Friday 27 March 2009

Creative Life

Elle Coyote's recent posts on Deliberate Practice and Talent is Overrated have put me in a contemplative mood about what I am doing, or attempting to do, in this blog, and in the rest of my life. I left my comments there and hope they didn't sound condescending, because I want to continue them here. I have had the extreme good fortune to be granted the circumstances to earn my living from a creative life, and feel always the desire to share that enjoyment. That desire has led to years of practice and some teaching, plus a lifetime of deep appreciation for the creativity of others, which makes me perhaps unreasonably fearless in my opinions.

Talent is overrated. To me, that is a tremendously liberating and encouraging concept. Anyone can cook, as the chef said to the rat, indeed! But one must want to cook enough to overcome obstacles life sets up, and enjoy doing it enough to practice it at every opportunity for years. Practice, not talent, is the only indicator of success. And I think this applies in every field of human activity. The best barristers are those who breathe and dream and debate the law, the best athletes those who set themselves a challenge and do not rest until they have accomplished it.

I began drawing at the age of ten, and it made me different from the other children I knew, enough to feel I had carved out a space for myself, a domain under my own control, where I imagined I had talent. It was all the impetus I needed to apply myself to drawing every day, out of uncritical pleasure and no little measure of self-delusion. But with practice I became better. And others began to notice, too. The practice came long before anyone said I had talent. I might not have continued without that attention (such a needy child!) but I was proud of my skill and wanted to spend every waking minute improving it. I drifted through my lessons, paying scant attention to anyone trying to teach me anything, including my drawing tutors, because I was busy experimenting and trying new things on my own, and always working at drawing. The only thing I loved as much was reading.

In my case, the love of learning and doing overcame the pleasure of finishing, so my accomplishments were personal and inwardly directed. My art was no one else's business, and I never took my career seriously. As a result I drifted to other things and for a long time lost touch with my creative life. It is a habit that must be nurtured, even after it is mastered. Ultimately, I fell into representing artists and managing other's careers, out of love and a need to feel useful.

Now I am at a new stage in my career, confident that if I chose to, I could very easily resurrect those drawing and painting habits, and make up for the time I have lost. Indeed I know the business inside out, what galleries and collectors need and desire from their artists, how the bubbling ecosystem of museum and curator and critic and publisher and auction house thrives, the usefulness of advertising and public relations and cash flow. I know so much that the fun has quite gone along with the possibility of failure and the desire to take risks.

I think that is why I am now writing instead of drawing. I always wrote self-consciously, fearfully even, and fitfully. I know I am not very good. I certainly do not have talent. Every page fills me with self-loathing and doubt. The possibility of failure or worse, mediocrity, is real and yet, thrilling. It makes me fearless. I want to try everything: make all the mistakes and shortcuts that gets one lost in the woods. I am determined to be proud of those rough edges, shameless for the artless mistakes, and so I am not hiding my first drafts, but posting them for you who are foolish enough to read them. But I also look forward to the necessary improvement that will come from writing every day, that after even so short a time I am beginning to feel. The process is fascinating, cathartic, human and divine at the same time.

I try to apply the lessons I taught my own students who struggled to capture a likeness. Work on the big shapes first, ignore the details. Stay loose and gestural, never erase your mistakes. Don't worry about what the first or second or tenth drawing looks like, because no one will see it. But give every drawing all of your attention and think about what you are doing. Set yourself a goal: a drawing every day, or twenty sketchbooks a year. Copy the work of great artists, draw the shoes and crumpled paper and people around you, block your ears to the critics you live with (including the ones that live in your head) and never stop working for anything, including natural disasters and personal loss. Ben Shahn wrote in the Education of an Artist, "draw and draw and paint and read, there is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to the work you will want to do."

Thursday 26 March 2009

Theatre de la Foire

With one hand in his and the other around the little figurine in my pocket, I followed my uncle Adraste as he rushed from the cemetery directly to the Fair of Saint Laurent, the Theatre de la Foire, where the satire of La Sylphide had been mounted by our competitors with much success. A crowd had already gathered, and he hoisted me upon his shoulders to get a better view of the stage erected on the balcony against a false facade above us.

"They're already attracting bigger crowds than Monsieur Biancolleli," said a man in an extravagantly floppy straw hat who had edged over in our direction. He lifted one side of the brim and smiled up at me. "Buongiorno, Principessa Yolande Rat-Catcher."

I cried out with delight.

