Ben Stahl, Bob Ross, Stations of the Cross

This is just a tidbit I found interesting. I was falling asleep to a Bob Ross The Joy of Painting Episode the other week, when I saw he had a rather distinguished guest in Ben Stahl. Well, distinguished by the rather extravagant introduction that Ross heaped upon him. The funny part about the episode is Stahl talked all through his painting demonstration and everything he said was basically “everything this hippie behind me has told you for the last several years is wrong.”

And while I agree with a tiny portion of what he contradicted, basically what the two did was quite different. The Alexander/Ross technique for landscape painting produces good results. Although it is one method among many and certain aspects of it are better suited than others. For instance, I always found the buildings to be lacking and messy. On the other hand, if there is a better way to produce clouds I’d be hard pressed to think of what it could be.

Anyway, watching the episode I knew I had encountered the name Ben Stahl before. This guy is famous for something in particular, and I have run across the name before. Well, that was true just that day I had purchased the Library of Catholic Devotion set from 1954 and in the Prayer Book it has the fourteen station of the cross that Stahl was commissioned to paint in the 50’s.

They are quite good although I would not put him up with the masters. Although I would put him above the 20th century.


I HAVE FOUND THE ELLIPTICAL GRAVE!!!

Sing that as falsetto or Norse metal growl it still sounds great! I HAVE FOUND THE ELLIPTICAL GRAVE ARRRR!!! ONTO THE VILLIAGE, MATES FOR TONIGHT WE FEED ON HUMAAAAAAANNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously though. For about four years I have been on the hunt for R.A. Lafferty’s The Elliptical Grave. I searched for a hard copy with absolutely no luck. The closest I got was some sort of online documentation that a private copy with handwritten page numbering had sold on eBay in 2009.

There were a couple of links in earlier searches that claimed to have The Elliptical Grave but took you to dubious websites written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Probably Russian, and no one not internet-stupid clicks a button on a Russian site – or does anything but high tail it out of there. Erase history, wipe all caches, and pray to St. James they have a dime left to their name come morning!

But I went a little further today and landed on a site that turned out not to be a link to the cesspool of the internet but just a plain old long online text of the book. Man, I copy and pasted that sucker into Scrivener, hit the Compile as ePub button and flopped that baby like a eel onto my iBooks on my iPad.

Kudos to iBooks for letting me just put a file like that right into the program to read. Kudos to Scrivener for being the awesome product it has always been, but manages to surprise me anew every time. It made a great formatted book in about ten seconds with little effort. All I did was hit command c on the website, opened new project in Scrivener, opened a single chapter file, commanded V that whole book into the single chapter and ran it off in compile. Less than a minute for the whole operation.

Later I think I’ll work with it in Scrivener and make it into a more presentable eBook, maybe even give it a cover (for myself, I’m not the bootlegging type) and break it up into chapters. Although that last would require me to read it first.

And, lastly, a little thumbs down to Kindle for not being able to do anything with it that wasn’t from Amazon.


New Acquisitions

Someone please stop me!!

First pick-up was:

I love C.S. Lewis’s work in general and his theological work in particular (although do I prefer Chesterton over Lewis? hmmm). And how can I pass up a book that contains an essay titled “Fern Seeds and Elephants.”

Second Pic was:

This is from 1954 and is pre-Vatican Two. It has some lovely (and some rather homely) art in it and a wealth of information on many things Catholic: stations of the cross, extreme unction, baptism, the thingamabobs that make up a priests “uniform”, etc, etc.

In the Missal (a thing I still find hard to penetrate conceptually) they give you the years 1954 thru 1972 instead of using a generic system by which you identity which of the possible fourteen calendars you are in for any possible year, say 2017? Can you imagine someone throwing this set out and getting a new one in 1973 because they ran out of years?

Ah, and the smell of the set. That old book smell. I don’t know what it is. Do books that come out now end up with that smell? Is it the ink? This is a closed box set so the aging of the pages and ink and binding is somewhat preserved in a hermetical atmosphere and the tones are that much more sweet. You can’t get that out of a digital book. And they will always be at a loss for it.

But it proves a nice thing to begin the day looking them over.

But as it is I am four weeks into N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God and I am only on page 67. My reading slows to an absolute crawl during allergy season and my waking hours are usually less than sleeping hours.

Of course a crawl is about 200 pages a week, but it has been all fiction as I can’t attain the level of focus required for Wright’s subject at this time. I hope the Cottonwood clears up by next week.

Interestingly, my wife has just recently started to suffer from seasonal allergies and she is hating it. “This is what you have been living under all these years?! I feel as if I’m having a stroke!”

Yeah, love, it sucks big time.


Bishop Robert Barron, Popularity, Blog Stats, Father Elijah an Apocalypse

I have noticed that I have provided links to two of Bishop Robert Barron’s articles or videos in the last month or so. I have noticed that those links have not been used. Even when yesterday’s post would have been better understood with the requisite background. I believe that is because most people’s thought nowadays are “Priest? What the hell do they know?”

Hilariously, I have seen this said about love or relationships – what would a priest know about it? After I clean my pants from laughing too hard I would say – a lot than you would think.

Now, the “logical” thing for me to do, given modern ways of thinking, is to look at my stats and say, “hmm, this Barron guy isn’t very popular with my audience such as there may be (Hi Mom!), he will have to go.”

But, unless you are new here, I detest modern ways of thinking. So, I am going to bump up my links, weekly, of related topics Bishop Barron covers. I may even see if I can find an esoteric blogger of Christology.

Heh heh heh, my thinking may seem to not make sense, stand on your head and it will be clearer…

Sometime in the whirlwind that was early last year Mr. Wright at his blog was praising a book he was reading during Lent instead of what he was supposed to be reading for Lent. I have a strange memory where I will remember such a thing as such a post, what was said in it and the comments, and the book author and title.

So, last Thursday I was back at one of my old haunts Half-Priced books in Bellevue WA (East Side!) and came across the title sitting on top of the Hindu section under “religion.”

I am hoping it is a good read and not a Left Behind clone. Not that I’ve read the latter and not that I will – yuck. I think I have read every sort of genre out there except this one. And yes, I have read Westerns. Alright no Romance novels… But what man has?


Bishop Robert Barron and Chuck Jones

Bishop Robert Barron (and I am not sure why I am writing this as I suspect most everyone turn away once encountering the word ‘bishop’ – your loss – writers read the article, I will tie it up nicely to writing) had an excellent article a few weeks ago.

I’m sort of taking it somewhere else.

In it he is talking about the distantiation inherent in the social media age. The habitualized mental experience of basically experiencing reality “once-removed” as experiencing it self-consciously, through the lens of an expected audience – modulated by others. It is basically living the psychology of the class clown.

The article is based on another article written by a modern writer of the social media age who became a mother.

To quote from Barron’s article:

Most millenials never simply had experiences; they were conditioned to record, preserve, and present those experiences to a following who were invited to like what they saw, to comment on it, to respond to it. To be sure, she acknowledges, the social media, at their best, are powerful means of communication and connection, but at their worst, they produce this odd distantiation from life and a preoccupation with the self. Here is how Menkendick puts it: “I’ve come of age as a writer at a time when it is no longer enough just to write. A writer must also promote her work and in the process promote herself as a person of interest…I learned the snarky, casually intellectual voice of feminist and pop culture bloggers, the easy outrage, the clubby camaraderie.”

This, I believe, is why the next generation of writers are going to (to be blunt) suck. They play to an audience. This I think is bad. This is why you get luke-warm Star Wars sequels like The Force Awakens because the writer’s concern is other people’s experiences of the subject matter and not the subject matter itself. They are not immersed in the reality of the material, but in the reality of people’s perceptions.

They are going to suck (as a whole, not each individually) because their whole orientation is non-artistic. Now granted, a writer gets feedback, usually, while writing. But not from every Tom, Dick and Harry out there. A trusted spouse (writers usually come in pairs, or, the other is not a complete tube-zombie) an editor, a writer friend, etc. Not ‘ClenchedBeaver47’ that has ‘hearted’ a few of your FaceBook pics of your dog. Or some random stray anonymous person.

When I was a young teenager I wanted to do either cartooning or animation. I read the autobiography of Chuck Jones (Chuck Jones was the big Warner Brothers cartoon man, he did all the great ones – Rabbit of Seville, etc). The single one thing that stood out to me was the following. He was lamenting the new young writers that sometimes would start at the studios who always seemed obsessed with everyone else thought of their ideas.

I am paraphrasing him here (because it has been over thirty years since I have read the book): “I write for myself. I write what I think is funny. After I write I will see what others think of it, but not before.”

Now the article Barron is referencing is about a woman’s experience as a mother and the contrast to a life on the social media. But, I think the same principle holds true here.

