Tuesday, January 25, 2011

seeing what you're hearing

I've sat through a good many sermons in my life so far. I also know enough about public speaking to know there are tricks and tools for manipulating how a listener will emotionally respond to a speech or lecture.

One of the most sinister is used by lecturers, storytellers and Baptist preachers. It is the light left hand jab followed by the hard right knockout punch. You may know it better as starting off with a joke. The idea is to get the listener to let down their guard by allowing themselves to laugh and enjoy the moment and then, just when they relax, you level them with the main point of your speech. It's so cruel. And still so effective.

Though I've heard this tactic all my life (and probably used it once or twice myself) I still fall for it time and time again as a listener. Which brings us to This American Life and Ira Glass.

I think I've mentioned that my forward thinking wife bought me an iPod way back when no one really bought iPods or knew how cool they were. This was so far back in time that when I unwrapped the gift I was afraid she'd be very sad when I didn't use it at all. It had a black and white screen and only played music if that helps you date it.

But with commuting being a huge part of my life then (and now) I learned to love the iPod fast. Sure it held all my music and I didn't have to switch out CDs anymore but there was also the discovery of Podcasts. This American Life was one of the first ones I subscribed to and I've listened to it every week since.

Each week when Mr. Glass creeps out of my speakers I hope it's going to be a good one. Of course all of them are not good. I know it's helpful when they explain the economy and all that but I grew up on Sesame Street and I need my education to be entertaining. I'm mostly kidding about that, but I do love the funny ones. Molly and I agree that the "Frienemies" episode is the best ever and I laughed the entire hour that week.

I should be clear though. There are episodes that are deadly serious and very compelling at the same time. Those are good but they bum me out. And the thing that gets me is that Ira will come on with his comforting voice and he'll set you up with this goofy and light hearted introduction. I'll smile as I drive along thinking, "this is going to be a good one" and the next thing I know he's talking about something as dark as the devil's black socks. He sets me up and then he knocks me down and I fall for it every single time.

This all came to mind because you can now see 30 minute episodes of This American Life on TV for free. There's a channel called Current TV and I would guess they have a website where you can find a channel number and a schedule. These are the same ones produced by Cinemax a few years ago so if you saw those you'll be seeing them again.

I gotta be honest, I'm not sure I feel all that great about the TV shows. It may have to do with my southern resistance to change and the fact that for years now I've only known the show by ear. I've always had to picture the people and images in my mind and that's been a huge part of the experience of listening. But I still watch them. And I even still fall for the humor laden setup only to be knocked flat moments later. What can I say? People use it because it works so well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

blue christmas

Here's one I forgot. Last November a lady at church gave us a page out of her AAA Magazine and told us she thought we might want it. I stared at the page trying to figure out why I'd want to know about regional holiday lights options. Then I noted the delightfully handsome chap perched on Santa's lap.
That's right, our boy Blue became a spokes-face for Hollywild Animal Park's seasonal attractions. Last year we took the boy to Hollywild for the drive through light display. It was memorable for two reasons.
Reason one: Hollywild has a portion of the drive-through display that goes through the fenced in area where bread hungry wild animals roam free. The idea is that you will buy bread and feed it to the animals out your window. You get cow saliva on your hands and the other large animals brush up against your car and try to eat your windshield wiper blades. You are instructed to stay INSIDE your car for obvious reasons. No one wants to be trampled or slashed or eaten by bulls, ostriches, or bison. About midway through this part is when I was forced to get out of the car, unstrap Blue, and stand with him beside the truck while emptied his bladder in front of God, festive families, and overly curious animals. The animals concerned me most. They seemed sure Blue had some bread for them and I barely made it back into the truck before the huge bison or buffalo or whatever he was....was right on me.
Reason two: In a new area they had a little Christmas village set up. There were more animals for petting and foods for buying. And there was Santa. That night Blue was one of the first kids to seek Santa's lap out and no sooner had he plopped down on St. Nick's sleigh than some ninja photographer appeared and snapped a few photos. We expected to get the sales pitch about how we could own one of those photos for a low price but when he came over he only asked for our permission to use the image for promotions.
With a smile that adorable it's easy to see why he'd make the highlight reel. It also makes it easier to forgive him for almost getting me trampled by wild animals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

you can keep your milk and bread

Last year we had 3 nice little snow events. These were very convenient in that they all happened on weekends. They were not huge events and I think all 3 were gone by the following Monday. This year we had a nice little convenient snow on Christmas day and while we all pretended to be snowed in the following day.....it was still all clear by Monday.