"Shh, you must not give me away, or I shall have to have to go on stage and apologize for my own rhymes."

"You can't possibly be worried," said my uncle, "they can't be as good as yours."

"Do I look worried?" he asked in a quaking voice, "But you know, Panard's songs are memorable, and Fagan writes remarkable French dialogue for an Irishman."

"Not Charles-François Panard, that merry drunkard..."

"Ah, I see you know him too! I say, Adraste, you keep the very best company!"

"He bought an edition of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera from me last month."

"Excellent! You will join us afterward, then, for dinner." Monsieur Biancolelli smacked his lips at me.

"But are you not incognito?"

"Good God, not from Panard! From the Riccoboni's!"

A horn fanfare announced the beginning of the performance, in the same manner as our own musicians in the Theatre Italien, but then died away on a flat note. The horn player stood up, raised his instrument over his head, reached in the bell and extracted an enormous piece of lady's underwear, then bowed to the delighted audience before tossing it to a young lady who appeared on the balcony. She caught it neatly, inspected it carefully, then declaimed,

We present our satire with honest intentions,
Aiming to delight with emulated inventions,
For it takes rare talent to be the original creator
Of verses so bad, even parody's a hurdle
When your model's on stage in that marginal theatre
run by the italienne who fits in this girdle.

"Monsieur Biancolelli, it's scandalous! She's insulting your verses!"

"Shh, I know, I know; I wrote her lines myself. And helped to fund the production."

My uncle and I burst out laughing.

"You know, I have probably made a terrible mistake. But it's hard not to write satire, and the more they laugh here, the more they'll want to come in and see what's been parodied. Besides, Panard needs the money."

The performance was an utter farce, with an obese sylph who made the entire balcony shudder, and the gnomide a dwarf made up as an old woman; Eraste a lecher and Arlequin a drunkard. The palace of the Sylphides was a tavern, and Clarice, the neglected fiancee of besotted Eraste, made an appearance as a laundress, boxed her sylph-sotted betrothed about the ears, then pulled him off stage to the applause of the audience. But the verses were very funny, and we laughed without stop, who would have cried if we didn't know M. Biancolelli had had his hand in it.

We dined that night al fresco at a guinguette, a wine shop just on the edge of the city, with stout Monsieur Panard and wiry Fagan, his collaborator, and with Monsieur Biancolelli, a few unmarried members of the company de la foire, and one or two other performers of the Theatre Italien.

"Before Riccoboni won the Hotel Borgogne, we performed with you in the fairs, but a permanent home has our levity undone, and our rhyme no longer compares. " said M. Biancolelli as a toast.

M. Panard stood up to reply, . "my friends, all things in this world shall pass; this is a law even heaven holds dear. If you doubt it now just watch my glass, for the wine it holds shall soon disappear." And he held up the most enormous wineglass of eau-du-vie, bowed to us and drained it with pleasure.

Fagan took his turn, raised his glass and addressed M. Biancolelli gravely. "Of rhyming levity you do us accuse, to some we seem to play the buffoons, but the lightest humour can do more than amuse, making ridiculous the very thing it lampoons."

The entire table gave a long, pleasurable groan at this opening volley, for it announced the continuation of la guerre des vers, which had been waged between the members of the two companies for decades. M. Biancolelli added, "If Fagan wears a sullen air, and Panard never learned to pout, 'twas only because Fagan was spare, or because Panard was stout."

They went on like this all night, back and forth, as the wine shop filled with customers attracted by the impromptu jousting, and the delighted inn-keeper bustling around refilling jugs and glasses, turning any horizontal surface he and his wife could find into a table. Merchants and students, tradesmen and apprentices were all seated together, and a gentle couple who would not identify themselves and whose livery we did not recognize, also took part, adding a couplet or two of their own. Everyone was in the highest, most excitable spirits, interrupting each other with laughter and impertinent remarks.