The story is the baby. You must experience it first hand, viscerally. You must jump into the river of life, let it wash over you. You, your anxieties, self-consciousness – they don’t matter. How others will see it, how it will reflect on you (are you trending, baby?) all of that is preoccupation with the self and not reality – reality here being the story.

Because as unintuitive as it may sound (but actually sounds a truism) your story is not about you. It is no more about you than a court case is about the court stenographer who is dictating the proceedings.

I think this applies to almost everything. Say you are in a rock band (am I out dated, are there still rock bands?) you wouldn’t come up with a riff or chord progression, post it on Facebook and then ask, “does this sound too 80’s everybody?” Forget about it. Throw away your guitar and join me in the service industry. You are going to need a lot of alcohol… I’ll train you.


Sologamy

Writers will have to soon break their pens.

At least those that seek to write about our modern world. How can you beat what is real now? Even writers of the weird and fantastic are challenged to come up with stuff more fantastic than comes out of “reality” nowadays!

I may offer further comment on this phenomena later, although it hardly seems necessary!


Zagg Nugent and the Perils of the Multiverse

I was in the first flutters of sleep last night when this phrase ran through my head like an old movie film banner. As usually I told myself I would remember it in the morning. Somehow, this time, I did.


This is Fun

So I’m into the preparatory part of N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. This isn’t a popular presentation but a scholarly one, so you have some thirty or forty pages of groundwork to go through: preliminaries, questions posed, general thesis, approach to objections, parts and chapters described, etc, etc.

But what fun! I know none of this stuff. Almost zero. I mean I have read the Gospels and Acts and pinches of other works (although my reading of the OT is still sparse – I mean come on, I couldn’t get through the leavened bread! what is the big deal about yeast!?). But how the Jews and pagans viewed resurrection in general? I don’t know.

In general, an atheist tends to not pay any attention to anything having to do with religion, or, spends time attacking it while still knowing nothing about it, or, knows something about it and attacks it, or knows about it and doesn’t attack it (that’s a rare specimen). I was the first. I never looked at any of it for the same reason I never sought out a biography on Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny.

It is like joining a murder mystery. But this one is two thousand years old, and, apparently, the victim got up and walked away three days after the event. Beat that Law and Order!


Yet Another Acquisition and Tommyknockers Knockin’ at my Door

This one I had to get because, at the time, it was the only available copy on the internet and I already had number two. You never know if the one on the internet is the first of forty to show up tomorrow or the only one that is going to show up for forty years. So I bit.

I have to put a temporary halt on book buying. I can no longer even pretend that I am keeping up. Hell, last Friday I decided to reread The Tommyknockers by Stephen King on a whim.

Not totally a whim. It is one of my favorites. For one it was the first book I read in my very first place on my own. No television. Just beer and piles of books. And that was when I could read for 6 hours at a spin. Now I have to start fighting a nap within a half hour. That may be because I wear x3 magnification and hold the thing up to my face.

No television, no internet, no computers. Ah, those were the days, brother, those were the days.

Another reason I like it is it is a good story. Stephen King said in an interview it was his least favorite book and he doesn’t remember a lot of the writing. It was at the height of his drinking and cocaine days. And there are places in the book where you think, “ah, man, this was an eight-ball night for him for sure.” By this time he was a lot like Lucas I would imagine – editors as yes-men.

King’s strongest story-telling has always centered around friendship and this one is no exception. That, and the man knows the throws of alcohol abuse – quite intimate on that he is.

Anyway, it is one of my favorite science fiction / horror stories. Those are two genres that haven’t always mixed well, or believably. This one is a gem in my book. Love it. And it’s fast too. There is no hidden symbolism in King’s work, no meta-anything – just straight forward storytelling, contemporary Americana, and some shots of terror.

Hey, I just started a book called The Resurrection of the Son of God – go look up the table of contents. I need some rest after some of my reading!


New Acquisition

I’ve become kind of fascinated with the resurrection subject. Seems the most in-depth book I could come across is NT Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God (it’s a nice 740 pages in length as well!). Of course I should seek a case for the prosecution as well. Having a hard time pinning one of those down. And I have a hard time pinning down mature books on either side of the aisle. Seems all too frequent either one is written with the ease expected of an audience that is already on one side of the argument or the other.

Now a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for me to become interested in such a subject. But since I indulged in a philosophy for years from a woman who claimed to have come up with it in her first memory of herself…well, what’s a little resurrection?