Sunday, June 30, 2013

Look at the Birdie

  Human beings can be irrational at times. I read seventy percent of this book before somebody stole it. Why would anybody care to steal a book of short stories? I have no idea.
  Some books harbor seeds of transformation. Some books unleash the strings of our imagination while they are thought-provoking and entertaining. "Look at the Birdie" by Kurt Vonnegut does these things. If you read it, feel free to contact me to discuss each story. I will appreciate the opportunity to do so.
  This collection of short stories was published after Vonnegut died. Many of these tales are allegories.
   In  "Confido"  a man leaves his job at a big corporation and creates a unique device, Confido, which he hopes "will be bigger than the television and psychoanalysis combined". This curious device reveals everybody's dark secrets. Think about it for a minute. Imagine a device that discloses something about your life that you don't want to share. The situations are hilarious and embarrassing.
    In "Hall of Mirrors" two detectives have a conversation with a hypnotist who is accused of being involved in the disappearance of four women. In the hypnotist's house there is a hall of mirrors through which people can transform their lives forever. The hypnotist states that the only reason he and others refuse to go through this hall of mirror is their "sense of duty".
  In "The Nice Little People" Lowell Swift meets six little human beings while he is waiting for his wife  to come from work on the day of their anniversary. He feeds these little human beings and they idolize him. When his wife arrives something unexpected happens.
   I was delighted by the originality of all the stories I read. Some of them had an element of fantasy . However, Vonnegut does not evade reality by incorporating fantasy into his fiction. He exposes reality and makes it shine with irony, unexpected turns and surprising endings. His humor and wit are mesmerizing.
  There are some intriguing drawings made by the author, a unique feature of this collection.
   Whoever stole this book made me feel how a book is not "just a book" but something deeper. It is composed of the trips you take when you read it. It is the promise to visit a new place inside your mind, an adventure to the unknown.
   I hope the person who stole this book will read this post and message:
    Enjoy the book;  I hope your mind will allow the seeds of transformation to sprout and make you a better person.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thank you

 A week ago I wrote a post on Father's Day. I mentioned that two of my friends lost their fathers recently. One of them happened to read my post. She was touched by my words and comforted by your kind comments.
 Words have the power to caress the soul.

 Thank you all for being there.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pablo Picasso

“Everything you can imagine is real.” Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

  Let’s pretend this is a real art exhibition. I promised I would write a post on Picasso’s art and life and here it is. It is not easy to write about an artist who created more than 25,000 works. Why did I choose to write it? I was impressed by the variety of his work and the changes of his style over time.
  Picasso was not afraid of experimenting and trying new things.
 "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it," he said.
   Picasso was not just a painter. He was also a sculptor, a ceramicist, a printmaker and a stage designer. His  vast, diverse artwork is intricately related to his personal life and his historical context. 
  Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain. He discovered his passion at a very early age. When he was sixteen he moved to Madrid to study art at the Academia of San Fernando. He dropped out soon after he started, but his devotion to drawing and painting did not dwindle. He continued visiting museums and working on his craft.
  Before he migrated to Paris he lived in Barcelona, where he met other artists at the Els Quatre Gats Café. One of his friends was Carlos Casagemas with whom he traveled to Paris in 1900 to attend an exhibition that included one of his paintings.
 In 1901 his friend Carlos Casagemas committed suicide. He shot himself in a Parisian Café after he was rejected by a woman he fell in love with. The death of his friend set the beginning of the “blue period”.
 This blue period (1901-1904) is a time of profound melancholy and sorrow in Picasso’s life. Blue hues dominate the scenes. Most of his paintings during this period were done in shades of blue and blue-green.
The last painting of this period is called “Life”. Picasso portrays his friend Casagemas with a lover. A mother with a child are also present. In this painting he expressed his wish of happiness  for his deceased friend.
   The blue period is followed by the rose period (1905-1907). Orange and pink were the colors that prevailed during this time. His artwork was lighthearted and cheerful. He drew and painted figures, clowns, harlequins, jesters and all kinds of circus performers.

     In 1907 he painted Les Demoiselles d' Avignon (The Young Women of Avignon) and this was the starting point of a new era that permeated not just the arts, but also literature, music and architecture. The young women of Avignon is an 8 feet square canvas in which the brush-strokes are violent and the figures are contorted. Picasso broke the conventional rules of space and perspective.

    Breton, the leader of the surrealists, saw in it the revolutionary menace of the unconscious mind. Critics and historians were convinced that African art exhibited at the Musee d’ Ethographie du Trocadero in Paris had influenced Picasso, but he denied this. Europeans viewed African art as a symbol of savagery. Picasso, on the other hand, considered this idea of savagery as a source of vitality and energy that he applied to his own work. Picasso called this painting his “first exorcism picture”. The importance of this painting lies in the fact that it paved the way to cubism.

               Picasso and his friend Georges Braque were the pioneers of cubism (1907-1920). Cubism was a new art movement in Paris that refused to accept the traditional techniques of perspective. Objects were dissected into geometric forms. The motifs were still lives, musical instruments, bottles, pitchers, glasses, newspapers, playing cards, the human face and figure.

