The Agony and The Ecstasy - Irving Stone

       It's been a while, but this book really pulled me in ,just as much as you would expect. I remember seeing the movie years ago, with Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II and good ol' Charleton Heston as Michelangelo Buonarotti. This book, however, unlike the movie, covers all of Michelangelo's career, from the teenage years as an apprentice onward. The language sets up such a beautiful rhythm, that there are certain portions of the book, where the author is going on and on, and you wouldn't mind if this went on forever. He takes us through the major landmark pieces too, like the David statue and the Sistine Chapel, from concept to finish. The emotional journey of creating work, and all those little love letters to art-making and the inspiration process, Stone creates those emotions pretty accurately.      Even though this is a historical fiction, it's fun to speculate on the inner workings, and emotional journey of one of these big timers in our culture. Someone wh

Emma - The Finale

  I was so taken with the audio book of Emma that I'd borrowed from the library for my long commute to OTIS College, that I decided I wanted to actually "read-read" the rest of this book. Having finally completed it only yesterday, I was pulled in even closer by the experience that Austen creates.     I think the analysis of a person's work has so many levels to it, that we don't properly discuss in all areas, due to how appropriate or inappropriate the tone of your thesis might feel towards your specific environment. The academic discussion of a person's work has certain rules to it, (as I learned while at Pratt and OTIS) based on "what we like to hear ourselves talk about, and what worldview we are trying to assert over the community as being the more sophisticated, polished off, thorough and nuanced worldview." Therefore, certain interpretations, of an artist's intent, specific to this individual might get (unfairly) left off the table in fav

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence- A Story of Botticelli

     While this type of cheesy romance is not usually my genre, and I normally wouldn't even admit to having devoured an entire book cover to cover about this type of drama, preferring to maintain my masculine dignity and stride on with chest out, I did enjoy hearing this fictionalized version of the inspiration behind some of history's greatest paintings.      The story is told from the perspective of one Simonetta Vespucci, as she is betrothed to her husband, Marco Vespucci, during Renaissance times, in Florence during the reign of the Medici family. She is hailed as an astonishing beauty with no equal, and is adored everywhere she goes, has men fighting over her, and lining up at her balcony to sing songs to her almost every day from the street below. (Pretty girl problems, right?) We follow her marriage to Marco Vespucci, (cousin of Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America is named) from her teenage years into her early twenties, before she was taken ill with a form of tubercul

The Real Thing.

   I've been thinking about music lately, and the gift it is to our existence, and how it has influenced the direction of my own visual art as it opens up new doors in me, and gives us all a clear view into the undeniable potency of the human identity.     When it comes to music especially, there is so much fake stuff out there, and so many people who are fooled by it, if only momentarily. The people that just make random "exciting sounding noises" at spaced out intervals, to try and get us to "tingle" receive much more appreciation than they deserve. Cute little noises that make me "tingle" are not art, not music, and have no relation to the human identity, just a way of getting people to notice you as a performer, long enough for you to make some cash.      It really is too bad that so many people don't know the real thing when they see it, perhaps because they don't know any better. I've met those people, sat in classrooms with them,

Lacrimosa on a Summer Evening

     I've taken to this new ritual, that I'm hoping will see some healthy mental health results. (oh, by the way, I'm not at OTIS anymore.)     Every time the sun is setting, and the sky is dipping into blackness, I like to be out and about, taking a stroll with the sunset. I've always felt as though it punctuates the day nicely, after the work is done and the mental focus is spent, it's like you are giving a little bit of thanks to the day for being what it was, and granting you the opportunities that it did. By going for a walk in that last 45 minutes when the sky dips from dark blue to black, you are watching the day go to sleep, showing that you don't take it for granted, and can feel a bit more in sync with the universe. At least, that's the way I feel about it.     And as I was walking, I was listening to a few selections from Mozart's piece, "Requiem" entitled "Confutatis Maledictus" and the following "Lacrimosa." T

