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What unites us - the ultimate ground of our claim to equality - is our common ignorance of the central questions posed for us by the universe.
-- Paul Freund



Blog Posts for February 2006

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Protecting My Children's Future

 

Several months back, I wrote a post saying that the first rule of life is "You are responsible for your things. If you need help, ask. If 'No' is the answer you hear, you are still responsible for your things." Society runs more smoothly when people act autonomously in their self-interest and take care of themselves, not expecting others to come to their rescue or pick up the slack in the wake of their procrastination or laziness or addiction. Which is most often the cause of dereliction of personal matters. In times when circumstances are truly beyond the control of a person, I have no problem with assistance - but it's amazing how often the root cause can be distilled to an issue of personal choice.

I didn't watch Bush's speech last night, but I have read its text. This section is noteworthy.

Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we have reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending – and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another 14 billion dollars next year – and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. I am pleased that Members of Congress are working on earmark reform – because the Federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.

We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements. This year, the first of about 78 million Baby Boomers turn 60, including two of my Dad’s favorite people – me, and President Bill Clinton. This milestone is more than a personal crisis – it is a national challenge. The retirement of the Baby Boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the Federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire Federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices – staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending.

Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security, yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away – and with every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse. So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of Baby Boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include Members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan answers. We need to put aside partisan politics, work together, and get this problem solved.

Amen, brother. The impact of the entitlements on my children's generation is going to be staggering, and, I fear, overly burdensome. Congress has had a lot of fun giving away OPiuM (Other People's Money), and as addictive as that can be in helping them to be re-elected, it's wrong. Tragic though it might be that some seniors can't afford their prescription drugs, it was their responsibility to plan for that and is now the responsibility of their families to care for them. That they didn't plan for that is a matter of personal choice. And it's not the social responsibility of the next generation to take from the future income of my children to support the prescriptive needs of baby-boomer seniors.

Bush didn't come out and say that his prescription drug plan was the wrong thing to do, but that's okay - I will. It was wrong. And I have no faith that a bi-partisan committee can achieve anything close to retracting the law.

Where I do have hope is in those of us who have the power of our voices here on the Internet. The blogosphere, as it has come to be known, gets mighty vocal and more peruasive every day with politicians. Bloggers have an increasingly large voice, as has been shown again by the slippery House Majority Leader campaign. No longer is Tom Delay's choice of Roy Blunt of Missouri a shoe-in, but instead solidly conservative Arizona upstart John Shadegg looks more likely to be the next leader. Shadegg has the avid blessing of the bloggers, who are also fervent about the Porkbusters campaign. The only good earmark is one that has died like a salted slug. No more pork.

The government is not its own money source; the people are its source. It is irresponsible to re-allocate future monies from children toward others when those children have no voice about their future. No taxation without respresentation - remember that? Since they are not of voting age, they can't speak to the problem at the ballot box. They'll only inherit a mess, and have to undo the problem later, which will be far more painful once lavish spending programs are in place. That's wrong. Such a practice is utterly immoral.

It's a good first step that Bush addressed the issue, but in the couple of years of his presidency that remain, he needs to undo what he has wrongly done and terminate the programs installed during his terms in office. I don't think he has the nerve to do it. But that's okay - we the people will keep up the heat on this one.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/1/2006 8:11:06 AM
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Re-Learning

 

This being the month of February, I woke up excited today because it begins my month of painting cards! After a month of programming, I can turn loose on painting itself - woo hoo! Color me jazzed...

I also got my card stock today, so I can even print the cards as I go in their actual finished size. Outstanding. I'm twice as jazzed.

So I set out tonight on what I know will be a difficult painting: two candles burning next to one another. Acrylics don't lend themselves well to blending, and this one will be all about blending. No problem. Jump in and go.

Except that I forgot that when I'm away from painting for so long, I come back to it painting like a 5th grader. And I mean no disrespect to 5th graders, who are no doubt better than I am after a month of left-brained thinking.

So at 11 PM, after frutstrating myself for a couple of hours, I started over. And to my great relief, I remember again. It's all about seeing and not making assumptions.

