Thursday, November 20, 2014

My so-called real life

"I live one day at a time, I dream one dream at a time. Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind."

I could tell another Facebook story - because there is one - but I'll give you a break and talk about my so-called real life today.

My fall semester of school has been very different from last spring. I loved both my online class about WWII and my studio class in digital photography. This term I'm struggling with both my online class, Living Writers, and my studio class, 2D Design.

The blame for my disenchantment with Living Writers falls mainly on me. I haven't been able to keep up with the reading, because I haven't made it a priority. I did OK with our first book, The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. I finished it in the aloted time and made a contribution to the discussion. I read the supplemental material and enjoyed the videos and especially Mohamed's reading at Colgate. (It's really worth listening to. Until she read, the poetry in her words was obscured for me by the grittiness of the novel's plot.)

Then the wheels came off.

Our second book was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Weighing in at a hefty 576 pages, it was just more than I could handle. I'm a slow reader - attribute that to my ADD - and although the first hundred-some pages of the book kept my interest sufficiently, I didn't dedicate adequate time to finish it (by a long shot) and I wouldn't contribute to the discussion without having done so.

I did watch most of the Colgate video lectures as well as recordings of his Oprah Winfrey show appearance, among others, and Franzen's reading at Colgate. I also watched some of the supplemental videos and read his New Yorker piece, Emptying the Skies about the decimation of the songbird population in southern Europe. (Franzen is an avid bird-watcher and songbird-advocate.)

As you may know, or not. in August 2010 Time Magazine featured Franzen as it's cover boy, with the designation, Great American Novelist. The video lectures spent some time on what is a Great American Novel, or an American Novel for that matter. The answer, as far as I understood it, is that that characterization is open to interpretation. Wikipedia interprets it as a novel, presumably written by an American author, distinguished as being the most accurate representation of the spirit of the age in the United States at the time of its writing or the time it is set in.

Since I didn't slog through the book (yet - I still plan to), I disqualified myself for participation on the discussion forum, although I read some of the discussion and found it disappointingly superficial and uninspiring. Ironically this reflects some of my impressions about Franzen himself. He is charming at times, but clearly uncomfortable in a book-promotion role, and less than forthcoming when asked questions he just doesn't want to answer.

(I do have empathy for that. I hope this doesn't make me sound egotistical but, as a writer, I often feel the words come through me, not from me. So if I wrote fiction and you asked me my intent in making such and such a character act in such and such a way, I really might be as mystified as you.)

I decided to move on to our third novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis is Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and it is a "graphic novel" more colloquially known as a comic book. It reads fairly quickly and I have no excuse for the fact that I'm only halfway through it and it's the final week of the course section. I might knock it out tonight, while Neil plays softball, although there are competing priorities.

On the bright side, it was made into a movie, animated naturally, and is available on Amazon Prime for $9.99. Neil said he'd watch it with me, so it's on the menu for this weekend. And I'm halfway through the video interview with Satrapi at Colgate, and I'm enjoying her energy, expressiveness, humor and adorable French accent.

What I should be doing now is getting a jump start on our last novel, The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis. At 320 pages, with four weeks to go in the course spanning Thanksgiving and our trip to Hawaii, I'm not overly optimistic that I will be in a space to contribute. Again. But I'm taking all the unfinished books on the cruise and my commitment to myself is to finish reading them. I'll grade myself as passing the course if I do. (For the record, there is no official final exam or grade, or even the requirement that one read all of the books if one chooses to read only some.)

I wish I could say the same for my 2D Design class. I've attended all the classes except one, when I had the grandbaby here, and I've completed all the homework so far, at least technically. If I'm honest, I'd say that I've put in the minimum effort to get the work done, enough to pass but not to excel by any means.

It's hard to explain why I'm going through the motions only, but it's easier to explain why I'm not enjoying the class. I don't feel like I've learned a lot. The format of the class is that we look at the last week's homework results and then we get the next week's homework assignment, sometimes with a handout or a few slides to show examples. Since there are only seven of us in the class, not everyone attends every week, and not everyone who attends has actually done the assignment, we are looking at an average of four or five pieces of work.

After the next week's assignment is explained, most of the students spend the rest of the class time working on the homework. I've only stayed the full time once. Usually I bug out as soon as the "teaching" part of the class is over. It's possible I'd get more out of the class if I stayed and did the work there, including assistance or suggestions from the teacher, not to mention interaction with the other students, who seem very nice, and isn't that part of my reason for taking a studio class? To get out of the house (and off Facebook) and to have some real world connections?

No need to answer that.

So what have we covered in 2D Design since I posted our first assignment to find the letters of the alphabet in accidental images?

I liked our second project. The design element or principle (I can never remember the difference) was Line. We had to cut out 20 3-inch squares and create line patterns, in three primary or three secondary colors, using all six types of lines, then arrange them to create a composition with asymmetrical balance, harmony, unity. Here is mine.

Project three had to do with Grayscale. We had to paint a design with nine values of shading, using Titanium White and Mars Black acrylic paint. I am not fond of painting. Things get messy. But I got this done.

For our fourth project, Value, we had to grid a photo of a sculpture in 1-inch aquares and recreate it using pencils. Here's my halfhearted attempt.

Next up, project five, the Color Wheel. Painting again, but this was easier.

We painted again in project seven, Color Schemes. Using only two complimentary colors (opposites on the color wheel) we had to paint an image over a grid, using hues and tints (adding white) shades (adding black) and tones (adding gray). The colors I chose were yellow and violet. And who knew you could makes greens and browns as well as lilacs and ochres. I think this was an artistic best for me.

Project seven was sort of dull. We had to paint three 3-inch squares, using the same image and three colors, but manipulating the colors using shades and tints.

Project eight was Pointillism. Colors of Magenta, Cyan and Yellow. Self explanatory.

And project nine was Perspective. We had to create a collage, emphasizing the element of direction. I'm about as handy with glue as I am with paint. Which is to say, not very. We won't talk about the exploding glue incident, and the repeat of the exploding glue incident. I'm sticking with a glue stick from now on.

So there in a nutshell you have it, nine projects down and three to go.

The only trouble is, I have to do the last three projects by Wednesday, because after that, we're away until the day before my last class.

Wish. Me. Luck.

"I live one day at a time
I dream one dream at a time
Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind
And I live one day at a time

Bet you're surprised to see me back at home
You know how I miss you when you're gone
Don't ask how long I plan to stay
It never crossed my mind
Because I live one day at a time

There's a swallow flying across the cloudy sky
Searching for a patch of sun, so am I
Don't ask how long I have to follow him
Perhaps I wont in time
But I live one day at a time

I live one day at a time
I dream one dream at a time
Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind
And I live one day at a time."

(Willie Nelson)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz