Failed Again

Even the title for this piece failed again (the effing computer having tke over from th keyboard nput — as you can see here — so I had to go back and add the “in” at the end of “Again;” and Iʼll just leave the stinking errors in this parenthetical addendum as evidence of what Appleʼs miserable excuse for technological advancement forces me to endure daily/hourly/every minute and second that the effing computer is on — not that anything Windows-based would do any better, I perceive*).

Our new faucet. Notice, please, the lovely brushed nickel matching the sink (a novelty here at Wakdjunkagaʼs Abode).

Our new faucet. Notice, please, the lovely brushed nickel matching the sink (a novelty here at Wakdjunkagaʼs Abode).

I began this rant on the tenth, intending to mention I had failed (one piece of the total set of failures to which the title refers) to fix our kitchen sink (replacing the faucet) because the original supply lines were too short for the new faucet. I needed 21 and 23 inches of line respectively (cold and hot water), and places in town only sold 20-inch lines. However, real life and time in general have intervened, and thanks to a trip out of town (intentionally for brunch with My Belovedʼs sister and her husband and his sister and her significant other) I got what I needed, which I could have acquired in town it turned out — extension lines. I installed them successfully (so far) with only one hiccup when the cold water leaked the first time around. Wow.

My plumbing job isnʼt pretty, but it works.

My plumbing job isnʼt pretty, but it works.

My first plumbing job! (Although willing to do just about anything with electricity, thanks to my long noncareer with theatrical lighting and special effects, I have avoided accidentally flooding either our house or any theatrical venue by my plumbing incompetence.) My aged retirement continues to provide new adventures and experiences.

See the moisture (and the meter)?

See the moisture (and the meter)?

Now the only failure involved with that endeavor is that our main valve on the water entering our blessed abode has developed a bit of a leak. Just a little constant moisture down the copper line and wetness all the way to the drain in the basement floor.** But thatʼs before our water meter so… well, allʼs well that costs us nothing, for the time being.

The real failure, to which my nearly week-old title referred, is that my most recent attempt toward publication had just received rejection. Again. (And again and again and again, even though I donʼt keep resubmitting and searching out new market possibilities as I should. Nor even writing all that much either.) I had churned out and polished a brief 5000 words extending my Sepharad story (stories/series) with an adventure for Søren in Córdoba, encountering Lovecraftian horror (and his own weaknesses) as he attempted to earn some cash abetting two quarrelsome students of nigromancy. “Scholarsʼ Folly” (which may give away or, preferably, retrospectively suggest the nature of Sørenʼs climactic slip-up) being crafted for a Mythos market, hasn’t many innate qualities to make it attractive outside the specific anthology for which I wrote it. Sadly.

My own little cover for a short story (that didn't sell)

My own little cover for a short story (that didn’t sell)

Failure again.

Too bad they couldntʼ have rejected me more delicately (or even personally):


Thanks for taking the time to sub to OUR LOVECRAFTIAN ANTHOLOGY and for your patience. We are going to pass on this.



At least — good news — I do get to work again trapping bugs for USDA APHIS PPQ this summer. Take that, Sequestration!

And now, maybe to work on some fiction writing…

or else dinner.

* This (forthcoming) thought is not original with me (I believe I read something like this somewhere a long time ago, probably on the internet somewhere/when), however, it remains so utterly valid, I must type it out: Would we tolerate automobiles (or even cell phones, and I don’t mean “smart” ones) that operate as poorly as personal computers do? Admittedly mine (2009 iMac, bought as my last educational purchase at retirement) is now four years old, come June, but my truck is thirteen this year (a decade in my possession).

** I at first wrote “cellar floor,” an inaccurate description of our finished basement.But that slip reminded me that when I was small I read that supposedly (I think according to Robert Frost) the loveliest phrase in English was “cellar door.” Thoughts? Results of your research? Both welcome.

Deliberately so — one side is completely finished, while the other has no ceiling (for property-taxation reduction reasons).

But according to my New York Times link, the loveliness of “cellar door” was evidently H.L. Menckenʼs notion (no bet that we would not have heard about him in elementary school in the Sixties).

*** Detailed information (such as the editorsʼ names and the anthology title) have been altered/omitted to protect the unenthusiastic (and foolish?).

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Cromwellʼs Descent

Sitting at my chiclet keyboard on a gloriously sunny, clear-blue-skies afternoon,* with Eric Claptonʼs exhilarating Derek & The Dominos-era guitar ringing from the iTunes-inspired Bose computer speakers, I realize that my previous perfervid post wasnʼt much of a literary review. I really just raved about how excellent was Hilary Mantelʼs Wolf Hall (and I really did like the book, a lot). Letʼs rectify that slackness just a little.

This portrait (of Thomas Cromwell) and Holbein painting it receive much attention in the novel.

This portrait (of Thomas Cromwell) and Holbein painting it receive much attention in the novel. Mantel successfully brings this hardfisted, aggressive fellow to sympathetic life (and her character even sees himself reflected somehow truly in Holbeinʼs image).

Wolf Hall is the story of as-yet-to-become English Lord Chamberlain Thomas Cromwell, whose reality had until this novel been thoroughly colored, for me, by Leo McKernʼs indelible and ruthless characterization in the film version of Robert Boltʼs A Man for All Seasons.** The (21st century) book covers most of Cromwellʼs life, from childhood (it begins with a shatteringly evocative, harrowing sequence of young Cromwell being beaten by his father — the provocation for the youth to leave England and commence his wayward career toward politics, via trade, mercenary soldiering and finance) through the execution of Sir Thomas More. Some of the bookʼs pleasure, for me, arose from clever (and appropriate) resituating and revisioning of Moreʼs memorable bon mots as recorded in Boltʼs play and film. The published (and also Man Booker prizewinning) Bring Up the Bodies covers the years through the execution of Anne Boleyn, and the third volume will take us through Cromwellʼs own extralegal but state-sponsored demise.

Mantel turns Boltʼs seriously cold, cruelly calculating villain into her protagonist (perhaps tragic hero) by placing the novel firmly within his point of view (that vivid opening set piece establishes the perspective while promptly and efficiently promoting our sympathetic identification). Seeing the world from his mindframe keeps him very human (uxorious, family-loving, generous in spirit, cultured) even as his actions gradually turn vengeful and (not noted to himself in Mantelʼs prose) scheming. Cromwell reappears, grown to middle age, as Cardinal Wolseyʼs utterly competent jack-of-all-trades*** just as the crimson-robed butcherʼs son is about to fall (failing to acquire Henry VIIIʼs desperately sought divorce from first wife Catherine of Aragon). Wolsey, perceived through Cromwell, of course is also a mostly positive figure, whose humiliation, defeat and death earn our sympathy (and Cromwellʼs, naturally — very importantly stimulating motivation for the blacksmithʼs sonʼs subsequent political career in this novel: those behind and present for Wolseyʼs destruction almost all “get theirs” by the end of Wolf Hall****).

Once Wolseyʼs died, Cromwell moves into the orbit of Anne Boleyn, unwillingly (she caused the cardinalʼs fall, after all) and over the years (and the pages) while suffering his own losses and successes arranges the necessary divorce, then the royal (not legally a “re-“) marriage and crowning for Queen Anne, meanwhile putting various enemies (unstated, until toward the final pages) and friends in their places (negative and positive places) as he rises and grows close to the king. What Cromwell and Anne share is then-modern religious feeling and theology, both being firm to-be Protestants supporting vernacular translation of the Bible and corresponding faith and doctrines.

Thomas More — also by Hans Holbein (one of the fun moments during the book was figuring out who “Hans” might be… )

Thomas More — also by Hans Holbein (one of the fun moments during the book was figuring out who “Hans” might be… )

Stubborn, fanatical zealot Thomas Moreʼs descent from power and doomed course toward execution — all capably managed by our sympathetic Cromwell (he really does sympathize with the thoughtful Catholic philosopher but not with his heretic-burning, self-flagellating, regressive and reactionary creed). As More participated in Wolseyʼs ruination (not to mention multiple burnings at the stake for personal friends and religious compatriots of Cromwellʼs), his destruction brings our protagonistʼs rise from the ashes of his becrimsoned mentorʼs defeat to a vengefully victorious climax. Also, tellingly (although the book ends with Cromwellʼs scrupulous care for Moreʼs bereft, scholarly daughter being able to acquire her traitor fatherʼs head for burial) we witness in the final stretch Cromwellʼs satisfactions here and there as various enemies are managed (capably, competently, effectively) and revenge (for Wolsey and others) accomplished. Clearly, the abused boy (grown to calm, proficient maturity) has coarsened his character, steeled his soul, descended morally — he is quietly but definitely headed toward his own fall, barely six years in his future.

