Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yellow Bird: The Dance of the Cub Scouts

Last night a couple more boys joined the Wolf Den. We made American flag neckerchief slides and learned to fold the American flag. Some of the early arriving boys learned to play Mancala, which I may end up addicted to if I'm not careful.

In addition to our flag studies I am also working with the boys to earn the Languages and Culture belt loops which requires them to play two games from other cultures. Last week we played Cat in the Corner from Norway. This week, in addition to Mancala (Middle East) we learned to Limbo. The game is from the Caribbean. Instead of the annoying Limbo Rock I used the Haitian song Yellow Bird played on Jamaican steel drums. I had no idea that a dozen 2nd graders would get so into it. They were dancing and partying like crazy and actually got very low.

I am excited about the next year of Cub Scouts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hiking, Tug of War, and an Evening Under the Stars

Today has been nice and warm. I know how rare it is to have such a long streak of warm weather here and I'm enjoying every bit of it.

Yesterday Caleb went to a friend's birthday party and I went to Forest Park in Everett to help the Cub Scouts with an event. We walked through the trails looking at nature, played tug-of-war, and played a huge game of amoeba tag. I think we had 18 Scouts plus 3 or 4 siblings. A good time was had by all and we got free ice cream at the end because a business meeting in the park had extras they donated to us. :D

While the men folk were out of the house Jill did a bunch of heavy transplanting around the yard followed by a well deserved super hot bath.

It is almost midnight but I think I'm going to go sit outside for a while and enjoy the night.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Looking Back (art heavy)

I'm starting a new artistic journey and it is sometimes enlightening to take a look back at where one has been before moving forward. I spent part of the day looking over old drawings going back to before I can remember. This creates a timeline of my artistic ability.

The first time I remember ever sitting down with the intention of drawing was in 4th grade. Our family had moved back to Riverside, California which back in the late 1970s I believed was a dust filled dive with dead eyed teachers and a growing gang problem. This was the school where I was chased by Mexican 6th graders who spoke only a tiny amount of English and whose favorite game was to pick on the pasty, short white kid from Washington. They called me many bad words plus "homo." I didn't fully understand that one. I had no idea what a homosexual was but the cap on the top of the milk jug at home had the word on it (short for homogenized). I figured it was a racist term for white people. I remember they chased me one recess with the intention of pain obvious. I was so scared I peed myself and didn't care. As long as I could keep running. A 6th grade girl came to my defense and helped me get to the office without anyone seeing my wet pants.

I was alone, in a place I was afraid of everything and everyone. I had no friends but I discovered a Big Chief Tablet of paper and began to draw. I must have seen Star Trek at some point but at the time I wasn't aware of it. The similarities are too close for coincidence though. I created a ship and crew and a fighter and ran stories over and over in my head. Their world was relatively safe. They had an accountant on board! Interesting that decades later I would marry one. Read into that what you will.

I filled books with drawings. Unfortunately they were likely tossed out when we moved back to Anacortes half way through the school year. I continued to draw, mostly cartoons and superheroes. I won a contest in 6th grade and my drawing of the superhero Atom Ant's lair was hung up on the Anacortes Post Office's wall for all the world to see. That same year my drawing of a Smurf talking to an ant was put on the regional TV show "Captain Seatac" which made me a local celebrity at Mt. Erie Elementary. They pulled me out of class to tell me the good news. I didn't draw for years after that though. I don't really know why.

My next obsession was superheroes. I wasn't interested in drawing established heroes but I created dozens of my own. It was at this point, probably early in my high school career that I realized I wasn't very good. I tried and I enjoyed the effort but my skills were very low. I recruited my few friends who could draw better than I to draw my heroes in an attempt to get them on paper the way I saw them in my head. Looking back on high school I was bullied every day. One guy teased me every time he saw me and even slammed a locker door on my head (although I don't know if he was trying to hurt me or scare me.) I was roughed up often and it was during that time I turned back to art, just like in 4th Grade.

It was the year after I graduated from high school. I had an internship with the drama/typing/civics teacher, Mr. Russell at the high school. I was given the job of running the sound station at the model United Nations. My friend Brian and I began passing notes back and forth between he and the audio desk we named "Audio Land." A bevy of heroes and villains were created in an afternoon and that night I went home and drew 17 pages of comic book goodness called the "Heroes of Audio Land." The drawing was atrocious but for the first time I felt like I had created something that was worth reading. A second, longer issue came out the following year. Then I went away to college.

At Whitworth College I gave up superheroes. For the most part I gave up on art. My junior year there I discovered drawing with a simple black pen and I began to draw animals from photo and life references. I still think they were the best things I have ever drawn. I was also falling into old patterns. I was my dorm's chaplain and I had enemies. The guys who lived next door to me that I busted for pot. My own roommate that trashed my side of the room and filled a 30 gallon trash can with beer bottles while I was home for Thanksgiving break. The person who began pulling dangerous and destructive "pranks" on me. The anonymous person who wrote me a note threatening to cut off my testicles if I didn't move out of the dorm. At the same time I was wrapping myself in the blanket of art.

