Friday, October 26, 2007

Walk the Walk

Scientists have a tendency to prove what common sense and life experience made you suspect even before it was researched. This seems to happen every couple of months. October's revelation is that Lack of sleep is a lot like mental illness. It is. I know that I feel a little bit crazy when I didn't get enough sleep. Although I'd also say that I feel more drunk than insane when I'm sleep-deprived - with shorter attention spans and less concentration, feeling like I'm walking through mist and am less connected to the real world.


I read That Very Mab, a fairy story by folklorist Andrew Lang and May Kendall for my diploma thesis. It's delightful and very "Victorian". It tells how the fairies left England because of the Puritans and moved to Polynesia. When this country gets conquered by the English, too, Fairy Queen Mab decides to go back to England, which she finds profoundly changed. An owl shows Queen Mab all these changes and you can't help but enjoy the critical comments the authors make on late Victorian life through the characters of Mab and the owl. Some of it is distinctly applicable to the 19th century, but a lot of it seems universal, like the owl's explanation on education:

"We are being educated up to a very high point. It saves people the trouble of thinking for themselves, certainly; they can always get all their thoughts now, ready made, on every kind of subject, and at extremely low prices. They only have to make up their minds what to take, and generally they take the cheapest. There is a great demand for cheap thought just now, especially when it is advertised as being of superior quality."

Which reminded me very much of an Austrian newspaper, which advertises by saying that through buying and reading the newspaper, you will quickly and easily gain an (/their) opinion (causing me to wonder why I would want that, as opposed to being able to make up my own mind).

Or this wonderful paragraph about "dynamiters":

It is one of the problems of the nineteenth century. Even the dynamiters themselves don't appear to have gone into the whole logic of it. I suppose that they are tired of only blowing things up on paper, and they are people who have a great objection to things in general. They complain that they can't get justice from the universe in its present state of preservation, and therefore they are going to blow as much of it as possible into what they call smithereens, and try to get justice from the smithereens. It is a new scheme they have hit upon, a kind of scientific experiment. The theory appears to be, that justice is the product of Nihilism plus public buildings blown up by dynamite, and that the more public buildings they blow up the more justice they will obtain. [...] It is reported, also, that if the Nihilists can't obtain justice enough by any less extensive measures, they will lower a great many kegs of nitro-glycerine to the molten nucleus of the globe and then [...] the globe will explode, and all the inhabitants, even the dynamiters themselves; but justice will remain; according to the theory, that is. But it is rather an expensive experiment."

When I first came across older texts that showed people's fears of terrorists I was surprised that they pretty much showed the same attitudes and emotions concerning the topic that are spread in the world now. And this text tells me to a degree that it's not just something that was present in the mid- and late 20th century, but also already appeared in the 19th century.
I guess that's how we are; we like to think we're so high and mighty, and above all special, that we are the first to go through certain troubles and feelings. But the more I read the more I feel that everything we experience has been here long before us. We're just recycling thoughts, mindsets and emotions of our ancestors.
Looking at it logically, it's not so much of a surprise. Everyone lives their average 70+ years and uses this time to develop their thoughts. We start when we are born and don't stop until the end. We don't have much more to help us on this journey that people 100 or 200 years ago didn't have. Makes you realize how little we really learn from the past, as every generation goes through the same development again and again.
Could we accelerate our individual development? We read the books that people who made these experiences wrote, which pushes us into a certain direction. But often we don't fully understand their deeper intent and insights, especially when it comes to philosophy. I imagine this means that you need life experience to really understand it - walk down the road to see and understand what you previously only read about.
That's demotivating and exciting at the same time. It makes you realize that there are many experiences ahead of you that are just waiting there to be discovered, but you also get a glimpse of how much life experience is lost with every human being and that when you're old and dying you'll know that those who come after you will make the same darn mistakes that you made. Sweet circle of life.

So - Carpe Diem, and put your foot on the road.


And, as always and lastly, today's painting results. I actually wanted to do the fairies, but then didn't feel like tackling a bigger painting. So I just ended up scribbling away. The character turned out more androgynous than intended.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Do one thing every day that scares you

Click here to view an absolutely wonderful video that simply fills me with a warm, happy feeling and contains a lot of truth.
(Although I disagree about the sunscreen to a degree. Sunscreen has INCIs which are partly bad for you. But I'll admit that sunscreen is still preferable to skin cancer.)
(And: Heh, how apt. My current worries never crossed my worried mind, until it blindsided me at 3pm on this idle Wednesday. Nice...)