It is a lovely book, engrossing, colorful, detailed, marvelously told and brilliantly written. It brings both the people and the era to vibrant and fascinating imaginative life.***** Mantel richly deserves her many accolades and awards for this wonderful book.

Now to relax a bit. Claptonʼs still playing (the computer has offered almost no blockages to my work, even with iTunes in action), and the day is yet lovely. Later, gentil readers.

* (it snowed, heavily — huge flakes obliterating any view whatsoever for hours midday — yesterday, piling up at least two and a half inches of snow here in Our Town, more to the north)

** Andrew students had to suffer (or possibly enjoy) that movie to introduce Renaissance England (and ultimately Shakespeare and Hamlet) in Advanced English for, I believe, decades. (I at least enjoyed the ritualistic annual indulgence in great storytelling… ) Just as McKern made Cromwell in my perception (from my mid-teens onward), so did Orson Welles embody Wolsey and of course Paul Scofield for Thomas More.

wolf-hall*** His capable and smooth omnicompetence (at just about everything, so literally so) is the manʼs major characteristic in the book. We witness the multitudes that he knows and understands within himself and how others (at least say they) perceive him; the king in particular comes to value Cromwellʼs ability to get done whatever needs to be accomplished.

**** And much as we may come to identify with and care for Thomas Cromwell (invariably in the book just “he,” often confusingly — but deliberately so), his hardening heart and vindictive progress are revealed… quietly.

***** Thus we come to the big topic — historical fiction. But I have said so much on just this book that I had better reserve my thoughts on books about (and from) the past for some other post.

Images from Wikipedia

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Nothing to Say?

So, itʼs two months and a week since my last post. What else isnʼt new?

Well, jaw-droopingly enough, The Lovely One  has actually asked me to try posting regularly. (I know — tradition holds she hates any time I spend at the computer, even writing, and she has always thought my pathetic posts here on Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog were, uh, pathetic.) So at her behest more or less, letʼs  conclude the ten-week hiatus:

ClocksI have been doing nothing much with those 69 days. nearly nothing at all. (I did finish and revise a short story to submit for possible publication — the result still suspended in the atmosphere somewhere/somewhen. “Scholarsʼ Folly” takes Søren, sans Judah, from northeastern Iberia to Córdoba for a really bad day with supernatural intrusions, his subsequent ethical self-flagellations being reserved for what will become the following chapter in the final novel. However, that effort filled less than a week, really, the original composition having been part of my NaNoWriMo 2012 enterprises. The revised product was e-mailed for editorial consideration way back in mid-January.)

Today, having actually gotten a break from nearly daily snowfall (no lie — culminating in three days of flood-inducing rain), punctuated by regular weekly blizzards (both requiring me to shovel rather than head out to exercise first thing in the darkness before dawn), I did my time on the elliptical and came home feeling genuinely determined to do something (for once) today.* So here I am pecking away…

Unfortunately with nothing to say.

You see, that (lack of postable content) has been the major problem (other than lazily and worthlessly diddling all my time away each day) preventing the blog from acquiring updates. Nothing to say…

(And when I consider all that I found myself able to blather in 2010 when I did the post-a-day thing so glibly and logorrhea-cally, perhaps the current chastity of content seems less pitiful and more prudent. Perhaps.)

The same lackluster life (mine) has also prevented me from keeping my letter-writing particularly current (and I do need to write both to my long-suffering aunt and communication-deprived bother later today or no later than tomorrow). I havenʼt even added more than a few thousand words to my creative endeavors. Plenty of mental composition but nearly nary a word even smartpenned to paper for eventual upload into the (contemptibly frustrating) digital presumed-reality.**

However, even with this despicable deficiency of (for equally miserable want of better terminology) subject matter, I felt as though I must post something. So this drivel is it.