I wandered about the tables and chairs, content to quietly study everyone who had gathered under the stars, until I caught sight of an old man in a three-tailed wig I thought I recognized, seated at the very edge of the company where the warm lantern light and laughter faded into the cold night air, and who seemed to watch me with glittering eyes. I fled back into the crowd, that was now singing le chevalier du Guet, and clung to my uncle, then fell asleep in his arms.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Émilie, marquise du Châtelet

I won't try to repeat what you can easily read about Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet except in the briefest of manner. She published her own highly technical Institutions de physique exploring the work of Leibniz on space, time and force, and her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica as well as numerous scientific papers. She corresponded with Leibniz, Bernoulli, Jonathan Swift, Bolingbroke and Frederick the Great of Prussia. She conducted experiments on the nature of light and radiation and the conservation of energy. She was the only woman that the decidedly unmathematical Voltaire ever found whose intelligence matched his own, and he became her devoted lover for fifteen years. They read each other's works and their comments can be found in the margins of their manuscripts. She used her mathematical skills at the card table in Versailles when they ran out of money. Together they collected a library of 21,000 books.

She was an example of a woman intelligent enough to recognize the hypocritical rules of social conduct were for other people, to refuse to accept convention, and to want to make an impact on the world. To this end, she had a plan and worked at it throughout her life, without giving up her passion for life and for love, and her conscious pursuit of happiness.

Emilie de Châtelet was a sharp-witted woman with raven hair and deep black eyes, easy and polite in conversation. I met her once at her Chateau de Cirey and she told me when she was young, her father trained her to fence and ride, and that she sang opera and enjoyed acting in Voltaire's productions on their own Little Theatre that still stands today.

While the other women of her day studied men, she studied books. I have always deplored not the injustice of societies that maintain inequal opportunity for men and women, but the profound human wealth these practices squander. How many women with minds as quick as Emilie's have been buried by their fathers and husbands and childbirth, or drowned in the tides of social censure? Emilie was born with the position, wealth and good fortune to rise to intellectual heights: these were gifts she recognized and did not waste.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Nova Albion Parade

This Can Happen to You

I don't know how, but it can.

Friday 20 March 2009

Saint Lazare

The Paris of my childhood was a decaying, gloomy city, ill at ease and dangerous. The acrid smell of human waste, blackened vegetables, hides and sweat hung everywhere. Buildings rotted from within and collapsed. Not far from les Halles was a timbered house whose first storey had subsided halfway into the mud; it was still inhabited by fifty people. The poor lived and died in the road and the alleys, pressed into every corner and nook and refuse hole. The wealthy built walls and went everywhere with handkerchief and violets at their nose. It is no accident that perfume was a Parisian invention. Only main roads were paved, and those poorly, with open sewers and slick, uneven stones. We were nearly a million inhabitants, squeezed into a blighted space abandoned by the King, who did not bother to disguise his hatred of us, and forgotten by God, who sent disease and the devil to feed on our multitudes. Plague broke out frequently, and houses were burned down with their living inhabitants inside to limit the spread of pestilence. Bands of cutthroats and thieves preyed on the widowed and orphaned, and armies of beggars extended their own kingdom and governance over large parts of the city.

Beneath the ponderous weight of this restless humanity, the dead slept in their shrouds, jostled into mass graves and fossa, layered and compressed, so that they sometimes burst through basement walls or erupted into ill-placed wine caverns. They reeked and exuded their mustiness at night, and it was against that noisesome vapour that we shut our windows when we slept. We had only forty odd cemeteries to serve the recently dead, though some of these contained crypts that snaked in long, dark passages over vast areas underground. The remains of a poor soul in a common grave would be lucky to spend ten years in the ground, before being exhumed to make way for new arrivals. No one knew or cared what happened to their bones. The rich funded the decoration of the churches and the enrichment of the clergy; they were granted sanctified plots where they built their own cities of tombs and sepulchres. Though my mother was unlucky in life, in death she was granted a tomb of her own at Saint Lazare, purchased by my father for himself, for he had no ties left to his ancestral home. It was more space than she ever occupied while she lived.

Saint Lazare was as crowded as all the other cemeteries of Paris, where funerals or interments were popular public spectacles, where the grave-makers performed with skulls and bones for the amusement of the crowds, and hungry coffin-sellers plied their wares. Charlatans sold tonics and plasters made of the shrouds of supposed saints, and guides led bands of wide-eyed gagglers from monument to monument, telling lurid tales of the unhappy inhabitant. My mother was buried along a quiet, narrow laneway of dull, country nobility, and when my uncle and I slipped out of the hot living crowd into the shadowed stone passage, it was like moving from one world to another. Here the vanity of the inhabitants had raised monumental structures and bizarre forms, for we were not so far removed from the medieval Dance of Death, and skeletons in stone appeared everywhere in bas relief and high relief, and in the round, waiting upon stone ladies sleeping in veils and portraits of men in outmoded fashions.

