Friday, March 11, 2005

Birthday in Brief and Other Stories

Birthday in Brief

Canon PowerShot S410My wonderful husband made up for last year's birthday faux pas by getting me a new digital camera for my birthday.  He then pretty much monopolized its use all night, but that's okay for the moment.  He was trying to get a decent picture of Stan Ridgway, and so far, John has a much clearer idea of the camera's operation than I have.  That will change, once I have time to mess with it.

Before he gave it to me, we went to dinner at Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse in Trail Dust Town.  This is like a very small theme park, based on a reputed Glenn Ford movie set. There's a chinese laundry set and a gypsy wagon set and a jail set (complete with prisoner mannequin), a gazebo and, well, a lot of gift and candy shops. Trail Dust Town also has a small gauge railroad, and comedy wild west stunt shows and gunfights. This one featured a stuntwoman who reminded John of Sarah Michelle Gellar, and such comedic anachronisms as a sheriff pumping his fist and saying, "Stephen Foster rocks!"

Everyone on the restaurant staff wears cowboy hats, of course. If you wear a tie, they will come and cut it off, probably at gunpoint. There was no such incident while we were there (who wears ties to dinner anymore?), but there was an old dude dressed like a rodeo clown, who made surprisingly impressive balloon animals. 

Stan and the cam. Note the autograph!After dinner, and my inevitable regret that I hadn't brought the Mavica to Trail Dust Town, we stopped at Trader Joe's and then came home briefly.  That's when John gave me the Canon. It was a store's display model, and it needed things to make it work, such as a flash memory card.  So we stopped at Best Buy on our way to Plush for the Stan Ridgway concert.  It being after 2 AM now as I write this (and with me running on empty allweek as it is), you'll have to wait until tomorrow night for my review.

Weekend Assignment:

Weekend Assignment #50: Tell us about an artwork -- painting, sculpture or other visual work -- which had a significant impact on you. Note this doesn't have to be your "favorite" piece of art, or the one you like the most (although it can be, if you want): I'm looking for the work that made you think, or affected you in an unexpected way.

Extra Credit: Assuming money was no object, how much would you spend on a piece of art?

I was going to put this off until tomorrow night, too, but I can't make myself do that.  Can't remember the last time I didn't get it written the first night.  So you get the short version now, the coherent version (if any) later.

I'm not big on the visual arts, generally.  For me, almost everything is either conceptual or auditory.  I don't often notice what things look like, except possibly midcentury modern furniture, or clothing with a 1960s sensibility. But there are exceptions.

When I was a kid, my dad was an Assistant Dean, and then a Dean at Syracuse University.  One thing he did for about a decade was rent the same painting, or possibly print, over and over from Syracuse University Library's art collection, for six months or a year at a time.  I can't tell you the title or the artist, but I did email S.U. today, trying to get the info.  It was a somewhat Picassoesque drawing of three triangle-shaped deer, tying down.  The way the deer-triangles intersected, you have to look closely to see the fawn.  It was as if the abstraction helped the adult deer to conceal their child from predators.

One of Van Gogh's cypress paintingsI loved that painting (or possibly pastel drawing), but there were a few times when it wasn't available.  That's when Dad would rent a Van Gogh print instead.  it was this one, called Cypresses (1889). Van Gogh painted this kind of tree several times, but I remember this specific tree shape, accented by a sky that's reminiscent of Starry Night but lighter.

As peaceful and reassuring as the picture of the three deer was, this nightmare tree had the opposite effect on me.  I was scared of it.  I remember staring at it around 1968 or 1969, while listening to a Laugh-In record. I was about 11 or 12 years old. No matter how much I looked at it, it never got any less disturbing.  (I did, however, fail to realize that the odd shape was partly due to the fact that more than one tree was depicted.)

I was very glad when the nightmare tree went away and the deer returned, to again lie tranquilly in our living room.  I think I would feel a little differently about the Van Gogh now, but I'm not certain of this.

The other piece of visual art that had a major and unexpected effect on me is actually a series of drafts of a drawing I commissioned. Having created to help me promote the books (never mind that they could not yet be purchased!), I needed illustrations of my favorite characters.  I therefore commissioned my friend Sherry Watson, a.k.a. Sherlock, to draw ten of them.