Chekhov 1889-1891

    Somehow, some way, I've been able to keep this guy in the rotation of readings, along with the OTIS creative writing MFA assignments. Keeping something close by that you trust, when facing the demons and mind games of everyday life, that is what keeps you from losing yourself out there. This guy helps me remember who I am.     By the way, I won't be writing any more reviews on the books they assign at OTIS. They started to get way too depressing, all about bigotry, racism, social injustice, and all the intolerant jerks of society, blech... Kind of started bringing me down. Plus, all the writing started to sound the same. Not a whole lot of variety of voices or execution with these things. But Chekhov keeps me grounded.     There's something about art making that I think we all overlook, and that's how when you're looking at a creation by someone else, you are getting a lesson in how they, as an individual, experience this medium when they are engaging with it

Relaxation Days... Don't forget to cut yourself some slack.

    With Spring break in full swing for the Spring 2020 semester at OTIS, I decided to cut myself a little slack and do something I hadn't done in many years, a tradition I had developed back in my first years as an undergrad 10 years ago, in where I'd marathon a string of old movies to take my mind off of things.    I still remember being introduced to that magical world of the early to mid twentieth century as a millennial, absorbed by the artistic quality, time and attention, and overall care taken to presenting a motion picture product to the masses. Around the time of watching what instantly became my new favorite film (and still is) "On the Waterfront." I realized that up until that point I didn't even know what movies were, or what kind of experience they could be. And thus was an early crucial step in my journey to discovering the human race, and finding my own personal way of identifying with it.     Movies today are not really works of art, so much as

Emma - Jane Austen

    Well, with the long commute across town to OTIS several times a week, sitting in L.A traffic, I might as well delve back into the old audiobooks. First up was a title I'd been interested in for a while, a Jane Austen novel called Emma.    It's one of her big, bulky, dense and juicy works, and I loved hearing every word of it. Now, full disclosure, I didn't get through the whole thing, maybe I'll finish it later on in life, but I got through what felt like maybe 3/4 of it.     The writing of Jane Austen always refreshes me, inspires me, and boosts my confidence in my own kooky little unexpected worldview that was never encouraged in school, in the workplace, or by my society in general. She really is one of those special people that keeps me going with her invented language that functions in a way that is unexpected, un-"educated" (if you know what I mean) and doesn't rely on formula or conventions in that "one size fits all" manner executed

Incognegro- Mat Johnson

Interestingly, the Otis MFA course readings I'm assigned this semester include some graphic novels, which is a nice break from the traditional literary novels, and a fun return to form for me, going back to my adolescence. I loved comic books more than anything else, and missed that familiar language of illustrations setting tone along with words.    This book is about a black man with light enough skin to "pass" for white in the early 1920s in America, and uses this advantage to journey south and write reports on lynchings taking place in the deep, rural south. He is a journalist based in New York, and publishes his stories there, to raise awareness. It's an interesting premise, and we get a chance to see the difference in lifestyles for black folks in New York versus down South. Not to mention the way he's received as a light skinned black versus someone who's brown.    The main plot of the book is a murder mystery. The main character's brother, who

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

    Another post I've been wanting to write for quite some time, and finally got the chance to, having now finished the book at last.      This title was not on the reading list for the OTIS creative writing program, in case you're wondering. This was a book I purchased in June of last year, while taking a day trip down to Newport Beach to participate in the annual Art Festival into which I had been accepted. It took place in a lovely little plaza near the Newport Beach Library. After dropping off my work in the morning and with a few hours to kill before the festival opened, I moseyed on over to a local mall and picked this off the shelf at Barnes and Noble to read in my car. I'd always wanted to own a copy of any classic I can get, expanding my personal library of titles I know I'll be going back to for the rest of my life, and boy, was I right.     I just finished reading it a few weeks ago, because of my staggered schedule, I had to read it off and on this past