Blend! I can rest more easily now.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/2/2006 1:19:34 AM
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Candles 2.0

 

With Bach as accompaniment, I'm redoing the candles from last night's travesty. This is a better effort. I've got one candle pretty close to being done, and I'm ready to start the next one. But I wanted to take a break and thought I'd capture it in a picture before I walk about the house.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/2/2006 8:33:36 PM
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Candles (Done)

 

I used a TON of dioxazine purple on this one. That was kind of fun. But that's the first card of the month. Lots more to follow...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/3/2006 1:44:17 AM
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Hell of a Marketing Message

 

So, for the people in democracies who support Islamist threats toward governments, society, and people in protest of cartoons that depict Mohammed: is it really okay with you to limit artistic freedom and freedom of speech in the name of religion?

For the people who think that the European papers shouldn't have printed the cartoons, do you really agree to limit artistic freedom and freedom of speech in the name of religion?

Headlines like this (U.S. supports Muslim ire on cartoons) are completely counter-productive. Condi's State Department needs to talk to the White House before opening its mouth. And we need to stand in solidarity with our European neighbors.

This is a democracy. We routinely skewer our politicians, our religious leaders, and God in the name of liberty. Nothing, truly, is sacred. Nor should it be. No one is protected from offense. Nor should they be.

As I've said before, if Muslims don't want this image of their religion presented to the rest of us, then it's something that they need to clean up, just as Christians have to clean up after its infamous religious oaf, Pat Robertson.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/4/2006 1:08:37 PM
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Productivity

 

I've got four cards thus far.

I reworked both the kite picture and the child hug picture. Lightened up the shadowing somewhat in the kite picture and softened yet again the man in the hug picture. And reworked his hair. Much better.

I spent a good part of my day with Mike Sansone, who is one of those people you count yourself blessed to know in life. Mike and I have been working on a business idea, but business idea aside, the better time was spent just talking to Mike. He made it to the blogger bash last night, and had a great time getting to know everyone. Wish I could have been there like last year, but too much going on. Part of last night was also spent buying a new scanner. That's what happens when I put mine on my bed and then absent-mindedly sit on it. The glass broke. I bought a new Epson. I like it better than the HP scanner that I had.

One word about painting for your painters: buy a humdifier. Or two. It makes a great deal of difference, especially with acrylics. My humidifier sits in my bedroom right beside my drafting table where I paint. Perfect.

Off to another painting. And by the way, Erin - my source is "Live Your Best Life," by Oprah.

 

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Read the whole story of "Workin' on the Dream"
by Brett Rogers, 2/5/2006 10:51:52 PM
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Bonnie and Howard

 

Listening to Bonnie Raitt tonight, painting...

The Bonnie playlist:

You
Not the Only One
Wounded Heart
Silver Lining
Nick of Time
Something to Talk About
Thing Called Love
I Don't Want Anything to Change
Love Letter
I Can't Make You Love Me
Have a Heart
One Part Be My Lover
Wherever You May Be
All At Once

At the suggestion of a friend, I'm reading Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead," which is odd for me because though I read voraciously, I never read fiction.

I'm glued to this book.

It's a book about the interweave of people with different passions and abilities, different directions and motivations. Here's a telling passage, about a house and its purpose and intent in designing and building it:

"What is it that I like so much about the house you're building for me, Howard?"

"A house can have integrity, just like a person," said [Howard] Roark, "and just as seldom."

"In what way?"

"Well, look at it. Every piece of is there because the house needs it - and for no other reason. You see it from here as it is inside. The rooms in which you'll live made the shape. The relation of the masses was determined by the distribution of space within. The ornament was determined by the method of construction, an emphasis of the principle that makes it stand. You can see each stress, each support that meets it. Your own eyes go through a structural process when you look at the house, you can follow each step, you see it rise, you know what made it and why it stands. But you've seen buildings with columns that support nothing, with purposeless cornices, with pilasters, moldings, false arches, false windows. You've seen buildings that look as if they contained a single large hall, they have solid columns and single, solid windows six floors high. But you enter and find six stories inside. Or buildings that contain a single hall, but with a facade cut up into floor lines, band courses, tiers of windows. Do you understand the difference? Your house is made by its own needs. Those others are made by the need to impress. The determining motive of your house is in the house. The determining motive of the others is in the audience."

"Do you know that that's what I've felt in a way? I've felt that when I move into this house, I'll have a new sort of existence, and even my simple daily routine will have a kind of honesty or dignity that I can't quite define. Don't be astonished if I tell you that I feel as if I'll have to live up to that house."

"I intended that," said Roark.

I think people and marriages are just like this and that we gravitate to those who give us the same exterior as what we find on the interior. It's a refreshing and indifferent honesty that cares nothing for the irrelevant opinion of others. When we do what we do for the true purpose of our soul, then we're where we need to be and doing what we need to do, whether it's popular or not.