The surprising thing was that even though I had no clear mental image of what my characters looked like, I knew which of Sherlock's drawings looked like my imagined people, and which did not.  Fortunately, Sherlock was very patient with me. Rani in particular went through seven drafts before I was satisfied, excluding the weird edits I attempted on my own.  Here are some of Sherlock's versions:

Rani, take 1 Rani, take 2

Rani, take 5 Rani, take 7
Numbers 5 and 7 were final.  One is Rani at 15, the other Rani at 16.  And now I know exactly what Rani looks like!  As an added bonus, one of the early Ranis, with a little tweaking on my part, became the definitive Josh Wander.  Thanks, Sherlock!

As far as the extra credit goes, I've spent as much as $100 or so on art, even as broke as I am. If I had the money of a Bill Gates or a Paul McCartney, I might be willing to spend a few million on something that really, really mattered to me; but offhand I'd be hard-pressed to say what that might be. I might spend semi-serious money on some art by John Lennon, but it would have to be a piece of his best and least bawdy work. Even then, my interest would spring more from who the artist was than what the drawing looked like.

Paul's Followup Questions & Comments

"Hi Karen,

1) So let me ask you this. Is it out there? Has it been out there in its current form? Will we ever see Mavarin in Borders, or on Amazon?

I assume you mean, is Heirs of Mâvarin in submission anywhere, or has a recent draft been submitted anywhere?  In a word, no.  I think it's been a decade since I last sent it out.  It wasn't bad by then, but it didn't have that final innovation that really made thebook mean something: the development of tengrem psychology. It wasn't until I was writing of Mages of Mâvarin circa 1998-2001 that I learned that Rani isn't a teenaged boy in a tengrem suit. He's a wild animal, whose ability to think like a human being is frequently submerged or overlaid by instinct.

Other than a few copies to friends, I haven't sent out an Heirs manuscript since making this critical revision.  I did send out five queries to agents in October 2003, but none of them asked to see a manuscript.  One informed me that the agency wasn't currently looking at screenplays (huh?  Did you even read my query?), three declined with a more appropriate form letter, and the fifth never responded at all. So my master plan is to
  1. establish enough of an online presence to help drum up interest in my work,
  2. finish the final edit,
  3. write or rewrite a killer query letter
  4. submit it to exacly the right agent and publisher
  5. be very, very happy when it finally sells, and
  6. get Mages ready for submission to my new best friend, the editor at _____ Books.
2) I apologise. Being areligious myself, I must confess to not paying much attention when you have written about your church. I should have made that distinction, and if I had, I would have asked a different question.

It's no big deal, but it does concern me a little that some non-Christians tend to assume that any American who believes in Jesus has approximately the same beliefs about evolution, abortion, gay marriage and other issues as, say, Jerry Falwell or George W. Bush.  T'ain't so.  There's probably no consensus at St. Michael's about abortion or gay marriage, although I've never heard a negative word said about the several gay parishioners whose orientation I happen to know about.  Evolution is another matter. I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone at St. Michael's who believes that Darwin got it wrong.

3) I expected the worst part to be other students :D Were they all mature students, or were you working with other actual college age children?

There were a few people in their twenties in my classes, but most were in their thirties or forties.  A few were older still.

5) OK, I'll bite. Who's 'number one?'

The number one more interesting character in the history of television is The Doctor on Doctor Who.  With over a quarter century of backstory, many different actors to play him, and important new information about his coming to light as late as Season 26 and the TV movie on Fox, there's simply a lot about that character to explore.

Becky, I'll interview you on Saturday if that's okay.  I'll need until then to recharge my mental batteries enough to do it.



deabvt said...

Aww, too bad you didn`t have enough energy for a full entry!    LOL

plittle said...

You're gonna love that Canon camera.

ryanagi said...

I have a Canon PowerShot too! I love my camera. Coooool! Now we can look forward to more and better photos in the journal. Yay! (I'm curious about the deer print you are talking about...I wonder...)

alphawoman1 said...

Happy Birthday...we are both Pisces!

jeff466 said...

Happy Birthday :)  I'm jealous of the camera!  Jeff

cste609371 said...