* Of course, my eff-viscerating, worthless computer has had other ideas: those first few sentences have taken some seventy minutes to get on the screen, as multitudes of pointlessly intrusive background processes have taken over the computerʼs processor cycles ahead of my considerably-less-than-feeble keyboard smashing (but regardless how fiercely I punch a key, for some reason Spotlight uselessly updating its database or the virus-protection programʼs mercilessly intrusive “Behavioral Injection” activities take precedence regardless). Yep, nothing has changed; and the computerʼs incompetence frustrates me and drives me away from the infernal screen/mouse/keyboard to do something that might seem potentially productive (or at least less emotionally traumatic) — like reading the Kindle instead (but more on that tomorrow). Appleʼs demonic apparatus and its meddlesome softwares even contrived to get me to delete somehow the original final sentences of the parenthetical conclusion of the paragraph above the one to which this footnote appends.

** And now, suddenly there is no ceaseless drive-grinding (blessed silence on that front for my tinnitus to fill with ethereal cacophony of unreal audio-effervesence instead), and the menu meter indicates merely four percent of the memory and processor active — thus my letters and words actually transfer from brain-and-fingers through the keyboard to the machine and thus the screen (and eventually, we hope, onto you). Astonishing.

Facebook Timewaste

Once again, I do have reports on reading (and recommendations thereby/fore), not to mention some travel and maybe even other items, for future posts — assuming as inevitably ever, the damned device permits.

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Getting Back

The blog has languished again since late October (interrupted almost immediately then for our vacation — this yearʼs trip to Santa Fe over Halloween time). November flew by with NaNoWriMo (a much more satisfactory success with my Sepharad series about Søren and Judah than I bumbled last year, writing nothing but garbage toward Mantorville). And apparently, December has now swept into my temporal wake as well…

I wish December had been as productive as my birth month was. But it hasnʼt been so. Other than some gift-buying (and a quick birthday-celebrating jaunt to The City Not of My Dreams, Las Vegas, over Decemberʼs first weekend), nothing really has happened (that I could report, or that anyone would take interest in). I havenʼt written much new since the novel-writing challenge concluded. Part of the reason returns us to technology frustrations: my auto-correction program seems unable over this past week to do the things I have set it to do (such as automatically turn lower case “i” into a cap, so I have had to fix all the first-person pronouns in this piece by hand, probably both before and after publication). Furthermore the constant disk activity Mountain Lion imposes continues to keep the computer from realizing/recognizing that I am typing — even more frustrating/annoying as random letters, clumps of letters or even whole phrases and clauses never appear on the screen.*

I have accomplished a few things, however. The blog looks different, my chosen WordPress theme having undergone an “upgrade” to which I assented this morning (and it isnʼt quite right yet: I have to spend a day or two attempting to tweak the CSS, particularly to uncenter the body text and also to get my lovely serif fonts back). I like the basic improvement (a column on each side), but the mega-huge font isnʼt for me. On the other hand, the change has gotten me to write something. (A bigger change was the acquisition of the MacJournal software, in which I am typing, hopeful of simplifying the uploading of text to a single step or two, no longer having to manually export HTML, open that document in a text-editor, copy the code and then paste the code into WordPress online. In just a minute or two — for me — weʼll see how that works out.)

Now at the turning of the year, maybe I can take charge of myself and get some more frequent posts up here again. However, it appears I will be offline almost immediately, for several days after today, so the next update (and the repair of the “upgrade”) wonʼt be tomorrow…

* Fortunately, during November, for the most part typing (and/or dictating) worked rather well.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

…and (unapologetically) Heʼs Back

The cover I quickly hacked out, to accompany my 2012 NaNoWriMo project information, earlier this morning.

Having just signed myself up for NaNoWriMo 2012* and punched out 500 (new) words to post in my novel for 2012 on the National Novel Writing Month website, along with my home-generated cover art (for both the new novel and last yearʼs abortion**), I thought perhaps it was time to stop tentatively pussyfooting and then not adding to the blog.

So hereʼs a post, the first since April (and that one was the first since not-quite-this-long-before-that, as you can read for yourself by clicking the link I just made). Have I continued, as I indicated in my last post, to do nothing much on the writing front for six months? Well… yes… pretty much…

I did churn out some 18,000 words (smartpenned*** in three different notebooks) of my experiences working this spring and summer for USDA APHIS PPQ (again, still trapping for invasive insect pests, particularly in my case the emerald ash borer, again). I am working with those aforementioned 18,000 words, uploaded and decoded/digitalized-into-editable-text, as letters to my brother Stephen and Aunt Alaire.**** So far I have about fifteen of the twenty-five (digitized Scrivener) pages edited and annotated. But only about (hmmm, let me check quickly… ) fifteen hundred words of creative composition (predictably, on Søren and Judah, the latter of whom I am seriously considering renaming a more accurate Yehudah***** or even another name altogether******).