My mother's mausoleum was a simple low house built of rusticated stone, a pair of doric pillars on either side of five steps leading to the bronze door and a low, undecorated frieze. My uncle produced a large key from his pocket, and unlocked the massive door. The sound of the lock turning rung out in that silent place: we were far from the church and the common yard, and there were no birds or trees in sight, only solemn piles of carved stone, obelisks, crosses and megaliths.

"Your father would have been buried beside her," he said to me as the door swung outward, "but his body was never found."

We passed into the dark interior. In the wall at the rear was a small, high window that gave the only light, and beneath it lay two tombs, one obviously vacant. On my mother's tomb were the wilted remains of flowers crumbling to dust. My uncle swept them away with his sleeve, and I laid in their place the lilies I had cut from his tiny garden behind the printing shop. The air was cold and still, and I thought of my mother's soft body pressed to those icy stones and shivered. She was separated from me by those stones forever, and I knew that no power could bring her back.

There was nothing more for us to do there, and my uncle was in a silent mood. Presently we turned and left, and he pushed the heavy bronze door back in place with a metallic thud and struggled to turn the key in the lock, that had opened so easily.

I felt a prickling on my nape and turned to find a strange man watching me while my uncle yanked and pressed on the latchkey. He was dressed at the height of fashion, in a rocquelaure and slate-coloured moire full-trimmed silk coat with large decent cuffs and buttons of hammered silver. He tucked his hands in the waistband of his breeches, ostentatiously displaying the gilded hilt of his sword and pendulant sword-knot that dangled on the ground. His cane hung negligently from his right arm, also trailing against the stone pavement. His waistcoat also was fringed in silver, his breeches were of dove satin and his stockings the same. On his head he wore a large, grave, decently powdered three-tailed wig, and a flamboyant travelling hat decorated with black lace.

I had not seen anyone when we went in, so that I had the impression this vision had simply appeared out of thin air. His face was smooth, and his lip curled in a disagreeable sneer, but his eyes sparkled with a lively amusement, that I did not feel alarmed. I made a small curtsy and he gave me a slight bow, bending at his waist stiffly and nodding his head with his hand to his hat. I tugged on my uncle's coat, but he was swearing at the intransigent lock and had not noticed our remarkable companion.

The strange man held out his ungloved, closed hand in my direction. He had long, slender fingers, fastidiously clean nails, and several large silver rings. At his invitation I touched a prominent knuckle and his fingers uncurled, revealing a tiny bronze figure reposing there. He indicated silently that I take it, and when I plucked it from his palm, the metal felt as hot as if it had come from an oven. It was a tiny man, in a pose like the famous Dying Gaul of Pergamon, no longer than my thumb, and as detailed and perfect in form as any sculptured saint I have yet seen in a cathedral. But I did not think it represented any saint, for it was as naked and immodest as a slave.

The strange man put his long finger to his sneering lips to command my silence, but I turned to tug on my uncle's coat, who exclaimed with an expelled breath as the bolt shot home. "Uncle Adraste, may I...?" But I never finished my question, for when I turned back the strange man had vanished.

"I can almost smell Madame Boucher's crêpes, can't you? Shall we hurry back before it gets too late? Did you say something, Yolande?"

But I slipped the little man in my pocket and put my warm hand in my uncle's, and said nothing.

The Old Frog and the Sea

If meditation were all it took to achieve Enlightenment, frogs would be Buddhas.

Ranida the frog lives in an old well that supplies sweet water to a mountain temple. He loves his home, shaded by cool ferns and moistened by the mountain mists. He spends his time teaching his companion, a carp who swims at the bottom of the well, about the world above water, about the bright sunlight sparkling like diamonds in the dew, the stars and the wind, meadows of grass and forests of bamboo. But his friend is incapable of understanding or appreciating the splendors of dry land, where food is hard to find and not nearly as tasty.

One day a turtle stumbles by, and Ranida invites him to stay and enjoy paradise with him. But the turtle looks around with a cynical eye and scoffs, “This hardly compares to the Sea. All the waters of the world pour endlessly into that place, where they neither decrease in drought nor rise in floods.”