After college I lost my muse. I was married and happy and no longer threatened. I tried to draw many times over the years but I couldn't regain the level of perceived quality that I had in college. It wasn't until 2009 when I found artist trading cards that some spark to create returned. I created nearly a hundred cards, some okay, some terrible. A very few with sparks of what I really want out of my drawings.

Now 3 1/2 years later I am tired of fighting to draw. I am tired of feeling that I can only draw inspiration when I am feeling threatened somehow. I am tired of drawing at the micro level. I want to create something large that I would not be ashamed to hang on my wall. I am not looking for money. I'm not foolish enough to believe people would want to buy what I am selling: at least not yet. I want to create art. So in September I will sit down and create. I will embrace my past but rise above it and finally prove to myself that I can do it. Or I will fail. I am good about driving myself to failure with my foot on the accelerator. I need to succeed though. I need to prove to a terrified 4th grade kid hiding his wet lap under a pile of sand on the playground that something good came from it all.

Separation of Church and Mind

I am not a great scholar and many elements of human interaction seem odd and counter-intuitive to me. Religion I understand at its most basic level. Where I fall off the train of understanding is when a person claims to be religious but acts in ways that are counter to their religious beliefs and even in ways that are considered mortal sins.

Catholic priests commit horrible acts of child rape and yet are encouraged by their church with a system of cover ups and transfers that allow the behavior to continue. Catholic dogma teaches that it is wrong on many levels; pedophilia, sodomy, deceit, priests having sexual relations of any kind. But there is justification of it and an institutional acceptance that nearly brought the church to its knees, and not in prayer.

I don't understand how Islam can teach that an insult to Mohammed is a justification for murdering people who did not insult that prophet. Recently an individual American made a film slamming Mohammed. In response 4 members of the American embassy in Libya, including the ambassador, were murdered. Another embassy in Yemen was attacked. I don't really understand Islam on a lot of levels but it would seem to me logical that if someone committed what the religion considers a crime that person should be punished. How people unrelated to that crime can be murdered in his place is beyond me.

Perhaps it is simply that religion does not require reason for acceptance. Religions encourage people to turn off their minds to what their observational senses tell them. Dinosaurs could not have existed because they are not described in Genesis and a monk said the world was only 6,000 years old. We are told to ignore the fossils we dig up. I was actually told by a pastor growing up that there were put there by God to test our faith.

That example of the separation of church and mind may seem extreme (although true) but the same fight goes on about evolution. We an see plants and animals evolve before our very eyes. We see them adapting to their environment and becoming new forms of plants and animals. Yet Christianity will often deny what our eyes, what our science teaches us.

We are taught from a young age to shut off our mind and accept what is being taught without question. And we do. Perhaps if we accept shutting off our minds for the acceptance of faith we allow ourselves the freedom to to shut off our minds to the actual teachings of the faith when it is convenient.

Or maybe it is not so much shutting off the mind as compartmentalizing it. Church stuff is here and real life is here and never the two shall meet. "I believe for the benefit of all mankind in the total separation of church and mind," as Steve Taylor so sarcastically put it (see video below). When we step into the church side of our mind we can shut all that pesky real world stuff out and be devout and sincere. When we want to do something that our religion would frown on we can ignore the Church compartment. After all, God forgives everything anyway, right?

How all of this applies to Catholic pedophiles and Muslim murderers I don't know. I think I'm going to put it all in a compartment in my mind and shut if off for a while. Dwelling on this has given me a headache.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Today I start my drawing process to create a larger work of art. I've been working with baseball card sized art so long I'm feeling cramped by it. So in September I need to make something at least 11x17 inches.

The process is going to start with material selection and some sketches to see what I want to create.

One of my big artistic inspirations has been Laurie Meynig. We have traded a lot of art cards over the years and I've enjoyed watching her art from from great to fantastic. She has been filming her artistic process on youtube and it has been a great kick in the pants for me.

She also sells her art at her etsy shop.

In other news I had a long talk with the District Scout Executive today and got a lot of things worked out with some of the recruitment issues I've been having. He was very impressed how many kids we have signing up. :D

Art Card of the Day

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recruitment and the Empty House

I am the membership chair of our Cub Scout pack. It is my job to organize a membership drive every year, coordinate with the new parents, and make sure everything goes smoothly as we welcome a new batch of Cub Scouts.

Today was Caleb's school open house. The pack had a table outside with flyers and a place for people to sign up for more information. In less than 2 hours we had 27 families signed up for more information. If each joined and only had one boy it would almost double our pack size. We have about 35 boys now. I know several of the families have 2 boys. This is going to be a very interesting year. I predict that many will join but not all, and we will be happily popping at the seams.

I am excited for the new Cub Scouting year. I'm also excited because tomorrow is the first day of school for Caleb. He is in second grade. I know he will have a good time but I am going to have the joyful silence that can only come from an empty house. I am looking forward to not having the sounds of Caleb and his friends. I look forward to finding the time I need to list the growing mountain of things I have to sell on eBay. I look forward blissfully creating art.

Art Card of the Day