Otherwise, it was all work these past six months, much like last year (go ahead, search out those posts for yourself — the search box over there on the right works fine for just such tasks as this; I am sure the old blog could use the clicks and hits), except that my work region expanded a lot and I found myself on the road and overnight in hotels for about half my working days (more on that soon, maybe even tomorrow). However, the job ended (perhaps, unfortunately, forever for me*******) mid-September, a little over three weeks ago, and I have needed to get seriously writing again.

A few thousand words in correspondence is nothing, really (nor actually are updates to Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog, but I have had thoughts and developments I wanted to post here, for my own interest, presumably few othersʼ). So I have to spend time actually writing, and this comprises just that activity for the late morning today.

That observation puts me over 500 words (a recommended length for most blog posts), so Iʼll desist for now. More, I hope, tomorrow (which would be something almost utterly novel for this year********).

* Thanks for the reminder, Gwen Hernandez.

** I donʼt know what happened to NaNoWriMo information on my genuinely (and unironically) unqualified writing success from 2010

*** For those who clicked that link back to last Christmastime, I have resolved my issues with the Livescribe Echo long since (thanks to intelligent Livescribe support, who had me use Janetʼs Windows laptop — a tale to tell there for the posts ahead — to set up the pen successfully; alas for products created mostly for Windozers and not the Mac world…). The pen has gotten some pretty fierce use for nearly a year now, including the journal junk mentioned above, and I intend to discuss more about it in days ahead, as I attempt to flex and exercise my writing chops before November arrives.

**** Family members, if interested I can e-mail the results out to you all, assuming I donʼt desperately use the results as posts here in future weeks.

***** Any opinions, folks? You may Leave a Reply below.

****** “David,” anyone? Suggestions?

******* Funding shotcomings, donʼt you know.

******** Donʼt believe me? Check back over this yearʼs postings… (The calendar to the right will work for that.) Not much there…

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

First Person

“Are ya up for some skiing with Bethany and I?”

Oh, those pronouns. People seem to have more trouble with their pronouns when writing or speaking than they do with any other semantic, grammatical or communicative disorders (and orders). 

What causes todayʼs little peroration is, as one might easily predict (particularly for one like me who does not use Twitter), Facebook status updates. And as our title for today indicates, I want to focus on first things first.

English has three pronouns in both singular and plural forms,* not to mention also in nominative, possessive and objective cases — first, second and third person. When I was teaching, I used to like to tell the sophomores a fake bit of developmental psychology to help keep the three persons accurate…

When I was in the womb, preborn as the anti-abortion multitudes have taken to saying, if I was capable of consciousness at all,** I was only aware of one thing, one being, one oneness that comprised the all of everything — myself. Thatʼs the first person: “I,” “me” (avoiding for the moment the peculiar issues of plurality). 

Getting born introduces limitation (and probably, as Freud guessed, calamity and agony) when suddenly one is not the utter all and wholeness, totality… when oneʼs universe of self-contentment suffers contraction, eruption and expulsion… when, whether birthed into the cold air or warmed pool or whatever novel environment, one gets oneʼs breathing started, whether the midwife or doctor uses tickling, slapping or whatever method. Suddenly there is Someone Else in addition to Oneself/Myself right there, real and immediate, a second person — “you,” whoever that ever-changing other-one-who-is-here-with-me might shiftingly be through the long sequences of events that become a life.***

And when I get old enough to gossip with you about another person whoʼs not around us just now, that situation introduces the third person, whether than individual is “he, she or it.”

You and I together comprise “us,” first person plural, whereas several others around me (but not counting me) are “you” plural (that one poses few problems except sometimes in verb formulation), whereas more than one person not with us is third person plural, “them.” And with that last clause (and the first one, too, in that preceding sentence) we reach the crux of todayʼs problem, because if those other people about whom we are speaking do something, we would say, “They are doing whatever that thing is they are doing.” “They,” not “them” because in the imaginary sentence the third-person-plural are the subject of the sentence, the doers, not the objects (“them”).