  Their approach was adopted and further developed by other painters (Fernand Leger, Juan Gris, Marcel Duchamp, Jeam Metzinger, and others). Cubism  led to abstract paintings, but Picasso never produced purely abstract paintings. Reality was always present in his artwork, even though he recreated it through his own personal style.

After cubism Picasso returned to more traditional patterns. This is the Classicist period. He drew portraits of dancers and fell in love with one:  Olga Koklova. He married her and they had a son. With the birth of their son Paolo in 1921 he began to focus on the Mother and Child theme.
                    This is a portrait of Francoise Gilot with whom he had two kids: Claude (1947) and Paloma (1949). Paloma is the Spanish word for dove. Her name was related to the dove of peace that Picasso painted in support of the peace movement post world war II.
  Frustrated with Picasso’s infidelities and his abusive nature, Gilot left him. She later married American-physician researcher Jonas Salk. Gilot wrote a book called “Life with Picasso”, which was published eleven years after their separation.
   Bulls and  Minotaurs are recurrent elements in his artwork and may have symbolized  Picasso's passionate nature.   He could be kind and affectionate, but he could also turn into  a  tyrannical, selfish and domineering man, a kind of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personality.
 The Minotaur also heralded the onset of new political unrest in Europe. Spain would be ravaged by civil war. This is the time when he painted Guernica. I wrote about it here.

Another theme that haunted Picasso  is the relationship between the artist and his model, an obsession that he expressed repeatedly in his drawings and paintings.
 In 1951 Picasso said to the writer Giovani Papini, ""Today, as you know, I am famous, I am rich. But when I am alone with myself, I haven't the courage to consider myself an artist in the ancient sense of the word. Great painters are people like Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya. I am only a public entertainer who has understood the times and has exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity and the greed of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than might seem, but it has the merit of being sincere."

 In 1961 he married his last wife, Jaqueline Rogue, with whom he shared the last  twelve years of his life. During those years he had an  outburst of creativity and painted compulsively. He continued to be obsessed with the theme of the female muse and the artist. His work was charged with eroticism. It might have been the expression of his unconscious mind striving to cling to life against all odds.
    He died in 1973 at age 91.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Life is too short...

  Two of my best friends lost their fathers recently, and while my heart breaks for them, I long to hug my own father and tell him how much I love him.
  I can't do it because he lives far away, but I will see him on Skype. We will probably laugh together and ramble about life.
  Relationships have the potential to grow and evolve. I know ours has done that over the years.

 I hope you all manage to feel close to your dad, even if it's in thoughts, pictures and memories.
 Wherever you are in your journey, have a peaceful Father's Day...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


  One thing does not exist: Oblivion
  God saves the metal and he saves the dross,
  And his prophetic memory guards from loss
  The moons to come, and those of evenings gone.

   Everything is: the shadows in the glass
   Which, in between the day's two twilights, you
   Have scattered by the thousands, or shall strew
   Henceforward in the mirrors that you pass.
   And everything is part of that diverse
   Crystalline memory, the universe;
   Whoever through its endless mazes wanders
   Hears door on door click shut behind his stride,
   And only from the sunset's farther side
   Shall view at last the Archetypes and the Splendors.

    Jorge Luis Borges. Translated by Richard Wilbur

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The little man inside your head

  "Nations have their ego, just like individuals." James Joyce

Does your ego ever get in the way? Your ego is a little man who lives inside your head. He frets over certain matters and disrupts your mood. He can make you feel worried, unhappy or angry.

 If a friend of yours  doesn't treat you the way you expect him or her to  treat you, this little man in your head will falter.
 If your boss criticizes you, the little man will suffer.
If you love somebody who does not love you back, your little man will be shattered.
 Any kind of rejection or criticism hurts him, and when this happens he calls you names  and torments you. 
   There comes a time in your life, however, when you decide to ignore the little  man inside your head. You no longer hear what he wants to say. 
  You find a real treasure: inner peace.
  Inner peace does not depend on anybody but you. 
   Feeling content with your life does not mean that you don't want to grow and improve. It means that the little man's voice becomes an insignificant hum and melts into silence...
  What about you? Do you ignore the little man inside your head?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Online resources for writers

I've gathered a few websites for writers. I’m sure every writer will find something of value on this blog post.
Have fun navigating the sites!

Freelance writing This site offers job listings, literary contests and interesting articles. This site gives you tips on how to publish and promote your book, opportunities and contests.   All you need to know about copyright issues, rules and regulations is here.

Critique Circle   If you need feedback on your work this online literary group is the one I recommend.  In the past I tried different literary groups and I settled for this one. Their system is wonderful and easy to use.  It is password protected, so the work you share is only available to cc members.  This website if for those who want to learn more about the art of blogging. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Walker or runner?

  Years ago I used to be a full-time runner.

 Now I am a walker who becomes a runner  to adjust to the demands of life duties and responsibilities. (Wearing many hats calls for both roles).
 As a runner, I meet other people's expectations and  gain a sense of accomplishment.
  As a walker, I appreciate the beauty around me; I feel the ecstasy of floating in an ocean wave, immersed in a sensation of mystery.

What about you? Walker? Runner? Or both?