as a slave then as a runaway slave speaking openly against slavery, then as a free man speaking openly against slavery (when slavery was still in effect in many states). I was close to tears several times. It also led me on several tangental trains of thought. I hope to visit these thoughts further in a few posts ... but on a quick tangent, I wish we had read more on the Civil War era back in school; I think reading our own 19th and 20th century history would go a long way in helping Americans understand each other and where we live ...

In chapter five I read how one of the slaves masters Frederick Douglass worked for would regularly beat Frederick's slightly older, teenaged sister, Eliza. The cruelty of that man's actions hurt all the deeper because the man would quote Scripture at her to justify himself.

He quoted the Book of Luke, chapter 12, verse 47, which reads: "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows." Considering Frederick was learning to read (on the sneak) by reading the Bible, this was especially rotten use.

I was unfamiliar with that verse, so I looked it up. It falls under a section (I am reading the New International Version) with the heading "Watchfulness". I read the section which includes the verse immediately following it:

"47 That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

When I was done reading, the verses scared me.

This man, this adult, male slave master beating his underaged, female servant was quoting a red letter verse as he hit her. "Red letters" are the literal red letters printed in some Bibles to help locate and identify the direct teachings of Jesus Christ. So this man was quoting what Jesus had said.

The cruelty of its being twisted to this man's purpose became even more foul. This man was supposedly a Christian -- and in good standing! -- at his church.

But here is the scary part: in this section Jesus had been speaking to and teaching his disciples; telling them to be watchful. The section begins with "35 Be dressed ready for service, and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return ..."

Jesus wasn't referring to literal worldly "slave masters and slaves" like this slave master thought.

In verse 47-48 Jesus was referring to His own disciples. To Christians.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Joy and Delight: Dem Crazy Bugs

Okay, I am just going to have to buy myself some kind of book that has pictures of bugs and what they are so I'll know just what I'm looking at.

Golly, we have got a lot of bugs out here in TN! Back in NYC I could count the amount of bugs I ever saw practically on one hand: roaches, June bugs, Lady bugs, Cicadas (which I have to admit I never actually SAW but only heard. And it wasn't until I moved here that I learned THOSE were what I was hearing.). Oh, butterflies. (Do those count as "bugs" per se?) Flies. Bees.

I am amused by bugs who, when you start to observe them closely, actually realize they are being observed, and then start to hop around to get a better look at you. That just cracks me up.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Church Called Graffiti by Taylor Field

An editor friend of mine gave me a copy of this book. We had been sharing stories and recommending all kinds of favorite books to each other, like the graphic novel Blankets and Blue Like Jazz. He told me about Taylor Field's A Church Called Graffiti and I was so taken by the book's concept that I asked my friend if he would get me a copy. It's a memoir-in-progress of a midwestern Pastor and his family who moved to Manhattan's Lower East Side to serve at a mission for the poor and homeless in Alphabet City. (Yes, "Alphabet City" is completely Old School. I still like that name though the area likes to call itself "The East Village" now. LOL)

Gosh, I've read this book three times already. It still makes me cry.

You have to understand why it does; I was born and raised in NYC. It brings up memories. I was one of the VERY few kids in the neighborhood that went to church after we had celebrated our Confirmation. I was one of even fewer that went to church during Junior High and High School. Going to church was just the thing we did as a family. This book and these people are just so vivid to me.

Back in NYC, whenever I had the chance to talk about God and church with co-workers or freelancers -- which I always enjoyed doing and we generally always kept light -- I met many who used to go to church when they were younger, but who had stopped attending. Usually they stopped because they had experienced some incredibly stupid incident at their church (or in their own family because of church) that turned them off to the whole concept of going. This always made me sad to find out, because then attending church was not about their personal relationship with God and about developing their spiritual life and soul. Church instead was just a social place where some idiot could impose erroneous behavior upon the others and chase them all away. It just didn't seem fair to me mean people could do this to nice people. These were all people we'd all consider "good" people. They are all smart, hardworking, kind-hearted. Friendly. Family-oriented. They help out. They just chose not to go to church.

Because I had lived through a similar incident (ie., dealing with stupid church people making stupid impositions where they then chased the congregation away. And that church building actually closed down eventually, btw). I understood where they were all coming from.

After going through that same kind of thing myself I finally found my way to places I truly considered my home churches. Though I have to admit it took something like 10 years before that happened, and that includes a very long period of not attending any church. When I finally knew I had to go find a church, it took praying and visiting many to find "home". In my heart also KNEW church HAD to be more than "sit stand kneel/sit stand kneel" for one hour every week like it was in one denomination. Church HAD to be more than just "women can't wear pants, men can't wear beards" and etc,. like was imposed in another denomination. But even with that I stayed at those, because that's where I belonged to just then.

Church for me went beyond the mere annoying people sometimes around me. (I mean, you have to put up with annoying people at work, right? You don't quit work just because someone pissed you off one day. There are recourses for that when you're an employee. Avoiding the annoying as much as possible can work.)

Church to me, really, is the prayer groups. Church is the singing. Church is the focusing in on God and figuring out where we are going spiritually this week. Church is hearing the Word of God. Church is the meetings to encourage each other and hang out and discuss stuff. Church is feeding the homeless. Church is helping with or teaching at Sunday school. Church is getting clothes to the needy and helping them get jobs and giving them haircuts and seeing them get out of the hole they had fallen into. Church is uplifting. Church is people. And church is so much more bigger than just the annoying people. A Church Called Graffiti so exactly shows you what I think church really is like, it's hard not to cry when I read it.

When I read A Church Called Graffiti, I felt like how I did when I read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller or The Body Broken by Robert Benson: Church to me IS all this like Field writes about in his book. It's about the people and the journey. How God loves the details of our lives. It's not about who wore the cutest dress or seeing whether what's-his-name could make it to service after their unfortunate Saturday night binge. It's not about being bored in the pew and hoping you can beat church traffic and get back in time for the game.

Church is about people and going forward together to make this life a little more bearable for all of us.

I love this book. This book makes me cry.

What is True Freedom?