With that affirmation of the distinction between nominative and objective cases (subjects versus objects), we hit whatʼs wrong with the (imaginary — all names and situations have been changed to protect the ignorant) sentence that began this post.

“Are ya up for some skiing with Bethany and I?”

We ignore the colloquial, informal transformation of “you” (presumably plural) to “ya,” and look at that final word. “With Bethany and first-person pronoun” is a prepositional phrase (a topic we have tackled before), and the noun (or pronoun) that follows a preposition (“with” in our sample case above) must be in the objective case, a rule which means nominative “I” is utterly, completely, laughably incorrect nonsense above. Leaving the second-person pronoun alone, the writer should have typed, “Are ya up for some skiing with Bethany and me?”

And thatʼs the way it is, Saturday, 11 February 2012.

* (to simplify matters for now, avoiding, for instance, the reflexive forms, et al.)

** And in a very Levi-Straussian structuralist way, I doubt that I was capable of consciousness until my being had encountered some kind of Other against which to rub my Self to trigger an awareness of myself…

*** I played with my favorite pronoun in that paragraph on second person, the indefinite “one,” which I much prefer to the colloquial (and illogical, when one puts oneʼs mind to it) indefinite, third-person-substitute “you” — a construction that just makes the clarity of first, second and third persons worthlessly confusing.

[Clip art images from websites available by clicking the pix.]

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Wow. A Post. “On Art and Beauty”

Although I have been pondering any number of short little (and several long and humongous) posts to start 2012 (at least since The Lovely One and I returned from a News Years break to Chicago), some of which you are likely to read soon, I have something a little diferent for today. It does, however, remind me of the kind of thing I was posting here two years ago.

I got an e-mail after Christmas that made me think. And since Janet enjoyed receiving her BCC of the answering e-mail I finally wrote today, I thought I would post my response to the stimulating e-mail for the blog.

The e-mail I received went to about two dozen (or more; I never actually counted) recipients from the lovely woman who gave me the chance to portray Picasso just over a year ago. She was going to speak to an art class at one of the Dubuque colleges and wanted some input from people she considered artists of various kinds (including me, perhaps the non-artist of the group). She had six questions (probably the ones she was supposed to discuss for the class):

·         Why did you become an artist (i.e., why do you do what you do)?

·         What characterizes someone as an artist, in your view (i.e., what specific characteristics does an artist possess)?

·         What is art, in your view (i.e., what makes something be a work of art)?

·         What is beauty, in your view (i.e., what makes something be beautiful)?

·         In your view, does a work of art have to be beautiful (i.e., is beauty an essential element/characteristic of a work of art)?

·         In your view, what is the purpose of a work of art (i.e., why do you produce works of art; what role do they play in your life and/or in the lives of others)?

I had a hard time getting past the first one, but as she needed answers by today (yeah, I am a great procrastinator), I finally buckled on the necessaries and got to typing. This is what I wrote:

clip art

I took my time answering this because I am afraid I donʼt really consider myself an “artist,” rather someone who went into eduction for as long as possible, and thatʼs about it. However, I will try.

I became who I am because I like the arts, visual/performance/literary (I like art enough to be pretty cautious, even derogatory about considering fashion or advertising arts). I act because I liked it from childhood on (beginning with memorizing and performing the Ronald Coleman 78-rpm records of A Christmas Carol for my family when I was still preschool age) and got kind of pushed into performing by an excellent high school speech and drama instructor, Mrs. Marilyn Vincent at Mt. Pleasant Community High School. I write for vaguer reasons, except that I seem to always remember writing stuff ever since I learned the skills, memories extending back to comic books created with a friend at lunch time in first and/or second grade and my Adventures of Capt. Furgo in third or fourth grade that I was polishing into an illustrated booklet in eighth grade (gone now, sadly). Itʼs just what I do. An anthology of poetry I scammed from my motherʼs shelves also stimulated writing in verse (and probably also condemned me toward becoming an English, speech and drama teacher, too). Writing and theatre meet in my plays, of course (mostly written so the students at school had something to perform… cheaply).

An artist is somehow compelled to (meaning: by nature a person who does) perform the activities that society or culture has deemed artistic. Perhaps there is a desire for prominence or polish in those activities as well. One is able to become wrapped up in the details and even the frustrations of making something (or making something happen). One can remain focused on such excruciating details for prolonged periods of time. One daydreams (is that imagination?). Most artistic persons I know seem somehow withdrawn socially or perhaps self-involved (I worry about the relation between artistic involvement and the spectrum of autism). One seeks perfection or at least polish and skill.