Sketches for a painting I might do. Might, because my day just hasn't enough hours at the moment (well, maybe I can squeeze something into that additional hour on Sunday ;).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Painting = Stress Therapy Deluxe

Boy, I cannot even begin to tell you how much is needed this painting. Listening to other diploma students worrying and stressing over their theses is not good for your own stress level. It pretty much does all it needs to make you freak out, too.
So my mind told me to paint, and I did, resulting in another painting session from midnight till dawn. Joy :)


I also figured that long-term planning is absolutely no use and just a waste of time. People walk into and away from your life all the time, and all the big, life-changing stuff happens spontaneously and without you being prepared for it. So no need to get all worked up about what'll be in a year from now. Carpe diem, live in the present and do what you enjoy.
(Or maybe that's only the case until you get a job and have the same daily schedule for 40 years and all the life-changing stuff is already past, hmm.)


John Howe wrote a nice and interesting statement on Fantasy art in the age of science on his website. Well worth reading.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tread Soflty

Since I couldn't go to one Kendo practice this week, I decided to instead raid the university library for interesting books (as long as I still can, which won't be long, as I now, err, rather spontaneously decided to fully move back to Linz; still can't believe I'm practically finished with my studies - it happened so fast and just when I was getting comfortable with everything).
So I read Musashi's Book of Five Rings the last days. I really liked the Ground Book. It contains some very, very nice analogies (even though it sort of told me with every word that Kendo isn't what I should do, hmmm). The other Books had some interesting tidbits, too - I particularly liked "Always keep in mind that you can clench your left hand into a fist and thrust it at your enemy's face" - but seemed less informative for me compared to the Ground Book. Maybe you need to do ji-geiko to get more out of them. I also liked the introduction and the notes (which were very helpful!). They made me look forward to reading Hagakure and Bushido.
All in all an interesting and quick read, although I'm not fully convinced by the translation. I have the feeling that it's a secondary translation based on an English translation.
The book also gave me lots of inspiration for new paintings, which is always a big plus!

This painting began with one sentence from Musashi, but then quickly went into the direction of William Butler Yeats:

He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Which is an absolutely beautiful poem. Not for the love-poem-part, but for the last line. It's the purest expression of caritas. When I end up in an embarrassing situation, I usually just say or do anything to get the situation over with as quickly as possible. The problem is that this is sometimes, unintentionally, done at the expense of others. So this is a reminder to myself that other people have feelings too and that I should think twice (or five times or ten) before saying or doing something rashly to get out of a situation - because in the long run it's much more satisfactory for both to be careful in expressing yourself, so you say exactly what you mean and nothing else.

And here's probably the first environmental painting I've ever done. Created for the weekly challenge over at DAF.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Slaughtering Stories

If one-and-a-half chicken produce one-and-a-half eggs in one-and-a-half days, how many eggs do nine chicken produce in nine days?

Many months ago I saw I, Robot on TV and liked it enough to eventually buy the book, which I finished reading yesterday. Plot-wise, it was probably the most surprising book I have ever read. If you have a film fashioned after a book, you expect them to have roughly the same plot (with many cuts and edits, granted, but essentially similar). This is not the case here. What I, Robot the film and I, Robot the book have in common are an Earth that has managed to manufacture robots and the three Laws of Robotics - nothing else. My distant memory of the film tells me its plot was altogether different to what I have just finished reading.
Which is unexpected, surprising, but not necessarily bad. (It means you definitely get more plot than you could ever have expected.)
Isaac Asimov's novel is different to the books I usually read, because it does not build up suspense through character interaction and character development, which are my main interests. I normally find it hard to enjoy a novel if it has no appealing characters. That's probably why I don't read so much Hard Science Fiction - it often evolves more about the future scenario than about single people (here is, to my understanding, the essential difference between Fantasy and SciFi; Fantasy uses a world's destiny and future to build up a story around people, and SciFi uses people to visualise a possible future of our world). Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed I, Robot nevertheless and read through it quite quickly. It's a bit like a short story collection on a common theme and tells about the different stages of robot "evolution" on Asimov's Earth. It's interesting to read about these Laws of Robotics that Asimov invented and at the same time (/in the same book) he pointed out the mistakes and possible fallacies in them; an exemplary thought experiment.


Plot discrepancies till the end weren't the only surprise yesterday. I read that Hayao Miyazaki is a feminist, which is a term I'd never have associated with him. I guess it makes sense - the strong female characters are distinctive for his films. Still, I wouldn't have classfied the working women in Mononoke Hime as a sign for feminism; rather as an analogy to the women who had to work during war times - that's probably part of what you miss out on when you watch films from a different culture; you tend to put the situations in them into your own mindframe. Makes me wonder how many more layers foreign films have that I have no access to.


Lastly, I came across a great song by the comedy act Tripod. Both their song and their website make my geek heart beat a bit louder.
(Ghost Ship is quite good, too.)


Sketches for poses, movements, (weird) anatomy, etc.: