Thursday, June 28, 2007

Feeding The Addiction

My tastes have always leaned toward a fondness for things which are a bit dark, humorous, and abstract or absurd. I recently purchased a used copy of Amphigorey Again by the late, great author Edward Gorey. This is the most recent (ostensibly last?) compilation of his short stories and drawings including projects completed shortly before his death. I was first introduced to his work just over half a decade ago when my good friend Pasha allowed me to peruse his copy of Amphigorey, the first major anthology of Mr. Gorey's best work. I was later furnished with a copy of my own when Pasha saw how much I loved it.

Over the next few years I obtained
Amphigorey Too and Amphigorey Also as well as a few pamphlet-size stories that friends had found for me at flea markets. With all of these in my collection, I have almost all of his works, save for a few rare stories which were not widely circulated and are most likely sitting in the possession of ultra hardcore collectors. This is significant because of all authors, musicians and artists out there, very few human beings actually fascinate me enough to have me authoritatively delving into their works. For those who are not familiar with the stories of Edward Gorey, this comic that I found via google: [ (first page) and (second page) ] accurately mirrors my fascination while neatly summing up many common Goreyan themes. He could aptly be described as a fusion of Dr. Seuss, William Shakespeare, Monty Python, Jane Austen, and The Addams Family.

I think I enjoy his style because he never ceases to play mind games... inserting obsessive and seemingly pertinent details into his stories; the details will appear to be driving you in a specific direction, toward some sort of conclusion or a connection with part of the story... in fact your brain is working overtime to make that connection, then nothing happens. The details open the door of the car you are in, kick you out into an empty space, then drive away madly laughing and shouting "You'll never catch meeeee....!!!" It is as if the author is thumbing his nose at you and laughing like a good-natured trickster. He is also fond of deep, flowery literary prose, yet he injects it with random nonsense words which sound like they should be real, or he uses really fancy words and foreign languages to describe something completely ridiculous or mundane. His illustrations are often dark, yet finely detailed, heavily laden with a bleak Dickensian/Edwardian style and they share many seemingly related objects, in what is yet another example of the author's abstract sense of humor... tricking you yet again into assigning significance where there is none. Despite all this, his work does occasionally carry a very well-articulated point, but he really makes you work for it.

He also seems to delight in making fun of lofty, pretentious literary themes, brutally flouting conventional story structure and ruffling the feathers of anyone who takes themselves or the world of literature too seriously. There is also the appearance of occasional, thinly veiled crass undertones, phallic references, and perverse subject matter passed off as being innocently unintended.

If you are some sort of neo-dadaist, a fan of madcap British comedy, or just plain have an appreciation for excessive nonsense then I would heavily encourage you to read any or all of the works of Edward Gorey.

Edward Gorey

...and speaking of Edward Gorey, Nicholas Gurewitch, creator of one of my favorite web comics: Perry Bible Fellowship (don't let the name fool you, it is not a religious comic), penned a strip that could be an Edward Gorey tribute. He hit the drawing style spot-on... when I first saw it, I thought that it was something he had scanned out of one Gorey's published books.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weasely War Dance

A new friend recently e-mailed me and when I replied, I forgot that I still have my sender I.D. filled in as 'Dances With Ferrets'. She sent a reply asking what the name meant. It is a cute story, so I'm reposting my response to her query here:

It is a humorous modification of the title of the movie 'Dances With Wolves' early-90s movie starring Kevin Costner... there is information about it here if you are curious: . Costner's character receives the name after some of the local indians whom he befriended observed him playing a sort of tagging and wrestling game with some
wolves whom he had tamed.

I used to have a couple of pet ferrets and when one is teasing them with a toy (much as you would with a cat), it gets them all wound up and they do a sort of signature energetic sideways 'waltz' that some refer to as the 'weasely war dance'. Anyhow, to make a long story short, it was a name that I got dubbed with back in the early 90s because I had pet ferrets and I would frequently play with them, getting them all wound up and bouncing around... we would take turns chasing each other. One of my siblings (my older sister I think) jokingly called me 'Dances With Ferrets' and the nick-name stuck for a little while.

So I just found a video on YouTube for any of you who are keen to see what the classic 'weasely war dance' looks like. Just plain cute!

