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Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Live with a Dog

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You will never find anyone more good-hearted than a dog person. Among these, you’ll also find the most well-meaning, unsolicited-advice-giving people on the planet.  And they have RULES – such rules!  I used to think the fastest way to rain hellfire on oneself was to admit formula-feeding one’s infant. Now I know it’s to confess to the “wrong” kind of dog training philosophy on Facebook. (Truth: Cesar Milan can divide a room of dog lovers like nobody's biz.)

With that said, I offer my advice about living with dogs.

A dog comes into your world with certain habits and proclivities, and over time begins to shape himself to his environment. He learns the vibe of household, and starts to notice routines. He trains you a bit. But you do most of the training by discovering what flavors of happiness persuade him to your idea of his most civilized best. You also find out what kind of discipline allows him to hear “no” so he can feel certainty about your rules.

The relationship gradually mellows like a nice red wine set out to breathe. But no one’s perfect. So you love each other. You overlook each other’s faults. (The dog has the bigger job there, you know.) Play and be joyful with your dog. Be ethical and kind in regard to your beast, and also be the grownup. 

Things will be just fine.  Or better.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

This little man ...

I met Hooper an and art and antiques store in Cleveland. He was so friendly, waddling up to greet me when I arried, and soft as a 6-month-old puppy, that I absolutely had to draw him. Hooper is actually 8. But he has a young spirit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Farm Animals and a Great Quote

Above are the farm animals. What a nice day I had.

Here's the quote, which has nothing to do with my day, except I read the quote today. But I just loved it so much I had to memorialize it here:

From James Parker, writing in the New York Times Book Review:
"From my fellow bakers, those yeasty intellectuals, I learned about industry and cohesion and the moral obligation to be cheerful. The last lesson was the most important, and extended out of the bakery and into life. If you’re depressed, maimed, crocked in some way, fair enough — let us know. But if not, then in the name of humanity stop moaning. Keep a lightness about you, a readiness. Preserve the digestions of your co-workers; spare them your mutterings and vibings. It’s highly nonliterary, but there we are: Be nice."

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Museum: Are You Doing It Wrong?

A concert took me to the Cleveland Museum of Art last Sunday. Work-related. An 11-year-old piano prodigy would be performing Haydn and Chopin and Rachmaninoff with skill that was several hundred times what I was able to master in like 11 years of piano lessons way back when.

But never mind. This is not about the freakish miracle of the prodigy. We will leave that for another time (though if it doesn't make you wonder about God, I don't just don't know about you).

Before the concert, I went to the museum early so I could draw a bit. I went immediately to the Buddhism space on the second floor -- drawn, I think, by the prospect of all those big statues and faces. There are wonderful watercolor book illustrations, too, but this (see above) is what I wanted.

There happened to be a bench where I could rest myself and cross my legs and splay my book and uncap my pen. And then I contemplated the head of the Boddhisattva for a while, as well as the woman who took her time really appreciating all the stuff in the case.

Most of us grow up learning that a museum is like a magazine -- something to flip through, to scan to completion. But if you have something like the Cleveland Museum of Art nearby, or even just a modest little place with a few interesting objects, the best thing you can do for yourself is visit often and spend a little time with just a Thing or Two. Get to know it. (Draw it if you like, or not -- if the guards don't yell at you to stop.)

In art school, they teach that the first layer of getting to know a piece of art is just to describe it to yourself as literally as possible. The terracotta godhead is massive, with flat, slanted eyes and a head dress that maybe looks like something a wealthy person might've worn, or maybe not. The left ear is broken off. The nose has crumbled away. The expression is serene. Et cetera.

If that's all you were to do, just contemplate what you see, you would bridge the gap between the person or persons who made the work way long ago and yourself, standing there with this object in 2014. It's not the magazine-flippage experience of the museum. For that, we have magazines.

For the sublime, we have this work of art.