Earlier in the book, a fella named Peter Keating asks Howard Roark for his advice.

"If you want my advice, Peter," he said at last, "you've made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don't you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?"

"You see, that's what I admire about you, Howard. You always know."

"Drop the compliments."

"But I mean it. How do you always manage to decide?"

"How can you let others decide for you?"

Does the opinion of others matter? No, not at all. What others think of me is not my responsibility, because it is not in my control. I can only be responsible for what I control, and the only thing on this earth that I control are my choices and my actions. If I align my actions with my purpose and talents, then I act in accordance with my destiny, if you will. My life is obvious and worthwhile. Anything else is fretful and a waste of time. I can only be who I am. I can't be what others demand of me that I am not.

Good book.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/7/2006 1:13:09 AM
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An Act of Faith

 

Every time I start a painting, there's a part of me that laughs and points and suggests that I'm a fool. Which I might be, but I don't care. I'm going to do this thing anyway. And so I do, and gradually I shake all of my assumptions and I stop seeing "curtains" or a "woman" or whatever, and it's just colors. And I mix colors and lose all sense of time and I go to this place where I feel the texture of the curtains and I sense the warmth of the woman's arm. I paint...

And the thin-lipped editor lady in me laughs again and points and sees nothing.

But the optimist in me continues to see what I know awaits me. It's less like I'm painting and more like I'm revealing slowly what is already there. The "impossibility" of art takes place in the utter faith of the artist to work at it, pulling from the canvas what can be found beneath the brush. And maybe that sounds mysterious and odd, but that's a pretty good description of the process. I paint to see what I know is already there.

It's much like writing fiction. The characters are alive already and waiting for the cue to live and interact with one another. All the writer does is record their actions and voices and that's all there is. As a writer, I've been surprised to hear what comes out of my characters' mouths. For example, in a story I wrote long ago, as one character stood up, I saw her pull the creep of the hem of her shorts downward. And so that's what I wrote. It wasn't contrived; that's just what she did. I had a woman later tell me in my college class that her action was so true. Heck, I was just watching it happen. There's no ownership in that.

Truth is effortless. It's whether I'm skillful enough to record what happened that determines whether it's believable or not. Painting, like writing, is both a passive observation and an active exertion. I just have to be faithful to sit and do it.

Isn't much of life like that? Whether starting a business, or working at business, or being a parent - isn't half the success just showing up to do the job? Kids are so thankful for parents who just show up. They remember it years later. "Dad wasn't always the best father, but he was at every one of my games." And you can hear the love in their voice for that. Just showing up. Amazing.

Are paintings thankful for the artist who shows up to reveal them? Are characters in a story grateful to have their actions recorded? In a way, yes. All of us would like the opportunity to express ourselves, free of judgment, and to just let it flow. In that expression, we help ourselves. It's like when someone just has an outlet to vent a frustration or an ear to which they can talk. The friend just sits there listening. But we're incredibly thankful that they just showed up for us and gave us their time. Amazing.

And so painting is like that. Some part of me is grateful that I just showed up and took the risk and took the leap of faith. I feel better for it. It makes me want to show up some more.

ETC:

Enough for today...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/8/2006 10:15:19 PM
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Woman At Window

 

I'm almost done with this, and as much as I would love to finish, I can't - I'm too tired.

After I finish this one, I hope to get started on another and be done with it by the end of the weekend. That would make six cards.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/10/2006 1:34:41 AM
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Woman At Window (Done)

 

I was a bit nervous about finishing this card, but it turned out fine.

On to the next one...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/10/2006 4:14:31 PM
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How To Mail

 

When people eventually buy cards from my online store, how do I ship it to them in a way that assures me that I don't have to take back damaged merchandise?

Why, the Jiffy Rigi Bag Mailer, of course. I got my order a yesterday and 250 of these mailers weigh a ton, lemme tell ya. The mailers are seriously rigid - almost impossible to bend. The cards will arrive safely!

Speaking of cards, I'm now on row two!

Goal: Fill this second row by the end of next week. That would be eight cards.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/10/2006 7:41:22 PM
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Sketch

 

My son, Nick, came to me tonight and asked if I could teach him how to paint.

Cool!

We worked on mixing colors first. I showed him how mixing complimentary colors dulls a color for shadowing. For example, if you have orange, and you want its shadow color, add blue to orange. It dulls and browns the orange. Or if your sky is not a pure blue, but a darker, duller blue, add orange to it.

