Inauguration Day Poem

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
 — Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias



Drawing as a Pastime

When I had been in Seattle a year, I wrote a post lamenting my then-unemployed state.  It remains one of my most commented-on blog posts, but the comment that surprised me the most was the following:

Take a drawing class. Everyone can draw. Everyone. Then as you walk about the city, you can sketch. Sketch over a cup of something in a coffee shop, or on a park bench. This will imprint moments on your mind forever.

Also, when people see someone sketching it is almost impossible for them to resist sneaking a peek. If you like the looks of someone you see peeking, play the role of generous person who doesn’t mind being bothered even in the midst of such serious art. Now you have made the first approach and the other person doesn’t realize it.

The comment itself isn’t what’s surprising.  What’s surprising is that it was sent by Roger Ebert (and as if to prove the validity of the author,  Ebert posted this entry on his blog four months later).

When I met with him for the first (and only) time in April 2011, I wish I’d shown him two things: pictures of my nieces and the two drawings I had sketched since receiving his advice.  I’ve finished several other drawings since that time, and while I didn’t meet anyone during those drawing sessions, I still find it an enjoyable pursuit when the weather gets nice.

I sketched my first drawing when it was still raw outside, which is why I drew it in a rush. I like to think that the wind is captured in the pencil strokes.

Windy Day, 3-6-2011
Windy Day, Greenlake, 3-6-2011

I waited until it was warmer for my next drawing, which was of cherry blossom trees. As I’m no good at realism (or perspective), and grew impatient with drawing how the bark and the branches actually looked, my drawing took this form, instead.

Cherry tree in the quad, UW, 3-19-2011
Cherry tree in the quad, UW, 3-19-2011

After Ebertfest, I sketched five more drawings. I finished one in the summer of 2011, two the following year, and then one each in 2013 and 2014. The 2011 drawing is my favorite of the bunch, mainly for the girl sitting on the rocks, her back to the viewer, which adds poignancy to this drawing in a way I can’t describe in words.

Watching the boats go by , Puget Sound, 7-23-2011
Watching the boats go by , Puget Sound, 7-23-2011

The next two sketches were drawn, as was the first one, at Greenlake. This time, however, I waited until spring and summer, respectively, before I stood outside with my sketchpad.

Tree at Greenlake, 4-13-2012
Tree at Greenlake, 4-13-2012
Swimming at Greenlake, 9-8-2012
Swimming at Greenlake, 9-8-2012

My drawing from the summer of 2013 is of the most iconic landmark in Seattle. While I made the Space Needle too fat and the International Fountain too unrecognizable, I’m proud of the plane flying by and the couple on the blanket.

The Space Needle, 8-21-2013
The Space Needle, 8-21-2013

My final sketch led me to Kubota Gardens, which I believe to be the best Japanese gardens in Seattle. It’s also a great place for taking photos, particularly if you wish to try out a roll of black-and-white film.

Relaxing in the Tom Kubota Stroll Garden, 8-23-2014
Relaxing in the Tom Kubota Stroll Garden, 8-23-2014

In looking again at Ebert’s advice, I realize I didn’t take all of it. I didn’t take a drawing class. But that’s okay. The task itself, not the execution, is what’s important to me. And he’s right. Drawing imprinted these moments on my mind. Decades from now, I’ll probably remember the circumstances surrounding these drawings better than I will those surrounding my photos.

Good Riddance to 2016!

2016 sucked.

No, it wasn’t as bad as the year humans almost went extinct (c. 72,000 B.C.), or when the Black Plague carried off a third of the population of Europe (1348) {source for both:}, or 1919, when the flu killed more Americans than died in World War I (half a million versus 116,516) {source: Ibid and}, but it still sucked. And since I haven’t written on this blog since March (and that post dealt with a subject that sucked), I am going to make up for lost time by writing about all the ways that this particular year sucked donkey balls.

Famous People Died!

Sure, they die every year, but this year seemed worse. From Leonard Cohen to John Glenn to…David Bowie? Carrie Fisher?! George Michael?! Prince?!!!! What the fuck, 2016?

Other People Died!

Just look at my last post. And yes, technically she died in 2014, but I didn’t find out until last year so I’m giving credit to 2016.

Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize in Literature!

For some people, this was the worst news ever, because Dylan is a musician, not a writer, except that he writes his own lyrics, and those lyrics are profound, but they are nothing without the music, which is just chanting with notes, and….yeah, I thought it was pretty cool he won, too.

Drumpf pitched his campaign to the lowest common denominator, and white supremacy, and misogyny…and won!

One could argue that 2017 will really be the year that sucks, when our narcissist-in-chief is sworn into office, but this could also be the year he’s impeached and removed from office, which gives us…Mike Pence. Still, it starts with the election, which Drumpf won through a combination of Russian meddling, FBI meddling, fear, voter suppression, low voter turnout, and an electoral college that is made up of the party faithful, instead of independent electors, as the Founders wished. And this in the year that Hamilton became a smash musical on Broadway.




And yet, a lot of good happened last year, too — much of it in the way of science. From irrefutable proof of gravitational waves (Einstein proven right again!) to the eradication of measles in the Americas — though my personal favorite is the brokering of a peace deal in Colombia, ending decades of bloodshed. And yes, that peace deal was rejected by the Colombian people (or rather, the fewer than 38% of them who bothered to vote — sound familiar?), but a new peace deal was drawn up the following month and will be sent to Congress, instead of being voted on. {source:}

So, in the context of all human history, not to mention all world history, 2016 wasn’t that bad of a year. It just felt that way.