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The Bookshelf

Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1252 days, 3 hours, 29 minutes, 35 seconds ago

What Blog Is This?

So… I have been at this weblog thing for over a year now, and I am still struggling with getting-started issues.  This site has never, ever been fully fleshed out.  Here on the longest ‘step 1’ ever, I can only claim to have figured out what this blog is not.  For example, this blog is not:

  1. a political blog.  Sad to say.  I started this thing as the ’07 presidential primaries were heating up, and I do have strong feelings in regards to social and political and even theological issues.  However, a) there are more informed and committed professionals already airing opinions on all topics political.  My screeds have never added anything new to the discussion, and b) now I am finding myself disillusioned with the whole affair.  Money, and the power it generates, has corrupted everything.  No one is immune.  The political discussion in the U.S. is dumbed-down and exhausting.  Basically, I’m leaving the battle against that to others. 
  2. a health/fitness log.  I do need some method of holding myself accountable for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but this is not the place.  Perhaps my wife’s new Wii Fit will serve that purpose.  But sharing my weight and exercise habits (or lack thereof) with the rest of the known universe isn’t so much motivating as it is really, really depressing.
  3. a productivity blog.  There are several outstanding bloggers that do this very well.  They inspire me to adopt their practices as my own.  If something comes along that I find especially useful, I will certainly share it… but I will largely leave it to the innovators and be content to watch from the electronic sidelines.
  4. a ‘thought dump.’  Let me say:  I really love facebook.  It is perfect for posting silly rants, overly strong opinions and other miscellany.  I like sharing those odd pieces of myself with my 300+ internet "friends."  It is a marvel.  So I will let facebook be facebook.  Everything in its place.  The overarching theme that is emerging is:  not here

My website needs to be, and will be, a place for me to express myself creatively.  the "artist"

My blog is a journal of personal creativity.  Where fitness, politics, religion, family life, GTD mentality and internet functions intersect with that creativity, they will occasionally show up here.  But, largely, this blog will return to its original purpose at its inception: to chronicle what Barton Fink called "the life of a mind."  My ideas regarding what direction my writing or photography will take, or decisions to dabble in other creative pursuits (God help me if I decide to try to paint something again), will be fleshed out here in hopes of highlighting my personal creative processes.  Whether that will be useful to anyone is beside the point.  Making my blog about something is the main objective here.

My daily snapshots will remain in some form or fashion.  The act of cataloging each day that passes has truly served to make me more mindful and reverent of the passage of time.  Where keeping a diary or attempting to write one blog post per day might often be overwhelming and sometimes (during tax season, perhaps) impossible, snapping a picture with my mobile phone and taking half a minute to post it on the internet serves just as well as a method of rendering each day unique. 

My photography will continue to be featured here.  Hopefully I will begin to work with specific projects in mind rather than just taking and posting unrelated pictures at random.  The key seems to be finding the right mixture of constraint and freedom.

Additionally, it is my intention to devote much more screen time to my writing – both in poetry and prose.  Look.  This will not always be good, but I intend to try and craft my words and publish only those works that are complete and deemed ‘worthy’ (by me).  There will be branches leaping off of my home page that will link to each of these projects.

So:  the blog and the mobile snapshots will represent the process, while the photographs and writings will represent the product.  Process and product.  Anything that lies outside of those categories is as of this moment disallowed.

Meanwhile, I am giving myself until the 12:01 AM on January 1, 2010 to get this website and all its pieces in the form it will be in for the remainder of the year.  I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down with the intent of writing something and ended up just tinkering with the right way to feed my blog posts to twitter or display a specific font in my page menu.  I am not a web designer, nor do I want to be.  So, if you log on New Year’s Day, you will see this site in its official 2010 layout.  Any further changes will be miniscule or will be placed on the back burner until 2011.  2010 is about creating art, not about creating a web space to display that art. 

Now if you will excuse me, I have approximately a day and a half to whip  into shape.  Adieu!