So he started on this:

I love his shadow in the entryway of the building. He's not done, but he's off to such a great start. Nicely done.

I saw this as an opportunity to just goof around, so I grabbed a picture from a book and doodled it, which was fun.

Earlier today, the younger boys played outside in the snow with their friend next door. Gotta get that last bit of sledding in...

And my son, Aaron, worked on his mini-movie today and showed it to Nick and me. Over 5 minutes long and starting to get into the action scenes. What's cool about it is his resourcefulness. The storyline is that these people get together and fly to an island. He uses legos, sheets, my large plant in the living room, and lots of camera movement to convey plane flight. It's exciting to see him vision it out and then put it together.

It's been a great kid-filled day. I'm a lucky man...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/12/2006 12:40:19 AM
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Achievement

 

If you've read much of my words, you'll recognize some of what will follow, although it will be in the voice of Ayn Rand. I've finished my read of The Fountainhead, which is probably the most important fiction book I have ever read. Perhaps this is true because of the non-fiction truth set behind its story. At the end of the book, the chief character, Howard Roark, lets loose and what he says is worth repeating here:

Men have been taught that the highest virtue is not to achieve, but to give. Yet one cannot give what has not been created. Creation comes before distribution - or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary. Yet we are taught to admire the second-hander who dispenses gifts he has not produced above the man who made the gifts possible. We praise an act of charity. We shrug at an act of achievement.

Men have been taught that their first concern is to relieve the suffering of others. But suffering is a diease. Should one come upon it, one tries to give relief and assistance. To make that the highest test of virtue is to make suffering the most important part of life. Then man must wish to see others suffer - in order that he may be virtuous. Such is the nature of altruism. The creator is not concerned with disease, but with life. Yet the work of the creator has eliminated one form of disease after another, in man's body and spirit, and brought more relief from suffering than any altruist could ever conceieve.

Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone.

Men have been taught the the ego is the synonym of evil, and sleflessness the ideal of virtue. But the creator is the egotist in the absolute sense, and the selfless man is the one who does not think, feel, judge, or act. These are functions of the self.

Here the basic reversal is most deadly. The issue has been perverted and man has been left no alternative - and no freedom. As poles of good and evil, he was offered two concetpions: egotism and altruism. EWgotism was held to mean the sacrifice of others to self. Altruism - the sacrifice of self to others. This tied men irrevocably to other men and left him nothing but a choice of pain: his own pain borne tfor the sake of others or pain inflicted upon others for the sake of self. When it was added that one must find joy in self-immolation, the trap was closed. Man was forced to accept masochism as his ideal - under the threat that sadism was his only alternative. This was the greatest fraud ever perpetuated on mankind.

This was the device by which dependence and suffering were perpetuated as fundamentals of life.

The choice is not self-sacrifice or domination. The choice is independence or dependence. This is the basic issue.

Rand's character then explains that those who are independent can survive, and those who are dependent are incapable of surviving. Therefore, anything that leads a man toward dependence is ultimately self-destructive, and therefore evil.

She's right.

Think of nature. In nature, animals do not act parasitically with others in their species. The food chain is not cannibalistic. In nature, if a creature is unable to fend for itself, it dies off. Independence is expected and life sustaining. Dependence is self-destructive.

Roark finishes with this:

I recognize no obligations toward men except one: to respect their freedom and to take no part in a slave society.
I came away from this book affirming some of my tendencies and feeling recriminations of other tendencies. Where I land, after considering the weight of the book, is that in that area of my talent where I find my own voice and I feel no need for the opinions of others, that's where my contribution is best applied. For me, I'm gaining my voice in my art. I know more instinctively what I need to paint in expression and how I want it done.

Others have other abilities. In those talents, they don't ask others how to do what they do. They simply know how to do it and they are confident in that skill. This should be the goal of every person: to realize that unique skill that they have and ply themselves to it passionately. The rest of us should encourage that - but here's the thing: if it's truly that thing wherein we find our voice, we will do it anyway. Encouragement be damned! It's simply not necessary because we have no choice in the matter. It is the expression of our soul.