Art reflects reality (as a victim/offspring of the Western Civ Romantic movement, I have to acknowledge an indoctrination at least that “self-expression” may be involved, but I find that issue is probably socially conditioned and not necessarily basic to artistic endeavor). Art imposes something new (but not always novel or innovative) on reality as well. Art is less practical than related activities such as, say, philosophy. Art may move people emotionally (I think thatʼs the “beautiful” aspect of art that I am getting at, not a mere tearjerking maudlinism). A work of artistic creation may reveal significance or meaning, if only to the maker, upon reflection. (And letʼs not forget the now obvious deeply prehistoric roots of artistic practices, which have to be [perhaps] rooted with magical or supernatural practices and/or speculation.)

Beauty is an experience for me personally, not a thing capable of definition. Culturally, beauty has traditionally been a philosophical construct (all the way back at least to Plato, obviously) and thus a muddled (yeah, I am thinking of you Thomas Aquinas) and muddied concept (no thanks whatsoever, Immanuel Kant). My personal take is that beauty comprises a set of notions attempting to abstract or describe a deeply emotional (and therefore limbic [as in brain construction] and therefore also pre-verbal) response to natural and possibly supernatural stimuli, often felt as a sense of exaltation or insight or calm assurance or personal awareness. Since its roots and nature are emotional, “beauty” is thus not conducive to getting into words or making into an abstraction. Beauty is deeply connected to the imagination. I personally question the Romantic supposed natural connection/identity between beauty and art.

The beauty of art would consist in a work of art modeling reality in an emotionally/imaginatively suggestive or stimulating way. A beautiful work of art, like a beautiful mathematical theorem or scientific theory, models reality well (although not necessarily “realistically,” just as quantum dynamics defies common sense).

Art has no “purpose.” Frequently, on a social level, art entertains, but I deeply question/disbelieve that entertainment is the purpose or reason for art. I write and I do plays because itʼs fun for me. I get pleasure from the activities involved in the process(es). As an art “consumer,” I frequent museums because I enjoy looking at the works of art (I like examining the brushstrokes, for instance, as well as “appreciating” the image on a canvas; and my wife, who adores Impressionism, and I get a kick of trying to find the correct distance from such a painting when the image, as we say, “pops into focus,” like a brightly illuminated slice of reality in a tiny rectangle [and from our experience they always do, although no museum yet has given us enough distance to really appreciate Monetʼs Water Lilies]. And thereʼs amazement in realizing just how far away from the canvas that point of clarity is. Did the artist ever see it that way, having to paint right up next to the canvas?). I like the historical aspect of museum-going, too. I like attending plays because of personal pleasure as well, getting caught up in the story but also studying the production and performance techniques being used. My most constant artistic pleasure is reading, mostly for the story in fiction and the communion with better minds and wider experiences than my own. And to experience what I simply never could unimaginatively/practically, getting beyond my own dull reality (which fits all kinds of art).

Since high school I have written wanting to become “a writer.” But throughout my teaching career a lot of what I wrote was for school in one way or another, deliberately (as in plays) or provocatively, as in bringing in my own poems (not often) to help explain and experience poetic analysis and interpretation. I do wish to/dream of getting published (although I donʼt enjoy the drudgery and rejection of actually making the effort to submit stuff), but I get a good deal of pleasure from reading my own sentences, too (even if that means I then need to revise or correct or improve).

I have acted because I could and I enjoyed it (and once now I have even been paid to act — thanks). I have directed and done technical stuff in theater because itʼs been necessary (and can be fun/pleasurable). I do like making things, even though other people often have greater and better skills than mine, so I would rather let them do that painting, construction or designing. The audience aspect can be interesting as a director, but essentially I donʼt really enjoy the performances; theyʼre just what it all builds up to.

Often I draw or act or write because me doing it is easier or simpler, faster or more practical than acquiring the result in another way.

And I never even considered music in this whole little dissertation! (And music may complicate a lot of what I said above.)

Does any of this help?

A better closing question here on the blog would be: So what about you? Whatʼs your answer to any or all of those six questions?

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.