Report Card (14-20 Dec ’09)

weight: 140.6
exercise: 0
blogs written: 0
photographs edited & posted: 0
books read:
The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh (see below)
my wife’s deathtrap car: someone else’s problem now

It is becoming fairly obvious that this web space will likely remain on autopilot for the remainder of 2009.  The only way I can be at peace with that fact is if I look forward to developing new ways to stay consistently productive throughout 2010.  That is the new goal.  One of my ideas is to restructure the grammaticaster site in such a way that will feature each of my distinct creative interests – wherein this blog will be just one of four or more individual sections (the others being, tentatively: photography, poetry and the daily snapshots) – and will present each focus area in an appropriate and intellectually stimulating manner.  Right now I am stuck on designing a flash menu for the front page.  Perhaps having a few days off around Christmas will give me more time to devote to the project.  My goal as of this moment is to go live with the new design on 1/1/2010.  Stay tuned.

This week’s evenings were spent reading Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Miracle of Mindfulness – the translation of a letter written in exile to his fellow Vietnamese social workers and Buddhists in 1974.  It is a short work, but one that begs to be absorbed slowly and deliberately.  If only I could put into practice the ideals Hanh so elegantly lays out in this beautiful text, I am certain I would find my life happier and more peaceful… and perhaps impart some peace and happiness to those whose lives my life touches as well.  An excerpt:

I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth.  In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality.  People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes.  All is a miracle.

Tonight I tried sitting in the lotus position and almost shattered both my knees.

Finally, in the spirit of the holidays, I present a Christmas classic:  ‘O Holy Night’.  I must here give due credit to my father-in-law, who first shared it with my wife who then shared it with me.  I will never hear this song the same way again.  I am, as it were, forever changed.  Listen:

O Holy Night

Report Card (7-13 Dec ’09)

weight: 138.4
exercise: 0
blogs written: 0
photographs edited & posted: 0
books read: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (witty, graceful, sad… plot wasn’t what I expected)
my dad: awesome

The NaNoWriMo’s effect on my creativity was completely opposite from what I had envisioned.  It sucked me dry (not in that good way).  It is as if I got so bored with writing during the month of November that now I am finding it difficult to jump start that creative engine again.  I am currently engaged in an extended, yet mild, brainstorming session to try to make these activities fun or exciting or fulfilling.  Otherwise, what is the point?  I think I need some additional constraints: a project or series of projects that would incorporate or at least intentionally stimulate both the literary and visual aspects of my artistic self.  I’ll keep you posted on what I come up with.

Report Card (30 Nov – 6 Dec ’09)

weight: 142.8
    200 pushups
    75 sit-ups
books read: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (stunning… beautiful… highly recommended!)
blogs written: 0
photographs edited & posted: 0

christmas presents purchased: 0
pig slaughters I can feel directly responsible for: 1

Hambone, hambone.  Have you heard?  The Crimson Tide is heading to Pasadena, CA to play for its 13th national championship.  Here are three early observations: 1)  while it was satisfying to watch Tim Tebow get knocked down to earth, it wasn’t really necessary to keep showing him crying on the sidelines.  He’s been humbled.  Let’s move on.  2)  there will be hype… do not buy in to it.  The Longhorn team we saw against Nebraska last night will most certainly NOT be the Longhorn team we play at the Rose Bowl.  This is a tough team with tremendous athletes on both sides of the ball – especially at quarterback and receiver.  3)  that being said, I wouldn’t wait until the last minute to start tidying up Coach Saban’s spot on Bryant-Denny’s walk of champions.  Roll Tide Roll!!!

photo by John Bazemore/APSpeaking of hambones, this week I discovered that a small Honeybaked Ham will feed two people for a week – without getting boring!  I bought it on my Monday lunch break.  We rotated different vegetable side dishes for the first three nights: turnip greens, corn, field peas, etcetera.  On Thursday we made ham sandwiches with french fries on the side.  Friday I cut off the rest of the meat and made an always-awesome ham bone soup.  That was more than enough meal for Friday night and Saturday’s lunch and dinner.  Hooray for ham. 

I also didn’t eat as many obviously bad-for-me things this week.  As you can see, that plus the pathetic amount of exercising I have done was enough to stop the ballooning but not enough to reduce any of my extra winter bulk.  It looks like I will need to go to the gym for that.  Good thing we pay for that membership every month!