Oh, and here's another video that I think captures the typical ferret personality to a T.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Just A Thought

At meeting today, a man spoke of intentions... how they relate to the outcome of many of our decisions. It brought me into contemplation about the base reasoning of our intentions and how the course my own life has snaked back and forth between two well-defined and diametrically opposite types of intention. In retrospect I have been made to realize that most every decision I have made which resulted in ultimately negative consequences... was based in an intention rooted in the pursuit of self and ego, and on the other end of the spectrum almost every decision which resulted in an improvement of self, a building of maturity and character, and a general richness of existence... all of these were based in an intention to pursue That which is Truth and the purest form of Love. I won't expound on this any further, it speaks for itself and reminds me of where my energy needs to be focused.

I am still wrangling the raging ego but getting better at cutting off it's supply of energy and causing it to retreat back into the darkness where it belongs.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thoughts on Creativity & Random Hike Pics

(A couple of excerpts from Quaker Faith & Practice which I've found pertinent to the theme of some of my recent contemplations):

21.37: 'What's that on the shelf?' my artistic friend asked. 'A turbine blade. I designed it', I replied proudly. 'Oh', she said. Visiting three weeks later she asked, 'Why is that still there?' 'Because I think it's beautiful.' 'Oh', she said. My friend enthused over the beauty of a cathedral, a Rembrandt, a Turner, a sonnet. I find none in a cathedral, little in Rembrandt or poetry, a lot in a Turner. I find great beauty in Concorde, a Norton, a modern suspension bridge, in calculus and a good computer program - especially if I have written it! She little or none. I thrill to the sound of a racing car, the sight and smell of a machine shop, the noise and balletic movement of men and machine shaping white hot steel in a forge - and in my turbine blade. She does not. We could both be moved to tears by mountains, Beethoven, Britten, clouds ... and by friendship.

Graham Clarke, 1994

21.27: A sudden concentration of attention on a rainy August morning. Clusters of bright red berries, some wrinkled, some blemished, others perfect, hanging among green leaves. The experience could not have lasted more than a few seconds, but that was a moment out of time. I was caught up in what I saw: I became a part of it: the berries, the leaves, the raindrops and I, we were all of a piece. A moment of beauty and harmony and meaning. A moment of understanding.

Ralph Hetherington, 1975

I've been thinking a lot about creativity and what classifies as art lately... feeling slightly off because I haven't really done anything intensely creative for a few years. I used to constantly crank out cool woodworking projects, sewing projects, well-manicured flowerbeds, and the list goes on... and my life blew up, leaving me feeling empty and utterly uninspired. I am trying to get back into being creative/productive, but my artistic muse has been moving at a snail's pace. Still, photography fulfills me to some degree, even if it isn't all that professionally rendered. I've also been feeling a deeper level of appreciation for the joy and meaning in other people's art instead of only attaining a measure of fulfillment through creating my own... it seems emotionally and mentally onanistic if one derives pleasure only from their own creations.

And speaking of art, I always find it fascinating when one creates something cute or functional or both... and leaves it out in the middle of nowhere, ostensibly for the enjoyment and curiosity of anybody who walks by. On a hike recently I was surprised to see this ingenious little model mill set up on the edge of a hiking trail way outside of town. The wheel actually turns and whoever set it up has a lovely mind: creating it out of odd scraps of lumber and a wire spool... sluicing the stream so that it actually turns the wheel.

Within a stone's throw of the mill, somebody planted a non-native variety of Columbine ('Purple Magpie' I think, somewhat common in partial shade gardens).

Several pics of an unidentified species of flower that I've only seen twice in my entire life, both times growing in obscure places in the woods. It appears to be a member of the Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) family.
Update: OK, I was close, according to a gentleman from the NH Bureau of Natural Heritage, it is in the same general family of plants which includes dicentras and goes by the name pink corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens).

Moose tracks: judging by the size, probably female and judging by the much smaller, identical tracks accompanying these ones, she probably had a calf with her.

Old stone cabin foundation on the side of the trail

Finally, a picture of the real cat-hole warming hut on Green Mountain

Well-appointed accommodations for the weary hiker/snowmobiler/nomadic hermit

Eh, I think I'm gonna stick to using a tent. I'd be paranoid of catching some sort of parasite from the mattresses, hehe.

A view of my town from on top of Green Mountain, click for a better view

View of Mt. Ascutney (see last post) from the top of Green Mountain

A cathedral of young beech trees over the trail. This would be one of the purest forms of art in my mind.