It seems like certain people love the ability to indulge themselves to excesses ... and this is what "our society at large" seems to gives the impression of. That Americans indulge themselves too much ... and somehow true freedom has morphed into the freedom to hurt yourself (and others as it ripples out from there).

For all the spirituality chasing-after we also seem to do as a society at large, we somehow still manage to stop seeing the spiritual connections in our own day-to-day minutiae after a certain point. As if it were all just too much work to really consider your own spirit moments and connection to God just as you walk down the street.

The overindulgence - and - freedom to hurt oneself attitude is such a painful way to do things, not to mention the results of some of these behaviors are costly on so many levels -- literally, physically and financially, then on the whole emotional/mental scar anguish that takes so much time to heal.

I think true freedom means acknowledging certain things definitely have the capacity of hurting us. When we know that of ourselves and of certain things, then we now have the freedom to say 'no' to those things, and not indulge in and practice them. Yes, that actually means telling some of our friends "no". Sadly this is also sometimes when you figure out who your real friends are, too.When we move into that place of seeing what hurts us and saying 'no' to them, we get to a whole new level of character and maturity.

I think this is what some people usually TRY to call "growing up"; only I also think some people have mistaken "growing up" with becoming dry and boring, which is not the case at all!

I barely knew my grandparents. I know I am missing a bit of continuity in my life from that lack of knowledge --- from that unfamiliarity with the continuance and treasuring of the family line and etc., I know in some homes some people use 'family' as a stranglehold to dominate the futures of some in their line; but I am not talking about families gone wrong. I am talking about the simplicity of knowing that we get born, we grow up, we go through life-phases and each phase has a preciousness to it that we are not even treasuring for what enjoyment they are. People get so caught up and so busy chasing after what they DON'T have, they don't ever get to enjoy the phase they're IN to the fullest. It's nutty. (I've done it myself. I know.)

I wonder what it would like if we can be honest and share with each other what happens as we get older .. how our points of view can expand from what we've learned from what we've done in the past, and if we help each other to just expectantly enjoy the process of maturing and growing up. How growing up, maturing and -- gasp! -- aging can be such an amazing growth of character and an incredible journey of becoming and being a person.

People age. It happens. Why can't we appreciate all the ages we as people live through? Why can't we treasure that in each other, or at least respect that in each other?

This is where character comes from. Strength of character to know oneself and to know what is a kinder, gentler approach to doing things.

I think this is what I like about many of our Nashville leaders. They are men and women of character. And when any fail for any reason, they even have had character enough to step down. And those who can stay strong, know that the leadership position they hold is for the greater good of the city.

Gosh, we have a mayor to vote for next month, you know.

Yes, I'm being optimistic and hopeful and encouraging and dreaming and looking for a better and even brighter future for Nashville; a city filled with men and women of great character and love for their neighbor. Of course I look for this. I am an artist. It's part of my job. :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh Yeah. Art!

Not having a car at my disposal makes me less inclined to go visiting my usual favorite galleries (read "favorites" as those easy to get to by bus and get picked up by hubby in car afterwards: like Gallery One, LeQuire (they have new classes!), The Palette Gallery and Cafe (they open at noon for the summer!), Zeitgeist, Richland, Midtown, TAG, and Arts Company) But frankly, Nashville is really so very sprawling, it's exhausting. Walking and taking the bus to visit even one location can take a good chunk of the day. And in this heat ...! Oh boy.

So I didn't get to mention, the one show I did get to see on one of very few (only?) jaunts this past Spring (last April!) was the Mook & Fudge show over at TAG. This was fun and featured pen and ink works by Mel Kadel and Travis Millard. Kadel's work had very fine detail that reminded me of childrens' book art. Millard had a odd comics quality I really enjoyed (HEY! he DOES have a comics website!), my favorite piece actually appeared on the postcard for the show; the face of "Double Dude" a man/bat fella looking out at us, complete with word balloon. Creepy and fascinating! They even sold what looked just like mini-comics (others also call these chap books or small books) featuring their work. I liked this show very much.

I do regret missing Sarah La's show at Zeitgeist, (I was in the neighborhood two days late!! ARGH.) since I was interested in seeing her paintings live. The work on her website is already gorgeous, and saw she would also sometimes feature her works in progress on her LiveJournal blog. I wanted to see whether one particular painting she had showed us in progress had made the show ...

I also -- regrettably -- missed Lori Putnam's show over at the Belle Meade Plantation Gallery. Lori is another one of my favorite local painters. I was hoping to take the opportunity to visit and FIND the gallery in the first place but did not get there in time (have visited since and it looks like the gallery is a section within their excellent shop) . Lori just recently taught a Plein-Air painting class over in Italy (tell me that doesn't sound heavenly!)

Happily, I just got info that Lori is having a show at Centennial Park in August, so I have another chance to see her new work and soon. She will be featured along with Brenda Stein's fine woodturning and Gayle Levee's classic realism paintings. So let me share this info with you --

The will be an Opening Reception for them on Friday, August 10 from 5 -7 pm. The show runs August 10 -30, 2007. The Centennial Art Center is located on 25th Avenue North and Park Plaza corner, just inside Centennial Park. The center is usually open from 10 to 5 from Tuesday through Saturdays.

Abstract painter Edie Maney has a new website. YAY! (I can't stress enough how important it is in this day and age to maintain even just the simpest of websites if you're working in art professionally.)

Metalsmith Ben Caldwell is holding a lecture at the LeQuire gallery (tomorrow) Thursday night, July 19th. He was recently featured on Tennessee Crossroads. He makes incredible works in metal -- and many items are also practical home things.

When my best friends to visited us last month, we were able to drive over and see the Ruthie Cherry Fine Art Gallery over at the Loveless Cafe complex. (Make sure you stop by and check out the lovely pottery and jewelry there at Shimai.)

There is so much more to do ...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

FD/FC: Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins

This month's First Day first Chapter is Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins.

I won't even tell you how backed up with books to read, so I haven't read this one -- but as part of the Fiction In Rather Short Takes blog alliance, I hope this first chapter preview night help you find a new book to enjoy!