But just as our short Christmas snowman withered in the back yard......

A much less convenient snow event showed up.

My wife has one of those jobs where they expect you to show up even when a volcano erupts in the middle of town. My job doesn't directly involve the urgent care of humans which creates a difficult situation for me. That difficult situation puts me in the role of Mr. Mom.

You know the Mr. Mom movie, right? The guy who eventually played Batman finds himself as a house-dad and he's creatively changing diapers and cleaning kids with household appliances. I came pretty close to playing that part last Monday and Tuesday.

And what happens when I'm in charge of the kids? Peanut butter and jelly for everyone! Then I spend 45 minutes getting them bundled up and as soon as I get them outside the smallest one falls face down in the snow and play time is over.

And then....peanut butter and jelly for everyone! You want chocolate ice cream and doughnuts before bed? Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

We did snow swinging and built 2 snowmen. We slid across the snow on a cardboard sled. We put giant icicles in the freezer for mom. Then we ate cheesy poofs and cookies.

Now a week later the snow is finally melting away. And just in time too.....we're almost out of junk food.

Friday, January 7, 2011

3 questions - all rhetorical

Remember Tetris?

Of course, mine was not in color....but back in the day we had one of those hand held games featuring Tetris and it was addictive. I would get so focused on the game that when I'd stop playing it I would still see those little blocks falling wherever I looked.

I've been writing un-fun stuff almost nonstop since 8:00 am and my brain feels like that. I look away from the computer and I'm seeing words and paragraphs and lining up synonyms.

Don't you hate it when you fail?

I went looking for an old sketch this week and in last year's sketchbook I ran across the page in the image above. I don't make New Year's resolutions but I do remember making a conscious decision last year to sketch more in my sketchbook. My goal was to sketch a few times each week. Sure, I remember this now.......after flipping through the old book, but it had totally slipped my mind.

As I turned the pages I saw that I did have sketches entered in several times each week. I did well right up until August 20...
But that was it. There were a few odd sketches scattered around after that but the remainder of the book was filled with notes and lists related to school. Major fail.

I love sketching and I really do believe it makes one a better person. There are all sorts of serious reasons for that but just in terms of common sense - it's a good idea for an artist to record his or her ideas. The fact that I know this and still slacked off on my sketching probably makes me a bad person.

Apparently the gods of sketching thought it would be a hoot to teach me this lesson on exactly the same date I began last year. Nice. Lesson learned.

Don't you just love gifts?

Blue made me 5 paper swords, a drawing of a man, a handmade card and gave me 3 oak leaves for my birthday. Very cool.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

new carolina arts

If you've been in a gallery in NC, SC or GA in the last couple of decades, you've seen the Carolina Arts publication. This monthly paper provides information and listings for exhibits and shows in our region. Tom Starland, creator and sustainer of the paper has long been a cheerleader for the arts in the Carolinas and our red clay cousin to the west. He's also honest and funny and you can check out his relatively unfiltered thoughts by clicking on the Carolina Arts Unleashed blog link over to the right of this page.

Beginning this month you'll no longer see those stacks of Carolina Arts papers in the galleries. The past few years of tough times for the arts has put an end to Carolina Arts as we have known it.

The good news is that Carolina Arts will have a new life beginning today as an online entity. Sure you could read the paper online before but now since going completely online the paper will be in color and will be much more user friendly in a downloadable .pdf format. So while you cant fold it and tuck it under your arm or stash it in the little door pocket of your car, you can still take it with you on your laptop or phone.

I was initially bummed out by the news. But after giving it some thought I realized that it was not always easy to keep up with that physical copy. This is probably something I shouldn't say out loud, but I don't really get out to galleries on a regular basis. There's a great deal of truth in the "hermit" part of the title of this blog. Tom's big step into internet technology will allow me to continue my hermit ways without missing my local art news.

Carolina Arts has always been free and the new online version will continue this great deal. We should all know that there is still great expense involved and if we want to keep this arts resource available to us we need to make every effort to support the paper with mouse clicks. Go read the paper at www.CarolinaArts.com and then follow some links and make sure the advertising galleries know you're visiting their websites and reading about them in the online paper.

While you're at it, send Tom an email at info@carolinaarts.com and let him know how much you appreciate his hard work. Trust me, he's sacrificed a lot to help us out.

and.......a new drawing for the new year:

"Billy Believer" ink on wood panel, 24" x 24"