Ranida has never heard of the Sea, nor have his neighbors, but they send him to the local temple to ask the frog monks about it. Of course, the Sea, they pretend to be wise, but they know it only from their books. Join us and we’ll take you there. Ranida becomes a junior monk, and studies meditation, qi gong, kung fu. As he labors his desire to visit the Sea grows, and he begins to ask who has actually been there, if any intend to travel in that direction and when they will be leaving. Soon his questions cause so much unrest in the monastery, he comes to the attention of the abbot who sends him away to a master toad living alone in a wilderness gulley; this master will teach him how to reach the Sea.

Full of hope, Ranida departs on his journey. He must cross raging rivers, rescue helpless tadpoles from the clutches of snakes and cranes, meet salamanders and newts, who introduce the psychedelic wonders of microscopic pond life.

Master Toad is a trickster and a magician, a master of escapes and spells. But he is also the keeper of real, powerful secrets of the world, such as the secret of immortality. When Ranida finally finds Master Toad, he is taught that in order to reach the Sea one must give up what one loves most.

A great storm brews and rain falls in torrents. The gulley is threatened with flooding. Ranida rushes back to save his master but finds the toad will not leave this place of danger. As the waters rise and the flood approaches, Ranida must decide to flee or stay. In the end he overcomes his terror of floods and returns to stay with the Master. Amid lightning and thunder they are together swept up in the torrent. The old Toad cries, “The Sea is inside you. You must eliminate yourself in order to let it flood into your being and carry you away!” And he expires, whispering, “The Sea, the Sea!”

Ranida is stunned. All is lost. He clambers onto a bit of flotsam and is carried out on the raging waters, in despair. He no longer wants to get to the Sea, he just longs to return to his beautiful well, and enjoy his happy days with his carp companion.

But when the day breaks, he discovers a sight before him that he never imagined. A wide open ocean, the sun shining on its glittering surface, and the bit of flotsam to which he clings is his old friend the turtle, returned to the sea.

I wrote this in 2005, and titled it Hidden Dragonfly, Crouching Frog, but abandoned it when I learned Dreamworks was creating Kung Fu Panda, and was reminded of it when Enjah asked for dancing amphibians.

Sunday 15 March 2009

The View from My Window

Looking east over the Bolinas Marina.

Looking west toward Cowell along the inland waterway.

When I first visited Bodega with Salazar Jack, my draw distance was at a minimum setting, and I fell in love with what seemed to be a quiet riverine valley. When I returned to build, I discovered to my surprise that my lovely mountain view is really dotted with boxy builds. Ah well, being near-sighted has its advantages, and changing draw distance is more effective than a topiary screen.

Major construction is now complete, with a little texture touch-up yet to do. At least I wanted to get this much done before leaving for China; I didn't want to be a bad neighbour and leave an unsightly mess in my adopted home. The interior is cold and bare but decorating may just have to wait. I may still do a bit of landscaping just to tidy up a bit outside. That will mean terraces, because I am working with intractable granite. At least I am building on firm, igneous ground.

Friday 13 March 2009

Construction Underway

Construction of my new residence is now underway in Bodega; first storey walls and half the columns have gone up. The rest should move along quickly. The textures seem a little soft: there are only eight so far, plus one for shadows on the ground, all at 512x512. I daren't make 'em much larger, or one will spend half a day just waiting to see what I put so much effort into: custom renderings of the elevations. However, after the major construction is complete, I may find ways to reduce the number and size of textures and selectively increase the resolution for important parts and details.
You may notice the window don't open. That will be corrected in time.
Naturally the interior is stripped bare. Decorating will be a project all on its own. As the exterior is a neo-classical doric order, I'm thinking Empire or Sheridan, and I have a secret fondness for Biedermeier, but that's getting ahead of myself at this stage.
Still on track for completion by early summer, though it's always summer in Bodega!

Wednesday 11 March 2009

My Mother

This memory is somehow out of order. I think I was much younger than eight, but it is confused with a time when I had already spent some time at the Comedie Italienne. I haven't yet explained how my father met my mother in London, her own short-lived stage career, or passing, but all these I learned about later in life. I only understood she was not there when I was a child.

"But Yolande, your mother is dead."

"When will she come back?"

"One does not come back after one dies, child."

"Why not? Does Mama not want to come back?"

"Dear no, I am sure Mama would come back if she could."

"Why won't she come back? Doesn't she love Yolande?"

"Mama is in heaven, where she watches over you every day."

"She watches me?"

"But of course! She makes sure you are well and that nothing bad will ever happen to you. You see she loves you very much."

"If she can see me, why can't I see her? Why is she hiding?"

"But she doesn't hide from you. She has left her body down here, on earth and her soul has gone up to heaven."

"Where is her body then? Can I see it? Is she beautiful?"

"We buried her in the cemetery at St Lazare, where we go for walks on Sunday."

"Her body is in the cemetery? She didn't want to take it to heaven?"

"Yes, dear, but it was too heavy to take to heaven."

"All her hair and clothes and cheeks and fingers, too?"

"Everything is buried in her grave."

"She didn't take anything to heaven?"

At this my uncle became impatient, and blinked at me from behind his thick spectacles. "She took her sweetness and her love with her to heaven."

"How can she see me then?"


"If she left her eyes in the cemetery how can she see me anymore?"

I put my hands over my eyes, for I felt tears welling up and I did not want my Uncle to watch them fall. He was wrong. My mother would come back and take me with her to the cemetery. I did not want to listen to his stories any longer, about her soul and about heaven. "She's not in heaven. I do not believe you. I think she is hiding in the grave and doesn't want me to see her because she is old and ugly now."

My uncle said nothing, but gazed on me with sadness. I knew he wanted to put his arms around me and draw me to him, but cruelly I stood away and would not look at him. I would let no one love me. I was a sad, cold girl whose mother left her and went down into the ground. That's where she lived and that is where I would live too, one day. My uncle touched me on my arm, a loving, tentative touch that sought to enfold me in his embrace. I was so miserable, because I loved him, and longed for the smell of his leather waistcoat and perfumed hair, even the familiar, warm smell of tobacco that hung on his fingertips and moustache. I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and curl my fingers into his damp hair and comfort him. But I saw my mother living alone in that cold room beneath the cemetery, alone and strange, not missing me, not seeing me, not talking to me. The stone floor was damp and covered in earth, and there were roots and grubs, and she was barefoot, dirty, and always hungry. Dark circles around her eyes made them seem larger, more luminous in the dark. Her clothes hung limp and soiled, and I did not understand why she did not hear me when I prayed at night to her. She was mad, like little Betinna's grandmother, muttering and lisping, except she never smiled, and I could not hear my name on her pale lips. I did not want to believe in heaven when my mother was in such darkness, and I could not hope for the happiness and warmth that my Uncle wanted to wrap me in. I believe I wanted to hurt him. I cried and squirmed out of his reach, and flung myself on my bed. After a few minutes he got up quietly and left my room, softly closing the door behind him.

The moon came up and cast a ray of silver light into my room, throwing my Polchinello into a grinning silhouette. Perhaps that is what death was like, I thought, after you take your hand out of the puppet and it dangles like a rag, still grinning for no reason. I imagined my soul was the hand of my mother and she had withdrawn it from me, and hung me from a nail. Sometimes I would dance and curtsey and laugh, but that was when my mother's hand was in me, wiggling my puppet hands and masked face. At night, in bed, I lay silent and still, without feeling. Once I was alone, I did not feel sad, or sorry, or angry. I was a stone, an abandoned doll. I would wait until the play started again in the morning, and a commanding hand entered me when the sun came up and returned me to life.

I slipped off my bed and dragged a chair over to Mr. Punch, as my Uncle liked to call him. His round eye stared back at me, insolent like a dog who knows he has done something shocking on your floor and dares you to say something about it. It gleamed like the eye of a fish at the market, big as saucers. I unhooked him and the heavy wooden head flopped over. Lazy man! I put my hand inside and screwed my finger into the socket in his neck. Live! I make you live! Dance! Mr. Punch, bow to the left. Now bow to the right. Continenza left, continenza right, cambiomento left, meza volta and ripresa. Who is your lovely dancing partner? Yolande with the fair face and the fetching yellow stockings. Why you make a lovely pair, surely you will marry one day? What? You are already married? And so young! Ah, you are married to someone else, is that it, Mr. Punch? But where is your wife, and won't she be jealous of beautiful Yolande? Ah, your wife is dead! You beat her to death in the market. Bad man, have you no shame? But you gave her a beautiful funeral? Ripresa backward and volta tonda right. I think you are a scoundrel, Sir, and I send you to the gallows. I pulled my hand out of the grinning puppet and let his head fall backward. Still standing on the chair, I let him drop to the floor where his nose struck with a loud crack. Then I let myself fall in the same way, as if every muscle in my body were made of cloth.