So onward we go:

***

Brandilyn Collins is the bestselling author of Violet Dawn, Web Of Lies, Dead of Night, Stain of Guilt, Brink of Death, and Eyes of Elisha just to name a few.

Brandilyn and her family divide their time between the California Bay Area and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

She maintains an informative blog called Forensics and Faith where she daily dispenses wisdom on writing, life, and the Christian book industry.

Brandilyn also hosts the blog Kanner Lake: Scenes and Beans where you can read entertaining and eclectic posts about life in Kanner Lake from Bailey, Wilbur, S-Man, Jake, and other of your favorite characters from the Java Joint. Coral Moon is the second book in the Kanner Lake Series.

***

Chapter 1


Kill tonight—or die.

The words burned, hot acid eating through his eyes, his brain. Right down to his soul.

Only a crazy person would obey.

He slapped both hands to his ears, squeezed hard against his head. Screwed his eyes shut. He hung there, cut off from the world, snagged on the life sounds of his body. The whoosh of breath, the beat of his heart.

The words boiled.

His skull hurt. He pulled his hands away, let them fall. The kitchen spun. He dropped into a chair, bent forward, and breathed deeply until the dizziness passed.

He sat up, looked again to the table.

The note lay upon the unfolded Kanner Lake Times newspaper, each word horrific against the backdrop of a coral crescent moon.

How did they get in here?

What a stupid question. As if they lacked stealth, as if mere walls and locked entrances could keep them out. He’d been down the hall in the bedroom watching TV, door wide open, yet had heard nothing. Hadn’t even sensed their presence as he pushed off the bed and walked to the kitchen for some water.

A chill blew over his feet.

His eyes bugged, then scanned the room. Over white refrigerator and oak cabinets, wiped-down counters and empty sink. To the threshold of the kitchen and into the hallway. There his gaze lingered as the chill worked up to his ankles.

It had to be coming from the front of the house.

His skin oozed sweat, a web of sticky fear spinning down over him. Trembling, he pulled himself out of the chair. He clung to the smooth table edge, ensuring his balance. Then, heart beating in his throat, he forced himself across the floor, around the corner, and toward the front door.

It hung open a few inches.

They were taunting him.

He approached, hands up and fingers spread, as if pushing through phantoms. Sounds of the night wafted on the frigid air—the rustle of breeze through tree limbs, distant car tires singing against pavement. He reached the door, peered around it, knowing he was a fool to seek sign of them. The air smelled crisp, tanged with the purity of pine trees. The last vestiges of snow dusted his porch, bearing the tracks of his footprints alone.

He closed the door and locked it. As if that would do any good. He sagged against the wall, defeated and sick. How stupid to think they would leave him in peace. Hadn’t he seen this coming? All the events of the last few months . . .

Shoulders drawn, he made his way back to the kitchen and his inevitable fate. Each footstep drew him away from the life he’d built, reasoning and confidence seeping from him like blood from a fatal wound. His conscience pulsed at what he had to do.

The message sat on his table, an executioner beckoning victim to the noose. He fell into the chair, wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. He read the words, fresh nausea rising in his stomach. No misunderstanding their commands. They had a chess score to settle. He was their pawn.

He pushed back against the chair, arms crossed and hugging himself, the way he used to do as a boy. Dully, he stared at the window, seeing only his own pitiable reflection. For a long time he watched himself, first transfixed in fright, then with the evolving expression of self-preservation.

If he just did this one thing, his debt would be paid. They’d leave him alone.

For another hour...two…he sat, forcing down the queasiness as he thought through dozens of details. How he should do it. What could go wrong.

By the time he rose near midnight, he’d laid his plans.

Gathering the necessary items, shrugging on a coat, he slipped out into the cold and soulless night.

***

Coral Moon Copyright 2007 by Brandilyn Collins.
Used by permission of Zondervan.

What Do You Do When A Comic Runs Late on Deadline?

What is an editor to do when a comic book is running late on its publishing deadline ... ?

Thanks to Val's Post on her Occasional Superheroine blog, I visited the link to DC Editor Matt Idelson's post on the DC website, DC Nation #64.

Idelson writes about the editor's dilemma when they find themselves unable to publish the comic book originally solicited to ship on a given date. Whether it was the editor who waited too long to lock someone or the storyline down, or whether it's the writers or artists who find themselves behind schedule for whatever reason (like illness) Idelson wants to know what is truly the best option to handle it when Editorial's backs are against the wall.

(Btw he mentioned colorists as sometimes running late, but from first hand experience I'll tell you colorists are ALWAYS paying the price when books are late, and are ALWAYS expected to do their work in half the time or less that's usually allotted them when there is a ship date crisis. And since there are teams of colorists who work together and can specifically help out in a timing jam like this, I'm really not inclined to involve colorists in "the book is late because of them" equation.)

Anyway, Idelson says an editor's three options for dealing with a late comic are:
1 - Run an inventory story
2 - Get another writer or penciller/inker team to fill in the SAME storyline to keep it going
3 - Leave everything as is and ship when the thing is finally ready.

About a third of us readers at any given time absolutely hate any of these options when they're used, so he wants to know which option incenses the least amount of us.

I thought it was very cool of him to ask. So, Matt, here's my two cents, in order of best to worst options:

1. (2) Get another writer or art team to SAVE the current storyline.
Yeah, us fans and the retailers will probably b---- and blog how 'the art doesn't match' and 'oh my goodness why this team' and blah blah blah. But this is the most economically viable, and least offensive way to rescue the situation, especially with how DC has its Universe currently set up.

This option works best on recurring monthly titles.

2 (1) Use an inventory story.
Again, yeah, us fans and the retailers will probably b----- and blog "WT- happened to the story from last month?" and this will be annoying to us. But the core vocal bunch are also the ones online, and they will know EXACTLY why there is a substitute being used, and there are so many ways to get the word out as to why the story is being subbed out at print time, people will just get over it and wait for things to get back to normal. Especially if the inventory story used is a good little story, and pretty to look at <--- span="" style="font-weight: bold;">this is REALLY key!

