Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Library

I went to the library today and made myself right with the world.

Yes. I am one of those. I am a chronic tardy book returner. And worse, I occasionally lose them. Which means that, on occasion, I am unable to check out books due to the large-ness of my library fines. And sometimes that state of having fallen from grace extends so long that I forget what I like most about the library. The vastness of the supply. The variety of the goods.

I've learned to accept this about myself. I mean, I am, in many other respects, a good person. I am kind to the elderly and small children, mostly. I cook nutritious meals for my family, mostly. And I try to avoid frequenting enclosed public spaces when I'm having intestinal difficulties. I think you know what I mean.

And it's not like I check out two books and lose one of them. When one continuously checks out books two dozen at a time, it's natural for one to slip the corral, as it were, and go astray, once in a while. So, back to today, I decided to go and find out just how bad the damage was, and try to make it right.

In my library, you can ask them to check the shelf for a book you've been accused of losing. It doesn't take too long, but is like asking the ticket clerk at 11, if they are sure you've missed the 10:45 bus. It almost never works but you've gotta do it. And, low and behold, today it worked! As it turned out, all this time, I actually DID return the darn book, and it's been waiting on the shelf, all this time, unchecked in and lonely. And I am not quite the regenerate book loser I can't help but think of myself as.

So I've been curled up on my couch, reveling in my library stash. Books on Norwegian fairy tales, organic gardening, the latest Terry Pratchett and some Dana Stabenow that has somehow escaped me before now. All that treasure, returned to me. Just for the price of a question.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Thin Line

I read an article this morning about Shepard Fairey, the designer/artist who has taken the world by storm with his iconic Obama campaign (and, it appears, now presidency) images. According to this article, Fairey has lifted vast quantities of historic imagery in the creation of his own for profit work. http://www.art-for-a-change.com/Obey/index.htm

I'm sure I'm a naive fool, but I've always just thought that he was for real. I loved those boldly graphic images reminiscent of Russian and Chinese revolution posters, and 60's social revolution statements. Now I come to find out that the reason they reminded me so strongly of those things, is because he used those things, outright, in the creation of his own work. He did this knowingly and seemingly without concern about the appropriateness of his actions. For anyone else this is called plagarism.

It's discouraging to see, not only the article, but response to the article, where people say things along the line of "well, that's what graphic designers do." That is NOT what graphic designers do. Graphic designers, good ones, struggle and strive to find a new way to say what needs to be said. They may be inspired by work from the past, how could they not, but they know that what they create needs to be as original as they can make it. They may use echoes of the past but they do not just copy it line for line and plant it in their own work with no acknowledgement or compensation for the original artist.

Being a collage artist, I've struggled with the thin line between using work to create new work, as many collage artists do and stealing. I've always tried, very hard, to stay on the correct side of that line, and, in many cases, have simply decided not to use an image if my use could be construed as stealing the image. And this is for personal work that may only be seen by my friends and family. I know the joy of an original creation and the nagging doubt when too much of the piece owes itself to someone else's work.

How is it then, that someone of Fairey's public stature, can be so ignorant to the ethics of the situation as to feel that he is entitled to the use and even subsequent copyright of such material? Have we lost our moral compass? Shame on you Mr. Fairey. Shame on you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about abundance lately. There's a school of thought that says that if you visualize abundance you will receive it. Sure, there's an element of magical thinking there, but I'm all about magical thinking. What makes it relevant today is this:

I've been waking up to NPR pretty much every morning for the last few years now, and I've never heard such an unending string of negativity as I've heard recently. The economy. Corruption. Death. Greed. War. More corruption. Failure. Poverty. Layoffs and bailouts. Rising unemployment. Who deserves help. Who doesn't? Where will the money come from? Where did the money go? Why are people still behaving like greedy scum? (My question here is, what made us think they were going to stop?)

I found myself becoming more and more depressed about the state of the world as I listened. The problem is, I don't see how I can do what I need to do while focusing on these things, most of which I can't even wrap my mind around, let alone change. So I've stopped listening to NPR in the mornings. Sorry NPR, I still love you. It's not you, it's me.

What I'm going to do instead is this. Exercise. Eat a good breakfast. And focus on creating abundance. The world is a vast and glorious place. Still. The sun rises in the East. Every morning. Still. Every day (for the next six months or so) each day will get a little longer, a little warmer. And for every greedy bastard out there, trying to hide his ill-gotten gains, there are a hundred people doing little things to help a fellow citizen of earth, be they human, animal or plant. A thousand people, doing what they can.

For all the big horrible stories that glow and pulse with a sort of sick fascination, there are lots of small stories, quiet and unprepossessing, that glow with the creativity and humor and beauty of the human spirit. I'm going to focus on those stories for a while.

I know that it's seen as important to see what's going on in the world. To make yourself aware of things. To read newspapers and magazines to educate yourself about what's happening. But for all this awareness of evil, there ought to be some sort of flip side. Some sort of acknowledgment of the good. I don't mean to say those in trouble should be ignored. Their pain is real. But we focus on it excessively. We wallow in our bad news.

I believe in focusing on abundance. On bending my thoughts towards the positive, in order to help the positive become stronger. This sounds pretty metaphysical but look at it this way. Visualization is an accepted practice in sports. Top athletes visualize themselves doing their thing, over and over, with successful results. They know that if they think they can't do it, if they allow negative thoughts, thoughts of failure and despair to dominate their minds, they will not succeed. Studies show that when an athlete is successful at visualizing, they are more likely to be successful when the actual event arrives. I'm suggesting that the rest of us take up this practice as well. To visualize ourselves succeeding. To visualize and focus on the good in the world, the things we want to succeed.

Pretty Pollyannaish stuff. I know. But it's worth a shot. Visualize abundance.

Friday, January 2, 2009

More on the Altered Books project

Beginning any art project can be hard. Deciding what to do, getting past the fear and really committing yourself to the work, can all be daunting. Combine this with three other sisters and trying to communicate a basic sense of guidelines for everyone to work within, via posts to a family website and you've got our Altered Book Project.

To help my sisters out, as none of them have done an altered book before (and to be honest, I've only done a couple myself) I researched some websites for them. Don't worry, I'll share. This list is far from complete. In fact, I know there are so many out there, I almost don't even want to commit to just this list, but I will because the beginning is important. And by "beginning" I mean "starting". You have to start.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
So I begin, as I always do, by looking at what others have done. Not to copy, but for inspiration.



And best of all, a site called Recycled Words, by Will Washford.

There's more. There's so much more. But here's a start.