Monday, July 30, 2012

I bought a bicycle this past week. It’s not for recreation, though no doubt it will prove to have recreational value. It’s a necessity—at least in my mind. I quit driving a car at night a few years ago because I could no longer see well enough.. Now it has come to the point that I do not feel I should drive at all. So, I gave my car away; hence the bicycle.

By my calculation, it’s been some sixty-plus years since I’ve ridden a bicycle. I’m aware that the design and fashion of bicycles has changed quite a bit in that time so I decided to find out what those changes are. I went to the internet, the source of all knowledge, and found there enough information to totally confuse me. When I was riding bicycles as a boy, that was exactly what one road—a BICYLE. There were a few variations to please exotic tastes, fillers for cross bars, horns, lights, etc. There were bikes for girls, without crossbars, because girls wore skirts. But they were still just bicycles.

These days, bicycles come in classifications—sort of like cars. There are racing bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, cruisers. And they have gears, some of them twenty-plus gears. There are even hybrid bikes, though I’m not sure of what they are hybrids and whether or not there are classifications of hybrids. And most of them don’t have fenders. I looked through screens full of such devices and became more and more confused. Then, lo and behold, I found the picture of a bike that had, apparently, slipped through the cracks. It had fat tires, fenders, high positioned handlebars, only one speed and a rear carrier. The one in the picture even had a basket on the handlebars. It looked like—a BICYCLE. I picked out one I really liked and noted down the model and its specifications. I could order that bike and have it delivered, the web page told me.

But I felt I was still confused. I decided the best thing to do was go to a store that sold bicycles and get a bit more information. So I did that. In the store I found racks of bicycles, all sorts and kinds, different models for different uses—enough to make me confused all over again. And then I saw it. The bicycle I had seen on line, complete with high handlebars, a rear carrier, fenders and a big, fat seat—a BICYCLE.

I bought it. I had to. Now I have to learn to ride one again. Sixty years is a long time. More about that later.

Monday, July 23, 2012

This past Friday and Saturday, there was an arts and crafts event in Ligonier called Summer in Ligonier. Silverbear Graphics, my publisher, had a booth at the event and I, along with a number of other Silverbear authors and illustrators, spent a good deal of time there. It was good to be together to talk with each other and the crowd.

I was a bit apprehensive about being at the booth for a long period of time. A number of years ago I had a business of selling books, jewelry and crafts items at shows in the northeast and into the central US on weekends. I know how grueling such events can be. I am not as young as I was when I was doing such shows and I was unsure how this show would be for me. My fear was completely unfounded. I had a lot of fun as did everyone else.

In some ways this show was a debut, the first public appearance of Silverbear in Ligonier. Most people do not know that there is a book publisher in the Ligonier area and are surprised to find that out. It will not be the last such appearance and perhaps a more permanent form of presence in the town of Ligonier is coming. Silverbear is now located in Stahlstown, which is located about eight miles from Ligonier, but Maggie Robinson, the owner of Silverbear, has plans for having an office for Silverbear in Ligonier within a year.

I will be very glad to see such a thing happen. The arts have been a second rate activity in this society for a long time. It is refreshing to see a group of people for whom writing, illustrating and publishing are vital endeavors join in a cooperative effort in making them happen. A greater and more permanent part in the life of Ligonier will be good for Silverbear and good for Ligonier.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A number of years ago, as part of an art course I took, I became involved in analyzing the paintings of masters. I chose Paul Gauguin as the artist I would study and located prints of his work. The project consisted of placing tracing paper over the prints and charting the elements of them to determine the artist’s use of color, light, mass, line, etc. in the compositions.

I diligently worked through a number of Gauguin’s paintings. As I did so, I tried to imagine what thoughts went through the head of Gauguin as he worked; why did he choose this or that element, how did he decide the importance or the emphasis he placed on one thing or another; how did he analyze his own compositions?

A vague thought began niggling at the back of my mind as I worked. The longer I kept at my task, the more defined the thought became. How were the paintings actually done?

How were they done, Paul Gauguin? How did you paint? Did you work out your designs? Did you work out line, mass, color, chart your course according to some formula devised by some great master, or even by yourself? Did you plan the design, Paul, the composition, in all its parts beforehand, and then begin painting, placing the elements according to this preconceived arrangement?

Or did you just paint, Paul, laying the color in as you felt it, molding, forming, building as you saw the figures and the scene before you, giving them life of their own in the world created in your mind, leaving on the unconcerned and indifferent surface beneath your brush a depth of dimension and feeling that is more than can ever be charted and graphed?

Is that the way it was, Paul? Is that the way you created—as you saw it, as you felt it, as it was, as it should have been, and leaving to others to analyze what you have done as they will?

Monday, July 9, 2012

This is being written on Saturday and it is hot today. I have a meeting this afternoon in Ligonier so I decided I to walk into town. I knew it was supposed to be hot, so I started early, before the heat of the day became oppressive. There was a nice breeze as I walked in, but it was still hot. I passed a man who was walking his dog. He greeted me with the cheery news that today was predicted to be the hottest day of the year so far. With that news in mind, I continued my walk. Actually, it didn’t seem that bad. There was a good deal of shade on my route so I wasn't at all uncomfortable.
I heard a report that the current hot weather is due to global warming. I heard another report that assured me that it certainly is not; the phenomenon is cyclical. I firmly believe that we could be dropping like flies and then frying on hot sidewalks and still be arguing as to whether or not the hot spell is due to global warming. Actually, what's the difference? If the roof of my house is blown off in a storm, what do I care if the damage was done by a tornado or a microburst? Similarly, does it really matter what is the cause of the hot weather?
Apparently, it does matter to some people, but only to the extent that they object to the possibility that mankind is being accused of causing global warming. If man could be declared innocent of any responsibility, I suppose global warming would be acceptable to all. I believe the basis of the argument is two fold: 1) people don't like to be thought of as being wrong in anything, and 2) such culpability would cost some people money (or potential loss of money), the latter being tied up with our use of fossil fuels.

When you look at it, the whole argument is ridiculous. There is a possibility of our being able to acquire energy from renewable natural resources. Why shouldn't that be done? The standard response to that question is that the processes for doing so are, at present, inadequate. So? The first airplane flew some forty feet on its first flight. Maybe the problem is that we're looking at the matter from the standpoint of emotion rather than actually thinking about it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Writing for a blog is interesting. There are certain advantages—the subjects for pieces can be almost anything, one doesn’t have to be concerned with a plot or maintaining tension, and the piece can be as long or short as one cares to make it. I rather like that. It is especially welcome when there are other, longer pieces I’m working on, pieces that demand more attention and, I suppose, discipline.

Now there’s a good subject—discipline. I’ve never been too fond of that particular item. I have seen advice from successful authors that stress discipline—strict hours for writing, a goal for words per session, etc. I tried that. It didn’t work for me. I’m better writing when I feel like it. Sometimes I call that when the muse speaks to me. That sounds better. But then that’s not really true either. Deadlines, either real or self-imposed, sometimes work. “This has to be done,” I tell myself after I have been procrastinating for the better part of a couple days. I sit down at the computer, stare at the blank screen for a while, and then, suddenly, the words start coming and in a short time I’m finished.

It doesn’t always work that way. It’s a pleasure when it does. The rule for me is that there is no rule. The writing works when it works. Anyway, it’s nice when I can just write at my leisure, taking my time as I want and writing about what I want—just as I am in this piece. It doesn’t even matter if I ramble a bit as I’m doing now. At least I hope not. I’ll get around to writing something more serious next week. That will be better. I guess.