This is only an option for a recurring monthly title.

3 (3) Leave everything as is and let it ship when it's finally ready.
In THEORY it's sound and reasonable to do this.

But this option really only works and best on a mini series outside of the recurring monthly titles.

Now for the whys:

1) Sub in a team for the current storyline is the best option for the recurring monthly titles, for the title's sake.

This is because the DCU has become so profoundly linear and interconnected. Sure, before Crisis the DCU was a little messy with all the versions of the different worlds all the superheroes lived in, but ya'll also had a WHOLE lot more slack to work within. Since Crisis the DCU really now works as a one-world, single, octopus-like species of animal with many tentacles (no laughter please!) instead of an entire animal kingdom. Everyone involved is on one huge linear, interconnected storyline. There's a lot less room for imagination here, cause everything has to "fit".

This singular storyline treatment of the DCU leaves no room for inventory stories. Editorial has essentially tied their own hands with this one approach they have enforced. And the Universe gets smaller and flatter and darker with each succeeding humongous crossover.

2) Inventory stories would be cool to have as an option but again, the readers can't CUT slack for inventory stories precisely because the DCU has become so linear. But this is not a chicken and egg scenario. The DCUniverse is now linear and has been for over 20 years. Why should the reader WANT inventory stories? We are not used to them. And often they just suck anyway because they are poorly executed.

If they were GOOD inventory stories I think there would be fewer complaints from fans.

Back in the day (this I learned from Jo Duffy at Marvel's old Epic Comics line, and from Dwayne McDuffie at Milestone) there was ALWAYS at least one inventory story in the Editor's drawer JUST IN CASE a schedule jam happened. When that story was used, a new one was commissioned to keep in the drawer again.

Inventory stories was also how some editors tried out new talent, like the writers and pencilers and inkers they met at comic cons. Teams on the inventory story were put on a normal turnaround schedule to see if they could handle it, and they got tested that way. If they passed, and handed in their work on schedule, then the editor knew they could be trusted and might look out for them for another project sometime. Yes, it meant the talent may not see their work in print for a year, but on the other hand, for a person who wants to do this as a career, waiting a year is nothing. Waiting a year or more to see print in prose publishing is typical.

So YEAH, we'd LOVE this option (as fans and as potential talent) -- but the stories then ALSO have to be reasonably good.

3) Let the team finish and print when they're ready.

This approach is both really good and really bad.

Writers and artists have fans and we really wanna see their work and we really do wanna see the storyline completed by the same team. Especially when it's wrapped into and sold as a tpb later (not to mention the paperwork is a lot simpler with just one team). But this has an economic factor that nobody likes to talk about. Namely, the retailer gets screwed in the short run of this scenario, and that's really not cool.

Long story short: book doesn't ship, retailers has a hole, fan buys something else. Seems good, right? If this goes on long enough fans really do find they can spend their money on something else. I don't know if this has changed across the board but retailers sometimes don't get the option to adjust their order numbers on the title. When a title starts to lose reader interest or reader dollars, getting stuck with extra can become a hardship on the retailer.

This ideally is the option for the mini series format. (We let it slide on Watchmen and Dark Knight)

OR how about option 4, which actually combines 1, 2 and 3:

4) When a mini series-like storyline inside a recurring monthly title runs into schedule problems, create a back up storyline and then run that one for as long as you need to.

Yes, it's inventory in way but better than inventory. If the first writer knows where they're going on the story set, and they're running late, then a second writer may work along with them to write a 2-3 issue run to cover in the meantime. This story doesn't have to be slavishly in continuity post the storyline in trouble (you probably don't want spoilers in it, for instance)

Or if it's the penciler or inker running late and you don't want to break up that team by using additional pencilers or inkers on the issue (which is the usual first choice) then have the writer do something within their continuity that involves another artistic team, but which then later can be rolled in into it's own tpb, for instance. Then when the first team is back on track (and you will probably want them to get back on schedule over the next two to four issues anyway) you can finish their storyline with that team intact. Awkward, maybe. But it might work in the right hands. Most comics writers I know would hand in stories months ahead of schedule if they're allowed to by their editor anyway, so surely there is a way to handle this.

If anything, just don't leave a hole in the shipping schedule. That's the worst option of all.

Good luck, Matt. And thanks for asking.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Unexpected Inspiration ... from Fashion Mags of all things ...

I used to buy lots of fashion magazines when I was a teen ... and back then I didn't enjoy them so much. I wasn't blonde, wasn't thin, wasn't a size 4 and wasn't 5'10" (not that I'm any of these things now, but you know what I mean!). Back then it wasn't cool to be Hispanic -- or "Latina" as the phrase is coined nowadays -- and I felt inadequate for not meeting some impossible magazine ideal.

By my 20s I went totally "anti-fashion". Which is not too hard to do when every trip to the clothing store was basically a nightmare of "nothing fits correctly" or "nothing fits I can afford." (I STILL abhor shopping.)

And that was a bummer, really, because I rather otherwise enjoy hats and pretty suits and that formal look (but ya tend to look rather overdressed if you do that sorta thing, least 'round these parts!).

But now after all this time I've accepted I'm a fashion ignoramous, and I am at peace with my nerdiness. And by not feeling that strange pressure (Am I tall enough? Will my hair ever NOT frizz?) I can now enjoy and even want to enjoy looking at fashion again.

So when I started up my new subscriptions to W and Vogue I did it because I finally LIKE who I am and what I look like, and I don't feel pressured to dress up in what is currently in style. And I also made the conscious decision that the second either mag started to make me feel bad about NOT being fashionable "enough", I was going to cancel the sub and just get on with my life.

Imagine my surprise then -- now that it's been some months that I've been getting these issues -- to find that not only are the pictures just FUN to look at, and seeing the clothes is just enjoyable ... but I also feel inspired to draw prettier things ... and that was just nice.

What a nice and unexpected discovery ...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Joy and Delight: More Bugs

Yesterday, I saw a round little shape crawl up the other side of the window I was looking out of. I laughed because it looked just like a lentil creeping up the glass, so I watched it. When I shifted over, to see it from the side, it turned out to be a reverse ladybug.

