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1000 Black Lines

:: digital coffee stains on the paper of the blogosphere ::

RE: Terri Schiavo 1963-2005

"So it ends," I commented on World Magazine's weblog after reading that Terri Schiavo has passed away. "Unfortunately, I can see how both sides to this tragedy will attempt to make her a martyr."

I don't usually write on topics like this, but the Terri Schiavo story hits home and many personal ways. I'll be writing a piece for next month's The Indie regarding this story.

judyh (of anybodyhome) posted this on World's blog: "I will remember this day like I remember where I was when I heard that John Kennedy was shot, when the Space Shuttle Exploded, and 9/11. It's that big of a national event."

My Favorite Rejection Letter

By far, this is my favorite rejection letter. In late October (2004) I sent a "batch" of poems. Now, five months later, I received this nice, handwritten rejection letter--sure beats a form letter. I suspect the long wait was due to the literary magazine's staff weeding through submissions to their annual chapbook contest. Will I continue to submit poems to this literary magazine? Yes... yes I will.

van Gogh's Birthday

From The Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, (books by this author) born in Zundert, The Netherlands (1853). In 1879, he went as a missionary to the coal miners on southwestern Belgium. The result was a spiritual crisis that led him to try to express himself through art. For the next 10 years, from 1880 to 1890, he painted fast and furiously. He painted sunflowers, wheat fields, self-portraits--all while his mental health was steadily breaking down. One of his greatest paintings, Starry Night (1889), was painted while he was confined in an asylum. In 1988, his Irises, painted in the asylum courtyard, sold for $49,000,000. At the time it was the highest price ever paid for a painting.

Even Google got on the band wagon to promote the artist's birthday.

RE: Cost of Peace

Very cool discussion going on at White Open Spaces. Michael responded to my post Cost of War - $7 Per Gallon with his post Cost of Peace:
Though war has a cost, so does peace... the greatest cost of peace is war.
--excerpt from White Open Spaces

Good discussions distill great thoughts, which is why I began blogging.

Essay A Roll of Film

"Once again, a great and inspiring piece of lit," I commented after reading Net Worth. "I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a father and a son and a fisher. The more I investigate these roles and responsibilities, I realize it's less about fishing trips and more about righteous living." Jeremy Huggins has been writing essays based on submitted photos. His post "Net Worth" struck a chord with me in light of the birth of my second son.

The Cost of War - $7 per gallon

I almost veered off the road this morning when my wife gasped, "It's gone up three cents." When we passed the gas station on the corner near our home the posted price for unleaded gasoline was $2.12. Almost an hour later, we returned home to see the posted price is now $2.15!

This got me thinking about the birth of our first child. The hospital was 14.9 miles from home. For three days I traveled 178.8 miles to and from the hospital. At the time, Americans were shocked to be paying over a dollar a gallon and I found myself sneaking over the NC border to purchase gasoline at $0.96 per gallon in SC. Given the stated mileage, my Dodge consumed 6.88 gallons of fuel at a rate of $1.05 per gallon costing me $7.23.

Three years later, the second child was delivered at a hospital only 2.8 miles from home. This time the to and from trips to the hospital reduced to 25.2 miles and consumed a meager 1.15 gallons of fossil fuel. The price per gallon last week was $2.09 meaning I spent $2.41 for the second child. Now, if we had delivered the second child at the first hospital it would have cost twice the expense of the first child (over $14.00).

A couple of my friends are peace activists who protested (and still protest) the War on Terror because it costs U.S. lives to get cheaper fuel at the pump. Clearly, invading Afghanistan and Iraq was not about blood for oil. Maybe the cost for "homeland security" is that Americans now have to pay twice as much for gasoline and still send their 18-year old children to war.

A little over a month ago, I watched a pastor of a local church bless an 18-year old son--the only son of my friend and his wife. He entered Marine basic training. In hushed tones the men whispered that the son will most likely see combat in Iraq before the summer is over. We looked at our shoes, sipped burnt coffee under heavy silence, and offered the father our prayers. My oldest son will be that age in less than 15 years. At the current rate, gasonline might cost as much as $7.00 per gallon. I wonder what war he'll have to fight.

Dreaming of A Completed Manuscript

A few weeks ago, I came across some art for sale. My first thought included ideas of incorporating those five wonderful drawings in my upcoming poetry manuscript. I'm so taken by the drawings that I return to Home Is Where One Starts From just to look at her drawings. Recently, I discovered her drawings on another blog. Slowly I have found her writings as captivating as her art. But her art still draws me back to her weblog.

When it comes to reading and experiencing books, I think of Kahlil Gibran's books, Blake's collections and David Mack's graphic novels top the charts--for me anyway. Sometimes I find the reading experience enhanced by an illustration (The Storm, Gibran) or a map (J.R.R. Tolkien) the way lighter fluid encourages a flame. I want my manuscripts to offer a similar feel.

I received a pre-ordered, signed copy of the new Over the Rhine album, Drunkard's Prayer. The packaging and the content all work well together. Listening to "Born" seems to mirror the CD booklet art and photography. So, I view Home Is Where One Starts From and imagine what kind of reading experience I could offer someone if they opened my book with her art.

I guess I'm dreaming a bit. But if I don't know my goal then it will be difficult to attain it. No one begins a journey without knowing the final destination. For me, my manuscript is a finished vision that needs a physical manifestation.

Portrait of A Young Poet: 02

This comic strip was left over from last year (published in The Indie, 2004). Enjoy!

New Arrival

New member of the clan was born Monday weighing 7 lb. 7 oz. and measuring 19 1/4" long. Mother and baby are doing well and resting at home.

The Naked Jewel of Truth

Sometimes I read something on a website and bookmark it for future reference or inspiration. At other times, I find myself orbiting a passage or blog post because of it's haunting message. Real Live Preacher posted "Telling The Truth" last Sunday that has captivated my thoughts throughout the week. I keep cycling through my browser's favorites list and always rest at that website a little longer after each time I pass it.
"The best thing that can happen is if you tell the truth, pay the price, and find that you have nothing left to lose.
Spirituality always begins in your lowest places and works its way upwards and outwards from there.
--Real Live Preacher, "Telling The Truth"

There are no formulas, magic potions, political parties nor religious organizations that produce true spirituality. Like a grain of rice, one must die to self in order to grow in truth.

My own pursuit of true spirituality resembles that of a pinball machine. The many twists and turns send me from flipper to bumper and up ramps to philosophy and theology and doctrine and back to tradition and down the ramp to skepticism. All this in an attempt to avoid going down the spiritual, emotional and intellectual drain. Various teachings have been examined and tested. Various labels have been applied to me on this journey to the point I sometimes feel like a curious novelty item.
"Some people say that I'm a liberal Christian, but I don't think of myself that way. I don't want to be a liberal or a conservative.
I want to be a surprise."
--Real Live Preacher, "Telling The Truth"

Living by the naked jewel of truth is a daily surprise. No labels can be affixed that will stick. No political party nor ethnic group owns true spirituality. Truth is an indelible tattoo. The real question is, if one has the mark of truth tattooed upon their soul, why be afraid to reveal it?

Reading the New Yorker

Finished reading a short story by Ian McEwan entitled "The Diagnosis" where the climax includes a street thug and a brain surgeon. Poems read include two New Yorker pieces--one by Charles Simic titled "Old Soldier" and another by Edward Hirsch titled "The Chardin Exhibition."

This is how Simic introduces his poem.

By the time I was ten,
I had fought in hundreds of battles,

Then he conludes the poem with:

I forgot to mention my sword.
True, it was of cardboard,
But its handle was painted gold.
--Charles Simic's "Old Soldier

Grocery List for Literary Delights

Not only can you find rice milk, gluten free breakfast cereal and Food For Life Breads Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain at the Haywood Road Market, today I found four free (yes free) literary magazines. Haywood Road Market is a community owned grocery which features a small literature corner when you walk in the front door full of free weeklies and monthly newspapers as well as "used" magazines. In a small wooden crate on the floor next to the magazine rack I found a copy of Natural Bridge (Fall 2004), Small Spiral Notebook (2004), Green Mountains Review (2004) and Alaska Quarterly Review (Spring & Summer 2005). I can't wait to start consuming these fine literary delights.

Don't Crap in My Cathedral

Design Observer, a prestigious website designated to writings about graphic design posted "Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up" by Jessica Helfand.

"I’m not sure if I should applaud or be appalled," I began my comment to the post. I spent almost two hours Friday explaining my area of expertise to internal clients who think that the proper technology or software will allow them (non-designers) to render awesome professional page layouts. Owning a copy of Photoshop or a Mac doesn’t make one a graphic designer. Much more goes into a page layout than playing Tetris with blocks of copy, color fields, photographs and graphics. The same design project that should take me thirty minutes to do a paste-up will have a non-design professional experimenting in Publisher all afternoon (and of course the results will be drastically different).

While any of a number of late, great editorial designers are spinning in their graves... the truth is that some of what scrapbooking has to offer is intrinsically connected to design. There's the encapsulation of time through collage and montage; the representation of chronology through sequencing and framing images; there's the very notion of documenting, of visual evidence and diaristic detail.
--Jessica Helfand, Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up, Design Observer

Less I sound too elitist, designers can learn and even be inspired by scrapbook crafts in much the same way a composer’s concerto can be inspired by folk music. But scrapbookers are not graphic designers. In the same way, professionals who own a copy of MS Word or Publisher or iWorks are merely do-it-yourselfers (DIYers), and their page layouts will look less than professional.

When the toilet backs up into the bathroom, I call a professional plumber. I don't want a DIYers duct taping his/her way around my bathroom. I want a professional who will take care of the problem. Plumbers have trucks full of caulking and goo and pipes and wrenches and drills and all sorts of curious implements of their trade. Graphic designers have a head (if not hard drive or sketchbook) full of similar tools for their job.

Of course, scrapbooking is not now, nor has it ever been about achieving design excellence. But where do we draw the line? We can't simply dismiss scrapbooking on the assumption that its decorative nature and personal content relegates it to non-design status. Sure, it's goofy and its homespun... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take it seriously.
--Jessica Helfand, Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up, Design Observer

So what should I do when an executive comes to me with a laser copy of his/her “goofy... homespun” Publisher creation? If that professional is willing, I would praise his/her efforts and then request that I take that idea to the next level of creative solutions. The laser copy is merely a thumbnail which I, as a professional graphic designer, can use to articulate the message and intent of the requested project. Designers know the process it takes to make an idea publishable (either in print or on the internet). An executive cannot simply swipe an image off a website and print it in a magazine (without compromising the integrity of the image). Designers understand how to prepare digital art in various media.

But, what if the professional is unable to accept this “thumbnail” stage and wants to proceed with his/her “goofy” page layout? Simply tell them, “Don’t defecate in my cathedral of creative expertise. I don’t crap on your golf course.” Then check Talent Zoo or AIGA for new job opportunities.

Where Do Comic/Cartoon Artists Eat?

Found this while visiting the SENCS website. James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle) wrote a summary of the March meeting of the WNC group of SENCS.
The second monthly meeting of the WNC group of the SENCS was held... at the group’s “unofficial watering hole” Frank’s Roman Pizza in Asheville, NC.

* * *

The management of Frank’s Roman Pizza was very helpful and enthusiastic about our second meeting there, and asked the participants to create some cartoons to help decorate the walls. We expect to see these cartoons on display the next time we avail ourselves of the hospitality of Frank’s.
For the complete story, read "March meeting of the WNC group of SENCS" on the SENCS website.

Second Child

It's been nine months. My wife is waddling, but the wait is almost over. Less that five days and I'll see this little guy face to face. Can't wait! This image was taken about five months ago and yes... it's another boy! My son will have a brother to chase, tease, play football, teach and befriend.

Bono, Activist Fashionista

Originally posted on U2.com.

An ADPULP post by David Burn "A Marriage Of Social Activism And Aesthetic Innovation" relates how Bono, of the rock band U2, takes his activism to a new level.

The self-described "big-mouth Irish rock star" and his wife, Ali Hewson, are entering the fashion universe with their collection, Edun, co-created with designer Rogan. Edun's earthy but chic duds, which are created from organic materials, are made in family-run factories in South America and Africa with fair-labor practices.

If there is one thing that is admirable, it is seeing someone who practices what he preaches. It's common knowledge that Bono supports such organizations as Amnesty International and the Chernobyl Childrens Project. In 2002 he met with President Bush about the AIDS pandemic in Africa. And as silly as entering the world of fashion design, Bono seems to live out Mahatma Gandhi expression: "We must become the change we want to see in the world."

"God made me stubborn," Bono says with a throaty laugh that tells you something about the state of his vocal cords. "Stubbornness and Catholic guilt," he continues. "That'll work for you every time. And I've had the best life that a man's ever had."
from the article BONO-FIRE, By Elaina Richardson

RE: Not Worthy

What's Your Brand Mantra? encourages to make a blog a conversation rather than an iMe-fest. Jennifer Rice, of What's Your Brand Mantra?, references Vaspers the Grate's post You Are Not A Blog, which pointedly states "You are not a worthy topic for a blog." Steven Streight, author of Vaspers the Grate, goes on to conclude:

You are not a blog...
...but you can use a blog to impart information, improve your writing skills, increase your self-confidence, and inspire others to think independently of those who wish to oppress and manipulate them.
Blogs represent freedom of thought, equal opportunity to be heard, and the death of monolithic media monopolies.

So, enough about me... how about you?

Is Blogging Good for Your Career?

Point and Counter-Point. You make the call.

Need Some Good News? Or at Least A Good Story?

For those of you tired of reading news with US soldier body counts, corporate scandal and courtroom/church murders; here's a true story about tragedy and hope concerning Sarah Schuurmans, a 19-year-old involved in a horrible auto accident. The story begins with a short announcement of the accident and continues through various stages of her coma to her recent progress to regain her pre-coma life. It sort of reminds me of an unfolding Reader's Digest feature.

Comic book (prequel, page 1)

Last year, I sat at an Atlanta Bread Company in South Carolina and listened to Brian Byars, creator/writer of Radiant Comics detail his vision and philosophy for a project he was planning. We discussed many topics that afternoon and it became clear that we were kindred spirits regarding art and culture.

Since that first meeting, he has recruited a creative team of artists to help him produce his vision. The comic page (provided above) exhibits some fantastic art for the comic book Radiant by James Lyle. This is page one of a 5-page comic book proposal.

I won't give away the story, but I will say that the comic book industry has lost many readers because it refuses to embrace the hero story. Instead, American comic books have degenerated into angst riddled social dramas where bad guys are misunderstood and good guys are confused and seeking direction in how to use their superhuman powers. Brian's Radiant seeks to tell a tale of a superhero that clearly knows his place and his purpose.

Late Winter Bridges

The gray morning of a late winter day reminds me of changes in the seasons. This weekend, my oldest son and I planted seven white pines to replace the trees that the hurricane destroyed last September. Baby trees, he calls them. He may be too young to understand the concept that one day these pine saplings will tower over the yellow cottage where we live, but the ritual of planting will bridge practice and understanding.