I wrote recently of Four Adjectives, the idea that we might want to winnow down to a simple descriptive list those things that we need in a mate. I think it goes without saying that all of us need in a mate someone who will not trounce our voice, but is rather someone who can sit back and delight in watching our expression. And vice versa. It's not necessary that they aid us, but rather that they want us to be free to voice our creativity and passion. Therein lies the notion of "fit," that chemistry we seek where the blend is better than the singular because the individual voice can be made stronger. Not a muffler. Not a chorus. But a megaphone. (This might seem off-topic, but this is where "rejection" is not an offense, but a relief for the truth it speaks.)

Howard Roark again:

It's so easy to run to others. It's so hard to stand on one's own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can't fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is the strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It's easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It's simple to seek substitutes for competence - such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.

That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They're concerned only with people. They don't ask: 'Is this true?' They ask: 'Is this what others think is true?' Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don't think through another's brain and you don't work through another's hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. That's the emptiness I couldn't understand in people. That's what stopped me whenever I faced a committee.They've been taught to seek themselves in others. To seek joy in meeting halls. I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern with other men.

Self-sufficiency matters. It leads to achievement. It's sustainable and life-giving.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/12/2006 9:23:30 PM
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Composition

 

I got started with this one and decided that its composition lacked anything interesting.

So, I start over.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/13/2006 12:44:05 AM
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Composition, Part II

 

This is better than last night's effort.

Thanks for sticking up for my work, Bella, but if it ain't pleasing me, I lose steam.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/13/2006 9:22:14 PM
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Market

 

I come into Wells this morning, and I'm greeted by this message on our Intranet:

An estimated 190 million people all around the world will send greeting cards today to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
My friend, Shantyl, has challenged me to paint four cards this week. Heck of a challenge... am I up to it?

On deck: the one I'm currently doing, then a mom lying next to her baby, and then a child at a table near a window. And then maybe the church-in-the-middle-of-nowhere painting, at my friend Kay's suggestion. That would be four. --gulp--

I'm taking this Friday off, so that should help. Wouldn't it be something if I did five?

 

2 Comments
by Brett Rogers, 2/14/2006 10:27:47 AM
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Standards

 

When my kids were young, I bought Bill Bennett's Book of Virtues. The first poem in it became the Rogers family poem:

'Tis a lesson you should heed
Try, try again;
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try again;
Then your courage should appear,
For, if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear;
Try, try again.
And so I'm reminded of that while I try to paint a close-up of a rose.

This attempt is better than my last attempt, but painting a flower is quite hard. I wish that I had Kris' gift for it.

Part of my ineptitude has an excuse in paint that dries too quickly. I'm getting better at blending acrylics (which I've compared before to painting with white-out), but it's the very close blends of soft edges that lose me. I think the solution is to go at it with high humidity (to keep the paint wet longer), smaller brushes and strokes in these areas, and to obtain a feel for the petals. Normally, I only worry about capturing the smear of color and I forget what I'm painting. But in the case of flowers, I think that's wrong. It's very important to remember the edges and the curve of each petal. It has to make sense, each line does. Kind of like running my finger over the rim of each fold and knowing it that way.

This was closer, but I want more yet of myself, and so I'll start over one more time. I'm still relatively new to painting, so I consider this education - and it's education not to be wasted by hurrying and trying to meet arbitrary deadlines and goals of volume. I want the most of myself. As my former and very misogynist manager Frank used to tell me: "Standards, bro. Standards."

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/15/2006 12:59:49 AM
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Direction

 

This is starting to move in the direction I want it to move, particularly the left, front petal that is purple-red-yellow.

A few things made the difference.

  • A solid line sketch in pencil of the flower.
  • Reducing my palette to only four colors: cadmium red medium, cadmium yellow medium, dioxazine purple, and titanium white.
  • Listening to New Order.
I'm cool with this one. I'll rework the areas I don't like and finish this tomorrow.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/17/2006 1:10:17 AM
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Yes

 

After struggling with it all week, this is the effort I expected of myself.

I've got the middle left to do, but I'm in need of a break. I'll go play Halo for a half-hour and then come back to it.

I learned a lot on this one, but what satisfies me right now is limiting my palette. I learned in my color blend from last year that by mixing a limited number of colors together, they remain harmonious, and I think the biggest key to successfully painting a flower is harmony, which is what makes a flower so satisfying in the first place.

And I've learned that purple and yellow make a nice, dull green. No need for a green tube of paint.

Other than the middle, I've got some edges to finesse, but I like this one.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/17/2006 2:27:37 PM
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Rose (Done)

 

And on the rack...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/17/2006 4:40:48 PM
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Self

 

I've started the next painting of a mom and her baby.

I enjoyed working with a limited palette on the last painting, so I'm using only cadmium red medium, cadmium yellow medium, cobalt blue, and titanium white on this one. That might become a habit for me - using only four colors. We'll see. Maybe it fits along with four adjectives, eh?

I was writing to a friend yesterday, Annette, who lent me The Fountainhead. We were discussing Ayn Rand's notion of the virtue of selfishness. If you haven't been down this road before, it looks like this:

Many people use the adjective "selfish" to describe regard for one's own welfare to the disregard of the well-being of others. "Selfish" people are brutish people who are oblivious to the negative consequences of their actions for their friends and loved ones and who abuse the patience, trust, and good will of all comers to satisfy their petty whims. Rand certainly recognizes that there are people who fit this description, and she certainly does not believe that their behavior is in any sense virtuous. But she opposes labeling them "selfish." Humans live in a social world; in order to maximize the value of their interactions with others, they should cultivate a firm commitment to the virtues of rationality, justice, productiveness, and benevolence. A commitment to these virtues naturally precludes such brutish behavior.

Rand argues that the conventional understanding of selfishness implies an altruistic framework. Within this framework, the question, "Who is the beneficiary of this act?" is the most important moral question: right acts are acts undertaken for the "benefit" of others and wrong acts are acts undertaken for one's own "benefit." Altruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man - a man who supports his own life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others ... it permits no concept of benevolent co-existence among men ... it permits no concept of justice.

The truly selfish person is a self-respecting, self-supporting human being who neither sacrifices others to himself nor sacrifices himself to others.

I agree with Rand's notion up to that last bit. Sometimes, it's necessary to sacrifice oneself for others. And my most immediate example of that is: children. Of course I would sacrifice my own interests for those of my children. Or for my friends and extended family.

Personally, I selfishly get a lot of joy in giving to others. Surprising someone with a gift that will put a smile on their face is a kick for me.

Just as Rand disagrees with the conventional definition of selfish, I disagree with the conventional definition of selfless. "Selfless" typically means that I abandon all thought of myself. But that's destructive. Nature demands that I think of myself to survive. I have to think of my own needs. Food, water, clothes, housing... all of these certainly, but also leisure, enterprise, interacting with others - these are all self-caring acts.

What's more, those who practice altruism today generally have a selfish motive behind the action. It's attached to an agenda... giving money to political campaign to receive audience and favors later, giving a huge financial gift to a university to have one's name in lights for the recognition, or doing something nice for someone to hold it against them as though it were a debit in a checking account.

For me, true selflessness is doing something for others for the sheer desire to do so without the expectation of or need for any reward. In other words, I do it because it's what I want to do and that's the end of it. So let me revise Rand's defintion.

The truly selfish person is a self-respecting, self-supporting human being who never sacrifices others to himself, and who sacrifices himself to others by his own choice with no agenda.
Again, with kids as my example, I give to my kids selflessly with no expectation of reward. What's more, I must. They have no capacity for rewarding me in return when they are young. As they get older, I release them to their own pursuits and care, but my motive in caring for them as they grow has no agenda. If it does, they grow up to be dysfunctional and hurtful people. I owe society the obligation of raising my children to be selfish people: self-respecting, self-supporting people who expect nothing from others. To do that, I must be selfless.

There's nothing wrong with selfishness, and I hate it when people do things for their own care and then hate themselves for it. It's not healthy, and too often we absorb the labels that others ascribe to us when such labels aren't true, but are actually an effort to control us. The truly selfish person is self-aware and won't react to these labels if they don't stick. Anytime that I hear that someone calls another person "controlling," it's always their own drive to control the other person. And seeing it for what it is empties the power from such statements. Anytime that I hear someone call another person "greedy" for wanting to keep the money that they earned instead of allowing others to take it, this too is just an effort to control the behavior of the person who earned the money. "You're selfish!" Nope, not at all. Self-supporting. Self-respecting. If everyone were that way, society would be much more functional.

Selfishness, demonstrated in my self-sustaining acts, is truly a virtue. It lightens the load that I place on others, freeing them to achieve their own pursuits without the need to sustain me. And by not expecting that from others, I would call it love for my fellow human being.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/18/2006 9:14:12 AM
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Scribbles

 

Cub and I sat down to a painting session.

I tried something new, which was to lather paint and then etch whatever words came to mind from the colors I used.

Red and blue together have always felt like a passionate blend to me. Heat and excitement... I had to keep scratching the paint off the tip of the end of the brush, which totally stained my hands in paint because I used my hand as the blotter.

Cub's effort is pretty exciting too.

It's his Valentine's Day house.

Now, we're off to buy Nick and Aaron their XBox 360...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/18/2006 2:47:21 PM
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Hair

 

I haven't painted any close-ups of hair before. For this painting, detail seems really important, so I'm working on the hair.

The sketch is good, so I'm painting with confidence. But hair... hair is a thin stroke, and that's a tough act with acrylics. What I'm finding that works is to paint hundreds of brush strokes, lighter then darker, lighter then darker, layering a tremendous amount as I go. It's tedious, but I'm hopeful for the results. We'll see.

One other thing, I'm a huge fan of the limited palette now. I'll be surprised if I ever paint with more than 4 or 5 tubes of color on any given painting in the future. This one has just four: a red, a blue, a yellow, and white. But so many colors are available through mixing that more is unnecessary.

 

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Read the whole story of "Mother and Child"
by Brett Rogers, 2/18/2006 5:53:17 PM
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I Have No Shame

 

Taking a break from painting, I took one of my lyric-less songs and wrote some words for it. So with my little Sony Cybershot, I recorded my years-of-neglect guitar playing with an unpracticed song and with me singing new lyrics. I screw up often, and at one point I even start laughing, so have mercy on me. But the passion is there and I'm hoping that Kelly can help me with this one because I'd like to make a decent song from it.

And the words...

I remember love
a love that I have lost
fallen from me like an oak leaf from a tree
Oh when will spring come
bring with it sunlight
then the blossom it will grow free

Oh warmth
The sunny rays of playful days
Give me that symphony
of color splashes flowers in full bloom
I need the cleansing rain
To wipe this all away...

I remember touch
from a lover who did seek me
she brought me smiling laughter
she shared of all she was
Would that I could see her again and she would meet me
I would show her who I am now

Oh warmth
The sunny rays of playful days
Give me that symphony
of color splashes flowers in full bloom
Don't you know I need the cleansing rain

Oh for one moment again
to feel alive and feel her warmth and feel her laugh and feel her hair across my face
Just one moment again
to recapture love that I did know a love that I let go I'm on my knees wishing oh...

for one moment again...

And here's the song, in MP3 format. Call this a very rough and unpolished first draft. More to come...

ETC: Good news! Kelly emails me that he is up for the re-write and says he has ideas for it, so I expect we'll work on it and then upload the finished version to GarageBand.com and see what happens. I've got other songs and if this goes well, maybe we'll tackle some others.

Woo hoo! Life is so good :)

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/18/2006 10:48:00 PM
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Mother and Child

 

I'm stopping for the night. I'm gonna go for a walk and then go to bed.

More tomorrow. I think I'll have it done by Monday morning, which is good, because I inherit three projects at work on Monday.

ETC: Nearing 11 AM, I'm close to finishing my work with the mother. I might take a break from her and work on the baby for a while.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/19/2006 2:06:31 AM
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Mother and Child... Getting Close

 

Next, baby's clothing...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/19/2006 1:15:56 PM
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Card #7

 

Finished.

I want to make my living painting. I love doing this.

Off to Kinko's.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/19/2006 3:01:38 PM
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Best TV Show Theme Song Ever

 

Years ago, I played bass. And I grew up in the 70's. Naturally, in my opinion, the best TV show theme song is this: Barney Miller.

Just sayin'...

Although, now that I think about it, I'm particularly fond of Everwood's theme song.

Okay - it's a tie.

ETC: After several listens, Everwood has the best theme song. Barney Miller has the best bass line.

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/22/2006 7:52:48 AM
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Beautiful Smile

 

My daughter, Bari, got her braces off last night.

I love my daughter. She's such a beautiful woman, and then when you talk with her you're swept away with how engaging and intelligent she is.

Here she is, one day old...

And a bit later...

It's the best part of being a parent - being so close to these amazing people and knowing them... It's why I want to visit with my future grandkids often. I want to know all of them and rejoice in who they are and watch them grow.

:)

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/23/2006 7:05:52 AM
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Quotes from Tom Peters' Slides

 

From Tom Peters:

"The 'surplus society' has a surplus of similar companies, employing similar people, with similar educational backgrounds, coming up with similar ideas, producing similar things, with similar prices and similar quality." - Kjell Nordström and Jonas Ridderstråle, "Funky Business"

"If you worship at the throne of the voice of the customer, you’ll get only incremental advances." - Joseph Morone, President, Bentley College

"How do dominant companies lose their position? Two-thirds of the time, they pick the wrong competitor to worry about." - Don Listwin, CEO, Openwave Systems/WSJ/06.01.2004 (commenting on Nokia)

"The person who is a little less conceptual but is absolutely determined to succeed will usually find the right people and get them together to achieve objectives. I’m not knocking education or looking for dumb people. But if you have to choose between someone with a staggering IQ and an elite education who’s gliding along, and someone with a lower IQ but who is absolutely determined to succeed, you’ll always do better with the second person." - Larry Bossidy/Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/24/2006 9:18:24 AM
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Off Work

 

Taking the day off to paint and get some errands done. I've been playing guitar a bit lately and my callouses are back, which means that the hamburger'ed performance of my little song from the other day wouldn't be so hamburger'ed today. Here's a little progression that I recorded.

And so off to painting. Here's the rough background.

I'd like to get two cards done this weekend and be on the third row of the rack.

One errand that I ran was to take my worn out bike to the shop. I should get it back by middle of next week, which means that I'll once again be able to bike to work every day - which means that the exercise and diet program are fully underway again. I lost 45 pounds last year and I expect to lose about that much this year, taking me to 265 - also known as the year 1992. I'm rewinding the clock to fit into my former and slender self. So about 25 or 30 pounds from now, I'll go the store and buy new clothes.

Hello spring!

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/24/2006 3:28:35 PM
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Big Brush

 

Just getting started with this one, but I'm having fun with big brushstrokes. Where the last painting felt like it had to be exquisitely detailed and just right, this one has a completely different feel. I'll title it friends when I'm done with it. Three girls, arm in arm, and best of friends. I'm listening to John Mayer for this painting, and that seems appropriate.

More later...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/25/2006 2:39:07 PM
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Walk

 

I love walking at night. My earliest memories of my first apartment here in West Des Moines are of streetlamps and occasional cars and my old walking stick, which had the nickname "Haldeman." If there's been a persistent ritual of my life, walking is it. It's what I did when I divorced Jamie. The three kids and I would walk nightly, taking turns at being the leader and at following the leader. Later, Jacob and I would refer to this as exploring. We would go where we would and just wander and explore.

Spring's coming. Cub asked me the other day if we would go exploring again soon. "Exploring" is what he answered his teacher when she asked him what he most loved doing with his dad. Nick and I, beyond his youth, continued our walks, although today it has morphed into bike riding. I love both, but walking has been stronger. It's something about feeling my body move of its own accord and power, in the direction I choose, confident strides and wind in my face. It's perfect, really.

Each day, I zig zag through the six floors of the building in which I work, from the sixth down to the first and up to the sixth. One mile.

And if you've followed my web site at all, you know that this regimen of walking and biking and an abstinence from refined sugar has helped to lose a bunch of weight. As of today, 54 pounds. I'll drop permanently to below 300 pounds in the next two weeks. My bike, which has been in the shop, gets out tomorrow. Me and the steed, to work and back every day, will propel me to lose more. Health. More wind in my face. Freedom.

There was a time when I wore suits and craved a nice car - and was miserable. The most poetic moment of my life came in a lunchtime bike ride in a $400 suit. Giddy with the air and the speed, I completely lost control and skidded into gravel and tore the suit to shreds. Aside from some killer road rash, I gained a permanent black hole in my right hand from it for the rock that pierced me bone deep. In fact, Cub's first sentence was, "Doctor fix hole in your hand." The hole is a reminder that I am who I am and that corporate ladders aren't for me. My days of suit were over not long after that. I've never looked back - though I do get tempted occasionally. But I'm too independent.

I took Aaron to the stylist tonight to turn a sheepdog back into my son. While he waited for his name to be called, I went walking through and around the mall. Me, in my shorts and short-sleeved shirt, thrilling at the cool night air. I remembered all of the times that I had crossed Valley West Mall's parking lots at night back then. Lovely... and I'm very thankful that my body treats me well and moves much as it did twenty years ago.

I came back in and went to the Hallmark store. I cruised their cards and noted that my line of cards will be unique. Almost nothing in Hallmark looks like what I plan to offer. That's a good thing.

I've had trouble with this recent work, "Friends." But it's getting there, thin-lipped editor lady be damned. Just gotta keep going, one foot in front of the other...

 

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by Brett Rogers, 2/27/2006 9:40:18 PM
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