I'm already very fond of ladybugs. They just have to be one of the cutest bugs, with their shiny red coverings and the polka-dot theme going on. This one was shiny black with red dots. I watched it for a bit, then its little wings popped out and it zipped up like two inches. And kept walking up the glass. La di da.

Trust Your Gut Instinct

The Gift Of Fear by Gavin De Becker.

Gut vs. Irrational.

Trust your gut instinct.

Movie Junkie: My Neighbor Totoro

For our anniversary, my sisters bought Chris and I a copy of Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro on DVD. Chris had never seen it before, and I couldn't wait for him to enjoy it.

Like the rest of the Miyazaki anime we have started to collect -- we have Spirited Away, Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke for starters -- Totoro has a magical, loopy and endearing story quality that just fascinates us. Totoro is one of his earlier films, so for me it is like him cutting his teeth on the style of story he tells. I love it.

I have fond memories of my sisters and I watching it together for the very first time many years ago. I can remember us sitting in front of the TV in the living room; I think we had rented it from the video store back then. I remember being fascinated by the quality of the animation, and feeling like I was peeking into the Beauty of Life from the Japanese point of view.

So Chris and I watched the subtitled version first. I think there really is no replacing the original actors' voices when you watch a foreign film. I love reading subtitles and hearing the voices. The inflections add so much to the mood of the piece.

But on the other hand, we watched it a second time in English. The two little sisters in the movie were dubbed by Dakota Fanning and her little sister, Elle. I was so impressed with the two little girls' dub work. After having watched it in Japanese, I find they did an exceptional job. I also felt they caught the spirit of the story in a lovely way. They were JUST adorable!

If we ever travel, I would so love to visit Japan and visit Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli ...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Women and Comics: Two Terrific Comics Posts

There's been a lot of hoopla on the blogosphere about certain comics covers and statuettes solicited for sale recently that have upset a lot of comics fans. So much so, even folks who have web columns for comics and publishing sites have flung themselves into the web-fray in order to add their POV.

For larger context: the mainstream superhero comic book industry's Big Two Publishers -- you, the non-comics reading public, would know them as the folks who make the comics the movies of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, X-Men, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four (and others) are based on -- have been increasingly writing and designing their superhero comic books to appeal to an increasingly older set of mostly male readers. This, in spite of their widely-publicized movies and licensed tie-ins (toys, posters, costumes etc.,) that are marketed to appeal to younger readers. Many parents find themselves in stores looking to buy the comics for their kids, only to find they lately often contain material that is only teen and up appropriate, or even mature readers appropriate.

Publishers/Editors have also increasingly allowed writers to use scenarios and "character plot devices", and allowed artists to depict images that (to put it nicely) increasingly demean, degrade and debase women characters. In many instances, instead of requesting art corrections on visuals that 15 years ago would have been flat out changed because they were editorially considered visually "impolite", editors nowadays let them go, and they will often be unnecessarily and/or inappropriately explicit for an All-Ages category audience.

So, enough time has passed now that disgusted fans have resorted to what they have available to let Publishers know they've had enough of what has become sloppy editorial policy: They vote with their dollars by not buying the product. They write letters to the publishers and editors explaining what was offensive in said product. They also go further and blog about the offensive point(s) in said product.

The results have been mixed so far, that I can see. (You can read for yourself at the Women In Comics links) Publishers have been understandably defensive, and bloggers have been increasingly vocal. I think we might be getting somewhere.

I wanted to post links to two excellent posts -- one over at CrazyElfGirl's blog "Dude! It's a Chick!" titled "If You Don't Like It Make Your Own"; and the other at the "Sequentially Speaking" blog by retailer Lisa, titled "A Couple Of Thoughts About The Industry".

Fact of the matter is, the mainstream comics industry's Big Two are owned by publicly traded companies. They have spent lots of money licensing, marketing and promoting their product to a very wide and all-ages audience. When comics themselves start to become dangerously exploitative of a certain section of the fan base then we are unnecessarily compromising the enjoyment of a lot of readers. (Yes, there is precedent for use of the term "exploitative". And yes, there is a certain amount of suspension-of-disbelief needed to enjoy superhero comics in the first place).

Change to this exploitative phenomena has to come from within AND without.

Fans who want to work in the industry should prepare themselves in the best, most thorough and professional way possible to work on staff or freelance. That way they can effect a direct change in what they find to be too-excessively narrow a focus within the product itself, in order to change the nature of the product.

Fans who want to remain fans should always speak up and point out when the publishers get off track and become inappropriate with what is supposed to be a widely enjoyed product.

We don't stop learning to get better once we get the job. We should get the job and improve and do it better. We are all learning how to do this better -- whether that is to be better creators, or be better editorial shepherds of product, or be better fans and enjoy the merchandise produced.

After all, publishers need fans. Fans need publishers. Let's work together to fix this.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Joy and Delight: C Is For Cookie, That's Good Enough For Me ... hey!

Sometimes all it takes is a batch of chocolate chip cookies to add a little joy and delight to the day ...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Struggle For Meaning; Why Not Have Joy?

Walking from the bus this morning I saw a crazy looking bug I've never seen before. Really dark gray and long, with a pattern on its back. There the little thing was walking, pretty as you please, right on the side of the road, like it was big.

It made me pause, and I laughed out loud as I passed it, wondering what in the world it was called. Seeing it really cracked me up. And I found the moment of noticing it and wondering where it was going delighted me. And I realized not too many grownups would indulge themselves like that. Laughing at a bug, I mean. Let alone laugh out loud like some kind of crazy person. So then I thought:

WHAT is so embarrassing about feeling joy or delight?

Why are we so dead-set to come off so incredibly COOL that we shortchange ourselves and our emotions? We get so caught up in "appearances" that we can take no pleasure in anything. Or if we do, we "only allow" ourselves to brag about hedonistic pleasures?

It so much easier to be cynical and unhappy. Sure. I know that. It's less effort. We are not involved that way. But by being not-involved we are also isolated. And that's just sad. I am tired of feeling f-ed up and sad. Tired of reveling in that.

