Thursday, April 23, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #20: Something About Turning the Self-Deprecation Down a Notch

I should probably make this New Year's Resolutions 20 through 23. There's so much here that it probably deserves to be counted as at least four separate Resolutions. However, I'm going to just combine it all into one big one, so as not to unreasonably inflate my count.

My great tragic secret (which I've never really kept secret at all) is that for the last 20 years I have thought of myself as ugly, stupid, boring, undeserving of praise, and generally unworthy of love. Think of Stuart Smalley's Daily Affirmations and turn them on their head. That's essentially been my internal monologue for the last two decades. [I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. And gosh darn it, there's no conceivable reason why people should like me.]

I am constantly astonished that my darling wife ever fell for me, let alone that every day she's still here, still in love with me. This I have never been able to comprehend. Why me?

Well, 20 years is probably enough.

Being so down on one's place in the world does, I think, tend to skew one's world view, probably in a not-so-healthy way. For one thing, it tends to stifle ambition. Besides that, it probably has some significant social consequences. (When one assumes that others would not want to befriend someone as lowly as I have considered myself to be, that probably becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Somehow, I have managed to make some wonderful friends over the years, but this was probably despite myself.)

My twentieth New Year's Resolution of 02009 involves trying to work on my attitude towards myself.

I resolve to...
  • try to keep in mind that I am probably not always the ugliest guy in the room.

  • try to remind myself that the IQ tests and SAT scores and school grades, while no guarantee, have been consistently high enough that "stupid" very likely does not truly apply.

  • try to be encouraged (by the friends I have and by Beth's persistence in sticking around) that I may not be as boring as I have for so long believed. Perhaps there is something interesting about me after all.

  • try to be less dismissive of compliments; try to accept them at face value as being sincere instead of questioning the motives behind them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #19: Be More Prepared

I was driving home today after visiting Beth on her lunch break, when suddenly I saw this bird flying out there ahead of me. It was a jet black bird with an alarming red spot. My first thought was "red winged black bird". I was then immediately and simultaneously struck by two adjustments: 1) Way too big! and 2) The red spot is in the wrong place.

Soon I realised that I was behind a spectacular woodpecker. The red spot was its head. Before I overtook it, it veered to the left and perched on the side of a tree. There was my confirmation: A gorgeous woodpecker, indeed!

Alas, I did not have my camera with me.

So, when I arrived home, I grabbed my tripod and my camera, which already had my longest lens on it, and I drove back out in hopes of getting a shot of the bird. I parked about 1/8 mile down the road and started walking back to where the bird had landed. The bird was gone, of course.

I stood around for a little while and listened for the telltale pecking. I heard it off in the woods, and I started heading in that general direction. But I soon realised that the sound was coming from farther away than I was really prepared to go. I stood there in the woods for a while, listening and observing, hoping that the bird might come closer. No luck there, but I did spot something in the woods that I thought would make an interesting composition. So I set up my tripod, focused the lens, turned the camera on and went to take the shot. It was then that I remembered that my battery was cradled in its charger, safely back at home. "Curses! Foiled again!"

Well, this leads to my nineteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to try to be better prepared for spontaneity!

That's it. Pretty simple. Sorry if you were hoping for something more substantial.

In the meantime, here are a couple of recent photos. I've mostly been posting photos recently to Facebook. These have already appeared there. But I understand that not all of my readers are on Facebook, so I'm posting these for those. Enjoy!

Flowers, Flower, Lupine, Purple, Nature

Flowers, Flower, Lupine, Purple, Nature

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Dragon, Dragons

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Carousel, Horse, Horses, Carousel Horses

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Bee, Peace

Carnival, Ride, Fair, Bee, Peace, Jail, Imprisonment, Prisoner

Beaver, Tail, Fur, Nature

Saturday, April 18, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #18: Cogito Ergo Possum, But Accept That I Probably Won't

A longtime friend (who also recently said something that made me think that "longtime friend" is sometimes more politic than "old friend") recently reminded me of an idea that has been amusing me (in a low simmer sort of way) for the last couple of years: Cogito ergo possum.

I'm sure my dear readers are all familiar with Descartes' famous assertion: Cogito ergo sum. (I think; therefore I am.) Likewise, I'm sure that most of you are familiar with Watty Piper's The Little Engine Who Could, who famously asserted, "I think I can."

By mixing the two together, I came up with the following hybrid: Cogito ergo possum. [Note: I'm not fluent in Latin and I am not a qualified translator. But I managed to cobble this together, and I don't think it's ineptly worded.] The resulting phrase translates to: "I think; therefore I can."

Searching the internet, I quickly learned that I was not the first to devise the phrase. In fact, it has been cleverly and humorously translated as "I think; therefore I play dead." (Which I think is genius!) Turns out that Cogito ergo possum is also apparently the motto of Walt Kelly's Pogo.

(I haven't yet taken the time to seek evidence of this in the volumes of Pogo strips that are on the bookcase next to our front door. But I intend to. If I can find said evidence, I'll probably post a scan of the appropriate frame. Walt Kelly was a genius and it seems to me that if I can play some small part in spreading his gospel, that would be a noble act.)

Anyway, Cogito ergo possum is sort of a reasonable credo for my interior mental life. It suggests a kind of belief in the power of thought: If one can think it, then doing it becomes a mere matter of will overcoming sloth. If you accept this idea and embrace it, there comes a certain confidence in your capacity for achieving something important. That's a nice idea. Frankly, it's sort of intoxicating in its ego-boosting capacity.

The problem with me is that while I possess this knowledge and am confident in my own thought processes, I am extremely bad about actually translating the thought into action. That is, my sloth generally overcomes my will.