My uncle rushed in, for my head had struck the floor boards so soundly above his study it awoke him from his nap. He threw open my door with a great cry and rushed to my side, immediately pulling me into his embrace and smothering me in kisses, while calling angrily for Madame Bouchard to fetch a doctor. He did not notice that his heel was crushing the puppet's face. I was bleeding great quantities of blood from my head, and they could not find the wound, even though they passed their fingers over the sore spot and made me cry out several times. Madame Bouchard made little high-pitched yells of alarm until they saw I was still breathing. I tried to feel nothing. I tried to stay dead, but instead a great hot wave rolled up from the bottom of my being and washed over me in salty waves, causing me to tremble and shake. I cried and cried, and crushed my uncle's face into mine, scratching my cheek on his whiskers. He cried too, and we clung together, lonely and thankful, who meant more to each other than any other thing in the world.

The next day we went to the cemetery together.

Tuesday 10 March 2009

World Builder

A lovely video.

Monday 9 March 2009

The Return of Doctor Fluxus

I had hoped to put off this bit of my past until later, for my relationship with Doctor Theophrastus Fluxus is a difficult one, but my friends have wanted to see the return of his Alchemickal Theatre, and I promised to see what I could do. To my utter mortification he has managed to insult nearly everyone I know. Enjah thinks him a charlatan, Osprey considers him dangerous, and HBA is ready to run him through on his enormous....
In fact I did not expect him to heed my call as we did not part on the best of terms. For many years I was his student and acolyte. He bamboozled half of Asia, but he protected me from harm and taught me much worth knowing, though more from his bad example than from his good.
His origins are a mystery, and if you listen to his voice, there's a blend of strange accents; not a one sounds genuine. I cannot say with certainty if he is man or ghost, or even male or female. No one has seen him without his mask or out of his cloak. His own proclivities are perhaps best left unexamined!
He claims arcane knowledge and alchemical powers, and like me he is several centuries old, yet he has the wisdom of a bug and is always getting into scrapes, usually of his own making, and I don't know why I always agree to rescue him. I suppose he is the only one left with whom I share much of a past, so for good or for bad, I count him a friend. He can annoy a saint, but he's a fascinating creature.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Proof of Concept

Orthographic rendered images applied to simple prims, scaled and positioned to match my Blender model. It works about as expected, but I can fix problems in the corners if I can render shadows without rendering the column that casts the shadow.** I may have to start digging into Blender nodes.
Of course the final model will have thin walls and real openings for doors and windows, avoiding evil overlapping z-buffered alpha images as textures. And columns. Preferably sculpties with multiple level-of-detail problems fixed.
See? Spend a year or two in Second Life and even a Baroque antique like myself will start speaking like a native.

**Update. There's a button in the material render pipeline panel for "Only Cast Shadows", Hooray! Blender nodes may lay undisturbed for the moment (better to let sleeping dogs lie).

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Building Progress Revisited

The model is finished. So are my lavender seeds. Does any one need homunculi helpers, or shall I let them melt away with the next rain?

Next I shall render some test textures to see how they look on a few prims in SL, and test some texture-rotation scripts. If all looks well, it's back to Blender for detailed texturing and baking, and then I must give some thought to decorating.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

Building Progress

My little wooden construction workers have been busy, and added a second storey, mutules, mouldings, and a balcony during the night. Must run out to buy more lavender seeds for them. Doors and windows are next.

Construction has Begun!

Well, not yet in Second Life, but I am laying foundations in Blender. Here is a progress report.

Doors and windows are next, a rooftop balcony and a frieze, then I shall texture and bake the lights and shadows into the image files, bring those into Second Life and rebuild a lower resolution version with prims.

Why? Because plywood gives me splinters, and I want all my textures ready before the first prim goes up.

Monday 2 March 2009

New Home

Mere minutes from Osprey and Enjah, I am starting to get settled in Bodega. No doubt I shall shift around a bit as I experiment with building styles and living arrangements, but I have staked my claim and erected four doric columns to mark my territory in the meanwhile. I am very much looking forward to residing so close to friends, and being a part of the Jack Phyneas Memorial Trust. I look upon the move as a new chapter in my life, with all the excitement that goes with it. Permit me a few months to settle in (I am known to take my time), then allow me to invite you to a party in celebration of the new digs.

I have much to do over the next months, in no particular order of importance, but a little at a time:
1. build a house (trees and tents suit my nomadic friends, but I need an atrium, a porch and a library for my comfort!);
2. hold an art exhibition at Enjah Mysterio's gallery in Nova Albion;
3. locate Dr. Fluxus and the remains of his Alchemickal Theatre to make a machinima with Osprey;
4. establish an architectural practice;
5. continue my memoirs and move them to their own website.
6. resurrect some long-neglected friendships.

Trying it on for size...

What do you think? A worthwhile venture to undertake, or more trouble than it's worth?



  • ·         Copy and modify privileges
  • ·         House aligner system
  • ·         Teleports
  • ·         Home control system
  • ·         Lockable doors
  • ·         Security system
  • ·         Media controls
  • ·         Instructions
  • ·         Easily rezzed
  • ·         Copyright safe

Most models include:

  • ·         Working fireplaces
  • ·         Lighting systems
  • ·         Basements, Crypts or Graveyards
  • ·         Day and Night textures
  • ·         Optional phantoms, poltergeists or kitchen gods
  • ·         100 prim, 200 prim, 300 prim models

Furniture also available.

Sunday 1 March 2009

The Eleventh Place

Madame Boucher brought dinner to us, cotriade with crepes, a seafood stew, and gignot d'agneau, shallots in cream which were better than anything I have ever eaten before or since. My uncle Adraste and I ate in silence, until I insisted he continue my father's tale.

"We played cards in his library for several evenings. He showed me how his mysterious opponent arrayed his atouts on the table, and I tried to understand some reason or pattern behind it: six cards arranged in a hexagon, three more cards above that and one final card at the top pointing to one's opponent. Your father was convinced there was some meaning in it."

"Was there?"

"Yes. It was the Sephiroth. I recognized it as soon as he dealt it, and went to his books and showed him an illustration of the figure in Oedipus Aegypticus."

"Can you show me?"

As Madame Boucher cleared away the dishes, my uncle went to his bureau and found a sheet of paper, scratched out something with his quill, and returned to the table. He had drawn ten circles in the same arrangement he described, connected by lines.

I said, "It's marelle, hopscotch, but with circles instead of squares. Look, here is heaven and here is earth. You just drew it upside down."

My uncle looked at me with astonishment. "Yes, earth should be pointing down, that's right. That is Malchut, the entrance, the Kingdom. And up here, close to you, is Kether, the unmoving centre of all things, the Crown, the infinite light. These ten circles are the different ways man may understand God, and they are also the different means by which God created man and all the universe. In between Kether and Mulchut are Revelation and Reason, Mercy and Judgment, with Balance in the centre, Endurance and Magnificence below, and here, just above the Kingdom is the Translator who makes the word known to man. Each one is a world of its own, and together they are called the Tree of Life, or the face of God. The four that make up the trunk represent Father, Son, Holy Ghost and Man; these ones are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon, arranged between the fixed heavens and the ever-changing elements. Now if we place your cards in this pattern, we can tell a story with them."
I ran to my room and took my father's playing cards from their hiding place, and brought them to my uncle. "Show me where to put them."

"Just play the atouts. If you deal a suit card, a wand or a cup, yes like that one, place it here on the discard pile.

I dealt out my cards onto the circles my uncle had drawn.
"There's one missing, here."

My uncle's face darkened. "Why do you say that?"

"If you hop here, then you're out." I pointed to the empty place directly beneath the Crown, where two lines crossed.

"There is an eleventh sefira, the Abyss, in which all phenomena are stored, undifferentiated, unified. It is Pluto, the underworld, the fallen angels. But it is a null place, and it is never drawn in the diagram."

"You mean there's nothing there?"

"Something's there alright, but it could be anything or anyone. It's changeable, it means something different to everyone, every time."

I studied the drawing, and in my head ran the rhyme we always sang when we leaped from square to square.

Down by the riverside the green grass grows,
Where some walk and some tiptoe.
She sings, she sings so sweet,
She calls over to someone across the street.
Give her a square, give her a level,
Give her a compass and send her to the devil.

"Is that where my father went?" I blurted, pointing to the grinning satyr dealt into the  eleventh  place.

Madame Boucher returned with our sweet rum-flavoured gâteau nantais and nearly dropped them when she saw the cards spread over our table. "Dear God, Monsieur Adraste, what are you doing! In front of the child! It's blasphemy to show her such things."

And deaf to my entreaties and cries, which only made her more determined, she swept up my father's deck and would have thrown them in the fire if my uncle had not protested. He took them from her and slipped them in his waistcoat pocket with what I imagined was a small sigh of relief.