This week, mother and sister arrive from the northern Midwest to help with the last days of my wife's pregnancy. As winter resigns to spring, so another bridge extends. On the vernal equinox, Heaven providing, I will meet my second son face to face.

Reposting Cartoon

Yesterday's posting was unreadable. Hope you can read this version of the cartoon.

SENCS meeting

Last night I attended the WNC chapter of the SENCS (Southeast National Cartoonist Society). I brought a small sampling of cartoon work I had done and was surprised and encouraged by the positive response.

Here's something I did a year ago.

The Indie, March 2005

I've been told by peers that I don't toot my own horn. So, toot. The Indie published two book reviews I submitted.

Excerpt from Vagrant Verses, Serpentine Summers book review:

Like a Shaolin priest from a 1970’s television series, he drifts from one lonely horizon to another writing "I do not have a country." Yet he finds solace in this wandering, "because all countries are mine." For a moment you believe he could walk through walls and show places that cannot be seen and taste water that cannot be tasted as he transports you to his "village's crystalline mountain brooks." Rest beside the campfire of his words and hear his poems. Hold the book to your ears and let him tell you stories you haven’t heard. Stagger under the weight of Pasckie Pascua’s poetic trance.
To read the complete story, request a free copy of The Indie, March 2005

Excerpt from Fixed Ideas: America Since 9/11 book review:
The term "fixed idea" refers to a theory that "the collapse of the Soviet Union had opened the door to the inevitability of American preeminence." She writes that this fixed idea predated the Bush administration and originated during the Reagan years. Using "fixed ideas" as another term for American Imperialism, Joan Didion observes (in another national tour) a great "disconnect between the government and the citizens. I did not encounter conviction that going to war with Iraq would result in democratic transformation of the Middle East." She further investigates his line of thinking through a series of, what she considers, relevant postmodern connections.
To read the complete story, request a free copy of The Indie, March 2005

Dunkard's Prayer

Just pre-ordered the new Over the Rhine album, Drunkard's Prayer. The second song, "Born," is available as a free download on their Web site.

Bearly Edible Thanks!

Listening to "Relearn Love" by Scott Stapp on Radio Wazee.

Thanks to all those friends, fans, enemies and stalkers who attended the Bearly Edible Gig Friday night!

The lights were down low. The narrow cafe provided an intimate place to read a few poems. Brown bottle hellos warmly greeted me as I prepared to read some verses both borrowed and new. I smelt the cigarette smoke drift in from the front door as I fumbled with my notebook searching for the poem I thought I might read first. Changed my mind and began with "Catching Daylight By Surprise." It's a work in progress. So, I don't know why I chose that one. Maybe because my three-year son told me earlier that night that he was going to shoot the darkness. And the last line in that poem describes embracing the darkness in order to see the light. Maybe I didn't want to read an old poem which I do everytime I am at one of these gigs. I followed it up quickly by a Billy Collin cover poem and then a poem my grandfather wrote titled "Pondering." I could feel myself rattling through these poems faster than I should. It's nervousness. Maybe a sip of hot chai would have offered a small pause to allow the audience rest before the next rapidfire reading. Instead, I chose a new poem I have only read once publically. The piece has several natural pauses and I felt that would help me pace the reading. "Driftwood" and "Fragile" (two short poems) wrapped up my portion of the event. Usually, I partially memorize the poems so I don't spend the whole mic-time staring down at the manuscript, which means the audience stares at the top of my head. By partially memorizing the poems, I can make eye contact with the audience to help them enter the poem's content. I'm afraid last night was an off night for me.

So, thank you to Pasckie and THE TRAVELING BONFIRES for inviting me to read some poems. Thanks to Bearly Edible Cafe for hosting the event. Special thanks to my secret service agent for bringing reinforcements. That was the first poetry/music gig where most of the cafe patrons left after I finished my reading. Ususally, the cafe/club clears before I read my second poem. So, thanks to all who came out to support (or endure) poetry!