So I have lots of bright ideas kicking around in my head. But rarely do I make any real effort at turning them into anything tangible. My habit has long been to jealously guard my bright ideas and to keep them secret. This is a bad habit! But until very recently I had not really recognised what a bad habit it is.

This has something to do with intellectual property rights, which I am a big fan of. I like the idea that inventors should be able to profit from their inventions. I believe that theft of intellectual property is every bit as wrong as theft of physical property. However, I must admit that I am unlikely to ever get around to dealing with most of my bright ideas. If I won't see them to fruition, and if I also keep them all as secrets, not only do I not benefit from them but neither does anyone else. That's where the bad habit comes in.

If, for example, I am not ever going to perform the world's first meaningful time travel experiment (and surely I am not), is there some good reason why I shouldn't at least toss the experiment's design out there in case it might inspire someone else to actually perform the experiment? Of course not! There's really no benefit to myself or to anyone else or to society at large if I keep the experiment's design a secret. But if I set it free, there's some slight chance that someone less slothful than myself might take up the baton and run with it. Where's the harm in that?

So, having achieved this new wisdom, I hereby make my eighteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to not be so senselessly protective of my bright ideas.

I will be less apt to keep them from public scrutiny, finally acknowledging that there is more value in the potential of inspiring others than there is in the smugness of knowing that I possess some special idea that could result in something really cool if only I would get around to acting on it.

I suppose this resolution is at least as much about honestly assessing my own sloth as it is about honestly assessing the brilliance of my best thoughts. Anyway, as with Cogito ergo possum, it generally turns out that my brightest ideas are not uniquely mine. Usually, someone else has already had the same thoughts (or similar enough to qualify). In such cases especially, there is a very compelling reason to add a reinforcing voice to the chorus rather than to keep it under my hat.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #17: Support the Arts

I suppose in some sense, one could argue (if one were so inclined) that my photography constitutes a sort of ongoing art project. I would not.

Likewise, I suppose my monthly documenting of my hair's growth could be described as a sort of art project. I would not describe it so.

One might (as a stretch) claim that my t-shirt designs from last summer (none of which sold, sadly enough) could be considered a sort of an art project. Again, I would make no such claim.

Instead, I would assert that I haven't really made any efforts in terms of starting an art project in a very, very long time. This is sad, as I used to think I might try to make a profession of art. Pessimism, lack of self-confidence, laziness, the need to pay the bills...all of these things ended up putting the goal of producing something artistic on the back burner.

I intend to finally get around to changing that, at least a little. Presenting my seventeenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to undertake some sort of new art project.

I'll now describe my current dream project. [Note: I very much doubt that this is what I'll end up starting. Something tells me that it's more likely to be something much less involved, less ambitious, more modest. Perhaps a series of oil pastel or charcoal drawings.]

I would call this current dream project "The Domicile Project". I would like to either build or repurpose an old library card catalog. In it, I would catalog everything in our house, filing it all in alphabetical order, cross-referencing everything by country of origin, name, description, color, ingredients, etc. Each card would include the appropriate "home" location for the item described. So, by necessity, I would come up with a system which assigned a code to each shelf, each drawer, each cabinet, each room, etc. And that code would act as my personal Dewey Decimal System.

Each card would include a printed photograph of the item in question, but the description would be written by hand. Each card would have on its back a place for from and to addresses, and a rectangle for a postage stamp. Visitors to the installation (assuming someone would be willing to exhibit the project) would be encouraged to browse through the catalog and would further be encouraged to find a favorite card and take it with them as a souvenir, and also to take one to send as a postcard to a friend or loved one. The original hand written cards that had been removed would periodically be replaced by computer-printed facsimile cards (without the postcard formatting on the back). The facsimile cards would be somehow clearly marked as copies, with a watermark or a cancellation line through the face or perhaps a hole in the middle. Visitors would be discouraged from taking these, and encouraged instead to try to find a suitable original, until all such originals had been distributed.

And in case you're wondering, I am not obsessively well-organized. To some degree, I think just the opposite is true: that I am obsessively disorganized — at least as regards my personal stuff. But something about the potential for this exercise appeals very deeply to me. Perhaps it's a connection with the outmoded furniture. (I have recently come to understand that card catalogs are largely a thing of the past and that there's a whole generation of folks who don't know what they are.) Perhaps it's the alphabetization aspect. (While I am not organizationally minded, I am profoundly entranced by the invention of alphabetical order and its application.) Perhaps it's the idea of freezing a moment in time. (At some point, the cataloging would be complete. I expect that the final day of cataloging would necessarily involve going through the kitchen to document the perishables.)


A general note on the nature of my New Year's Resolutions: In case this was unclear, and in case anyone was wondering, I think it's worth mentioning that I do not necessarily intend to perform all of my 02009 New Year's Resolutions during the calendar year of 02009. Instead, I intend to give myself one year from whatever date I make each resolution. If I end up making my last Resolution on December 31st, it would be unfair to expect it to be completed by midnight that night.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Hair Photos

Happy April Fool's Day!

As you will recall from previous posts, my 02008 New Year's Resolution was to try my best to resist the urge to cut my hair, with the ultimate goal of donating it to Locks of Love.

With just one week left in the year, my resolve to keep my hair uncut was still intact. However, my attention was brought to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, with its 8 inch requirement (which is better for me than Locks of Love's 10 inches). I am eager to get rid of the mess on my head. So, I switched allegiance.

Here are the April 1, 02009 photos:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths
I did end up getting a slight trim on Monday, after Beth told me that I had split ends. This may set me back a bit, but not as much as I expected. I think I may still be on pace for a May or June shearing. I'm really looking forward to it.