There is fun to be had. There is joy and delight to be had, in simple things.

On the way to work, I want to laugh at the interesting bug and wonder where it's going ...

Rejection: Love Hung Out To Dry

I am no philosopher. Or theologian. I have no college degree. I just tend to mull over stuff. A lot.

I think about a lot of things, but I also try not to get depressed over them like I used to when I was a teenager. (I think part of the depression not being so bad like it used to be is because about three years ago I found I had a lot of food allergies. I eliminated the foods from my diet that were making me sick and I am doing better. So though I do get sad from time to time now, I don't fall into the debilitating funk like I used to. But that's a tangent -- I'm no doctor. I'm just saying.)

Anyway, it seems to me that Rejection fuels a lot of Pain and Anger. Deep rejection from childhood makes people insecure and liable to do stupid things. So often they try to make up for their own rejection in the worst and weirdest ways, too.

Basic politeness towards strangers goes along way. Here people will smile at you as they walk past you on the street. There is something just nice about that. It's like acknowledging we are all here, trying to deal. Living. Working to instill hope. Doing the best job we can. I think inspiring hope goes a long way.

Believing in the best of people goes a long way.

Word: Today from 1 Corinthians

I used to work with a Youth Group back in NYC. Those kids were so great and talented. There were so many that passed through our church doors at one point or another ... I used to take attendance so I could remember their names. I'm pretty sure over the years we had at least 60 different individuals in the 3 or so years I worked there. And for a church in the middle of Manhattan, that was saying a lot that they stopped by. When we met on Wednesday nights sometimes we'd talk. Sometimes we'd get pizza. Sometimes we'd have a bible study.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, we read from the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 33. "Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character."

And it sunk in. Sometimes it's a very hard choice to break away from the path that is actually eating your soul up and destroying you. Especially when it involves old friends.

But true friends also stick with you. And don't belittle you when you are growing in a way they don't understand. And when they are worried for you they flat out say so. And if you are doing something wrong they'll try to shake you out of it. Friendship involves mutual respect.

Friendship is precious. And friendship is edifying, not destructive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Faith Vs. Reason, Emotions Vs. Automatons ...

As I get older, the less patience I have and the more patience I have. It's a funny balance, this self-control.

As a Northerner living in the South, it's been an interesting relocation. I see and have seen people in both regions of the country handle their emotions with skills, and handle them with no skills. Same with Faith. Same with Reason. I have seen it in myself, too. Live and learn. Life is a curious and beautiful thing.

Looking at Technorati -- the list of what many people are talking about on the web -- I've been curious about the arrival of several books where it seems like the authors have pitched Reason against Faith. As if they were mutually exclusive.

To be more fair, I would need to see these books in the bookstore -- but in general what little I've seen online looks like they may have decided people of faith are stupid and dangerous. (To be fair, we have given them ample bad impressions. We need to practice better faith to correct that.)

People on both sides of religion and anti-religion can be guilty of not looking upon each other with compassion. (Actually it also seems to me that Christians could in fact have MORE faith in prayer and in God's work upon the spirit, but that's a post for another day.)

But my curiosity is, if we happen to consider Faith to be not a reasonable thing ... then we are going to have to step back and say the same for emotions. After all, when handled poorly, Love can be not reasonable. Anger can be not reasonable. Passion can be not reasonable. Joy certainly can be not reasonable. So handled poorly, it is the same for Faith. And frankly, when handled poorly, it is the same for Reason. Handled poorly, then the "good judgment and good sense" of Reason also goes out the window and becomes "unreasonable".

By assuming Faith is separate and apart from Reason[able] behavior, we kinda run dangerously close to looking towards a society of no-emotion automatons as the answer. See, Faith is not only about having Faith in a God we do not directly see. We forget that Faith (Random House Websters College Dictionary c. 2000) is also having 4. a belief in anything as a code of ethics or standards of merit.

If we have no Faith -- no belief in anything -- then everyone is out for themselves. That kinda throws Reason into the toilet, doesn't it? If we have no belief in a code of ethics or standards of merit then nobody looks out for kids, or for the elderly, or for people in general. There is no mutual compassion. That's a bad place to live in.

Reason and Faith are not mutually exclusive. We really have to stop perpetuating the myth that they are. Though some people through error might separate the two, they do not have to be separated. In fact, we are Biblically advised to ask for Wisdom, if we lack it. We need Wisdom to make sound judgments. So we're back at that hairy Faith thing again.

We need that fine balance of Faith, Reason, Passion, Love, and Joy handled deftly and compassionately. Even Anger when well-handled, can be controlled to correct wrongs to make them better.

Faith and Reason can live and work together.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Justice League Unlimited

Holy smokes -- where do I even begin?

To celebrate her birthday, my best friend and her husband flew in to visit us. Dave brought with him his copy of the Justice League Unlimited Season One DVD, so we could all watch it together while we chilled out in the evenings.

WHAT a FANTASTIC CARTOON.

NOW THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT -- THIS is what cartoons and comics ought to be like!

The boy AND girl superheroes are all equally fierce and funny and great and heroic and the stories are fun, and the stories are neat -- and oh my goodness, was my heart glad to watch these episodes! I didn't even get to see all of them but did I just love the ones I did.

I enjoyed this -- and so many obscure superheroes made appearances. The Question! Black Canary. Fire and Ice. Captain Marvel. Dr. Fate! And so many, many more. How hilariously fun this was!

We are SO buying this.

Dwayne McDuffie, Bruce Timm -- and all you other creators involved -- I raise my glass and toast you. Thank you for making this show so much FUN!!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Don't Apologize For Having A Nice Life

In spite of what it seems like, not everyone has had a sucky or tragic childhood.

Not everyone has had a harrowing young adulthood.

If you've had a nice life, don't apologize for it. Just be grateful.

Don't go looking for trouble just because you've had none. There are plenty of honest mistakes or blunders people simply make on their own, when they're not looking for trouble.

Don't apologize for having a nice life. It's reassuring to know someone has.

Monday, April 23, 2007

So What Good Is It To Go To Church?

This post is probably more fully in context read after my two earlier posts "The Good Work Thursday that became the Painful Friday" and "Proactive Prayer".

Plus this is also hitting on a few things that are all related ... so this post likely won't really be too linear, so much as a collection of related thoughts.

I guess getting hurt last Thursday and going to the doc on Friday has made me really consider some things; though I must confess I'd been meaning to post an entry like this for about two weeks now. It does, however, make more sense somehow to post it now, though.

I mentioned how we don't have a car right now, which also means that because we don't live near enough to the church we are members of -- or near enough to fellow members to catch a ride in to service -- we haven't been to church since before Christmas.

Frankly, I gotta admit not going to church has been a little weird.

And it's not like this is the first time I don't go to church -- I'd dropped going for a good few years when I was in my 20s. It's just weird and different to not be able to go when you want to.

This is also something that's not easily remedied by attending church "somewhere else that's closeby" in the meantime. We live in a part of town where there are literally no sidewalks. And no bus service on the weekends. You can't easily walk around to look for a substitute place to go then, since pedestrians don't have the right of way here. (But that's really a whole other bigger walk/Nashville/health issue, too.)

Now my journey so far with religion and figuring out my relationship with God has been interesting, to say the least. It's been a real struggle sometimes, figuring out what really fits. (Sometimes I wish we were all more tolerant and kinder to each other on our journey ...)

But I guess it's only fair to give context for my statements.

I was raised a Catholic -- and most of my family still are. By the time I was 16 I had been an altar girl, a catechism teacher, assistant to our nun staff, and had even worked as the church receptionist for a few months. My parents served and taught there as well, and led a prayer group.

Even with all this being in church 3 or 4 or more times a week, I still felt like I was literally spiritually starving ... for more of God. To me the time there was so much work to do, and yet the time we spent with God was only so much "sit-stand-kneel-sit-stand-kneel-sit-stand-kneel". There wasn't enough connection for me.

Sometime the year I was 16, a new pastor and new priest came to work at that parish. Soon, thanks to the one of the congregants (who wanted to curry favor for the sons she wanted to force into the priesthood and I don't think either ever joined after all) who gossiped to befriend him, one of the new guys began to cast doubts on my Dad's character. It was frightening how it developed.

As part of the prayer group, we're supposed to share stories on how God had helped us in various ways. One of the new guys didn't believe God had healed various people who had been prayed for there at the prayer meetings. It was crazy -- I mean, holy crap, isn't this guy a priest? Isn't he supposed to believe this sort of thing is possible?

This guy further called my Dad a liar for saying that God had been gracious enough to answer a prayer request of his directly! (See, Dad many years before, had prayed and asked God whether he should become a priest or marry my Mom. Obviously, Dad married Mom. Dad would share this story with people to help them know God does care about everything we do. I even drew a comic about this answered prayer.)

It's a terrible form of betrayal to have another person who "believes in God" basically tear you down in public, in front of a congregation you're supposed to both serve, and call you a liar for believing that God works and does what He says He does. If a situation develops where staff members need to clear the air about something, there is supposed to be a civilized manner in doing it. But here the pastor didn't know better. He just wasn't equipped to handle it. I can see that now. Back then it was just really bad.

After some awkward public scenes and several months of discord, in the interest of the greater peace, we had to leave that church. We had been there for over ten years and put in so much time with people. I was angry and thought we should have stayed and fought for the right to speak the truth. Prayers had been answered! Let the staff take it up with God if they didn't believe He truly helped.

I was very, very angry with those people. And also massively disgusted.

I had to figure out for myself WHY I wanted God in my life -- especially since I found His "Official Staff" seemed to contain idiots who inexplicably don't Trust Him. (Not all of them, mind you, just some. I didn't realize then that church -- just like everywhere else -- is staffed by people. Yes, people. Ordinary people with A Job To Do. Some of them have callings, and some actually don't. Some people do their jobs better than others. And bad workers do get batched up with good workers sometimes, just like at the office.)

So I started from scratch to figure out what was up with me and God ... but after about a week I figured out I missed Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me, so I did want to stay Christian. (I just didn't know yet how deep that relationship can become.) Frankly I just wanted to shave my head and be a monk and live in the hills and get away from stupid people (I'm sure there are those who can relate). But that kinda set up was hard to find in NYC. So I just began looking for a new church to attend.

Fast forward over 20 years: At 18 I thought that to really serve God, I had to become a nun. I even visited a convent twice. Figured out by the end of the second visit that becoming a nun was just not my job. Kept looking. Met a new friend and started attending a Pentecostal church.

Got "Born Again". Just in time to quit going to church altogether. I prayed every week where we worked, but I didn't go to a real church for many, many years. Fell into a spiritual black hole and my life flat out unravelled.

At the very end of that rope (so to speak) I lost the leases to both my apartment and to the art studio on the same week. The apartment move almost wiped the last of what money I had (stupid rip-off moving company giving me a bad quote). I couldn't hire a moving company for all the studio crap I still had to move. I finally just prayed and literally asked God to cut me a break and help me find a "Man with Van" I could trust and afford.

The guy I hired to help move us turned out to be a Born Again Christian. Go figure. This guy literally prayed for me and the staff as we were moving. Like hands on pray, even. He helped me over two or three days, and before he left he gave me a copy of (don't laugh!) The Power of Positive Thinking (which actually does mention Jesus Christ here and there). I read that and realized what a horrible rut (canyon?) I had let myself fall into. I didn't liked what my life had become and I needed to change it.

I don't remember if it had been by or since the time Born Again Christian Moving Van Man had prayed for me, but it was around then when I started to go to that Pentecostal church again. I would go up to the altar during service and pray (and honestly, sometimes flat out fall asleep) but I always got up (woke up) and ran out before service ended so no one would stop and "preach at me". But I kept going there.

I became an official member of that church about a year later. Then got baptised maybe 2 years after that or so.

Once I became a member I found had to go to service two or three or four times a week. Not because they made me, or because they insisted (though they did insist because they were rather fundamentalist, but that's not why I went) I only went because I had to. (And I only really went on the days I enjoyed attending.)

I needed to be there. Sure, we had Sunday School and Sunday service, yeah, but we also had Prayer Mondays, Youth Group Tuesdays, Youth Meeting Wednesdays, Grown Up Service Thursdays, and Kids Service Fridays. I needed to go. My soul was still starving. I needed to hear the Word. I needed to hear and sing the songs at the top of my lungs and raise my arms and stomp my feet. I needed to kneel at the altar. I needed to kneel at the pews, I needed to pray to God. I was just in such desperate need of solace, of soul balming. The only real peace I could gain was in there.

And yeah, it wasn't perfect. Not by a long shot. We had some fanatical people in there. And yeah it was clumsy every once in a while, because they had a really strict doctrine that pretty much guaranteed they would always have a really small congregation. They didn't like TV or movies or even higher education cause it was all "corruptive". And don't get me started on the clothing rules. But I dealt with it and took it all with a grain of salt. Because I needed to understand what they understood. They had that all-intense focus by setting all that modern stuff aside not only because the bulk of them were over 60 and flat out didn't have any of that stuff when they were growing up, so they just didn't "get it" anyway -- but they did really know God works. To their deepest bone marrow they knew. He works NOW. Today. Here. With Us! And many of them experienced healing through prayer first hand. And I so needed that understanding. So much.

They knew it. They showed it. We prayed hard there.

So always while I was an active member, both when I was a Catholic kid and when I was a member of that Pentecostal church as a grown up, I really never lived further than 4 blocks away from church. I could get to church as I needed to during the week. Especially if I just needed to pray. It was easy. We were in NYC, where pedestrians have the right of way. All ya had to do was just walk to church.

When I married Chris and moved to Nashville, we became members of a Non-Denominational Christian church. The one we belong to had even started a branch up in NY right after 9/11/01 so I got to meet many of the Pastors before I moved.

Now Nashville is supposed to have the most churches per capita in the entire nation, and yet I found we had to DRIVE out of our neighborhood (okay like what, 25 minutes?) just to get to church. Say WHAT!? Now don't get me wrong, I know we're supposed to be members at this particular church, but driving so far out of your neighborhood to go to church ...? Is it me?

Is it that I've been spoiled by my church-can-be-walked to background? I'm just not used to living where there is so much sprawl. We couldn't get to all the cool things they had going on all there all the time during the week even when we HAD a car -- stuff like the bible classes and the church services on Wednesday nights.

So when our car broke down before Christmas I found myself for the first time not being able to go to church but really wanting to. That's actually never happened to me before.

I had to learn church has to also be portable.

I mean, yes, you can listen and watch church services on TV and play Christian CDs and read the Bible and pray all at home, or together in small groups, for instance. And all of these things I highly recommend. But there is also something about the actual going to church. To that building with other people. All joining in and sharing that prayer time, sharing that worship time with other people who just want to commune with the Spirit of God, that's just really valuable to do.

And yeah, sometimes they all rush out to "enjoy the rest of Sunday" once service is done, so you don't really connect with anyone afterwards and that can be a little sad. But I'm really just focusing in on that precious hour or two or so you're all actually there.

This not being able to go has further helped me discover what is it in me that is different because I'm not going ... or in other words, what good does going to church really do for me?

Well, I'm gonna be honest with you. It's a whole lot easier to swear when I'm not practicing self-discipline and feeding myself better Words to speak by going to church. It's also easier to lose my temper when I don't set aside specific time to worship God and cultivate peace and Word in my heart.

Now that I see this about myself, I will try to work harder on it. And yeah, I understand that kind of honesty makes some people uncomfortable. I mean, "a Christian that still swears? Oh no! You're supposed to be perfect!"

Look, I'm not bragging that I'm all potty-mouthed. I'm only saying I'm working on it. That I struggle. I'm just sharing with you because I think I should be truthful and because people have unrealistic expectations of what being a Christian means. That just gets in the way of true spiritual growth.

I'm not gonna pretend that I don't slip and say bad words because I really don't want you to be all shocked the next time I accidently say or deliberately write "damn". (Or something maybe worse.) So I'm saying I'm just working on it. And working on it forces me to think of other ways to express myself, as succinct and to the point as various bad words just might be on certain occasions.

Besides Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor. I'm trying to be a better neighbor by sharing my joy and not being a crazy, mean zealot fake perfectionist. (That tactic really just doesn't work.)

Church has helped me discover that I have to and need to be spiritually responsible and cultivate my spiritual development. There comes a point where all the priests and preachers in the world cannot do that for you. They are just trainers. They can only show you how to start off and how to maintain. They ultimately can't do the actual spiritual work for you. We each have to do that. That way too, should they ever personally screw up -- and they are only human, so that will happen sometimes -- you don't have to fall with them.

I mean we go to gyms to build muscles, we go to church to develop spiritual muscles. We go to cultivate literal spiritual fruit. Fruit which turns out to be modes of behavior, known as virtues. Peacefulness, even-temperedness, patience, joy, kindness -- all that healthy, good stuff. We're not always perfect at it but golly, we can work at it. It's not going to happen without any effort. Let's not fool ourselves.

Why is it we expect everyone else to take lessons or go to school to learn things and become a Doctor or a Teacher but the minute someone says they're a Christian they're supposed to know exactly how to behave perfectly and correctly right out of the box? Holy crap, talk about pressure! And then when one of them screws up along the way suddenly "ALL" Christians are then also idiots? I mean, if one doctor does malpractice, not all doctors become untrustworthy. That's not the way it works.

So yeah, I was mad at those stupid people way back when ... and yeah, the church actually closed some years later and the ground was sold and now it's all condos. I could be sad about it, and part of me is, but more for the sake of the people I knew there more than anything. I hope that all didn't cost them their relationship with God.

But on the other hand, in spite of some kooky or mean people, I've found going to church is good for something.

Church is not just the building I go to, or the people from the neighborhood. Church is all that and church is portable. Church is in the heart and house and church is in the small groups. Church is everyone that prayed for me when I got hurt.

Church is actually more intimate and also way bigger than I ever thought.