Listening to "Gorillaz On My Mind [Radio Edit] by Redman And Gorillaz on Radio Wazee.

I'm Deb, too?

You are Deb and you could drink whole milk if you

Which Napoleon Dynamite character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thicket Dweller got me thinking I should try the "Which Napoleon Dynamite character are you?" quiz. I knew I shouldn't have done it. I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. I even cheated and took the quiz THREE TIMES! I'm still Deb. I think Quizilla rigged it. Eww, whatever. Pedro for President!

Bearly Edible gig: part 2


poster designed by JUSTIN GOSTONY

FRIDAY, March 4 2005. 8:30pm to 11pm.

-Dashvara (music)
-Matt Mulder (poetry)
-Nina Collins (poetry)
-Tim McGill (music)
-Riley Schilling (music)
-Pasckie Pascua (poetry)

What's Vagrant Wind's Tour? It's a national/international tour featuring poet, foreign journalist, and editor Pasckie Pascua and his organization called The Traveling Bonfires.

I first met Pasckie at a cafe a block from my apartment. It was an open mic event I was hosting at the Relaxed Reader and he read his poem "Nameless." He later invited me to read at Beanstreets and Malaprop's. In the fall of 2003, we took a road trip to New York City where I assisted him (in a very small way) in promoting a gig at CBGBs.

This Vagrant Wind's Tour however, I will not be able to join because my wife is due in less than a month. So, I'm glad to contribute to the start of what will become an exciting road show. This will most likely be my last public reading for quite sometime.

Generic Designer vs. Design Superstar

Design Observer posted an essay about how Barbara Kruger's designs have become such a part of society that young designers imitating her work unknowingly pay tribute to her. Futura* Italic "knocked out in white in bright red bands" is Barbara Kruger's design signature (in much the same way Puccini's "Nessun dorma" has become Pavarotti's signature piece).

Her style has been so adapted or adopted to other design solutions that she has become invisible or generic. The Audio Adrenaline album cover art for "Lift" is a Barbara Kruger homage (either directly or indirectly).

Over-representation both promotes and devalues an individual designer's style. A good example of this is Kleenex® vs. facial tissues. When you sneeze what do you grab? If you purchase Joe's Facial Tissue, you up-sell Joe's generic brand by referring to the product as Kleenex®. On the other hand, the Kleenex® brand devalues when attributed to any miscellaneous facial tissue product.

That's what founding writer of Design Observer must have thought when he saw this May 1992 magazine cover. Is it a knock off cover design or a real Kruger design?

"To my surprise, it turned out to be a Barbara Kruger cover illustrating a Barbara Kruger article. Who would have thought..."
--Michael Bierut

The solution evades me. Maybe it's an ongoing education or mentorship of young designers as well as the general public. The challenge is that the design field is so rapidly changing a lot of history is forgotten, over-simplified or romanticized.

*For non-designers: Futura is a typeface "developed by Paul Renner in 1928" and popularized by Barbara Kruger.

Junkmail for Blankets: Photo Project

Junkmail for Blankets offers a cool photo essay excursion called, Photo Project. Basically, Junkmail for Blankets sent out a request for 24 photos. Upon submission, he then writes an essay based on the photo and then posts the photo and essay side by side for his blog audience. It's quite an interesting excercise and an enjoyable read/view. My favorite so far is the intriguing photo essay "The Big Mushroom" (frame #2 of Photo Project).

Real Live Preacher's "Came Grief and Compassion"

Real Live Preacher posted the second installment to his Foy story "Came Grief and Compassion." Thicket Dweller introduced me to this great writer through her Lessons from Other Bloggers list. Here's a teaser:
"I like your eyes. I like the wrinkles in the corners and they’re very blue and sad and looking at them makes me think that you’ve seen some things in your life."

Beautiful, memorable prose which could make you cry in your cubicle flows from Real Live Preacher's story. Enjoy!