Again in the Meadows

Texas Sculpture Garden,
Frisco, Texas

James Surls
American (Colorado/Texas)
Again in the Meadows
2002

“There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”
― William Shakespeare

Photographs manipulated with Corel Painter and The Gimp.

James Surls, Again in the Meadows

James Surls, Again in the Meadows

“I believe that the justification of art is the internal combustion it ignites in the hearts of men and not its shallow, externalized, public manifestations. The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but is, rather, the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”
― Glenn Gould

James Surls, Again in the Meadows, plus a construction crane, a pile of dirt, and a stop sign

James Surls, Again in the Meadows, plus a construction crane, a pile of dirt, and a stop sign

The whole difference between a construction and a creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.
—- G. K. Chesterton

Four Women

Digital Painting done with Corel Painter and The Gimp, based on a photograph taken in the reflecting pool in front of the Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas

“Used to say there was four women in every man’s heart. The Maid in the
Meadow, the Demon Lover, the Stouthearted Woman, the Tall and Quiet Woman.”
― Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

Four Women, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas

Four Women, Winspear Opera House, Dallas, Texas

Friends of the Santa Fe Trail Bike Ride & Pub Crawl

This weekend, I wanted a nice, longish, slow bike ride – something through some varied spots of city and where I could make a stop or two for a rest and maybe a beer. There was a very strong southerly wind so it was an easy decision to ride the DART train with my bike to somewhere south and then ride back home. I rode to the Arapaho station and hopped the train downtown and past to the Cedars Station in Southside. From there is was about a twenty seven mile ride home – through The Cedars neighborhood past the Dallas Heritage Village to the Farmers Market. Then under the freeway to Deep Ellum and up the Santa Fe Trail to White Rock Lake. Finally up White Rock Creek to the Cottonwood trail under the High Five Interchange. At that point I could take my familiar route home from work.

A high point of that trip is the Santa Fe Trail. I have ridden that trail more than a few times – it’s one of my favorites. In the paper today was an article about the trail and some of the attractions along the way – Bike the Santa Fe Trail to these 10 landmarks and eateries. A good article – even if it misses more than a few good spots. I decided to ride it and stop off at The Lot for a rest along the way.

I had been to The Lot a couple weeks ago on a really cool bike ride. It was the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail Bike Ride & Pub Crawl. It was a benefit ride for the improvement and upkeep of the trail. For a donation you were able to ride with the group and get a brew at each stop on the way.

The ride started at a really nice bike shop across from Fair Park – Switching Gears Cyclery. It a cool place – set up for city transportation style bicycling, not only the carbon-fiber-spandex-speedsters.

Colin Clarke and Andie Pittman, from Switching Gears Cyclery.

Colin Clarke and Andie Pittman, from Switching Gears Cyclery.

They had a keg set up in the repair shop and everyone had a quick cold one before we toured off through Fair Park and around the southern part of Deep Ellum .

Before long, we were at our second stop – Deep Ellum Brewing Company. We were given a complimentary glass and a beer ticket. The Saturday tour crowd was in full swing and there was live music. A bunch of fun.

Bikes lined up at the Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Bikes lined up at the Deep Ellum Brewing Company

Then we all saddled up and set out up the trail. It was a large and diverse group – everything from fixie track bikes to fuzzy customs and anything in between. The motley agglomeration of pedalers kept everything at a fun, leisurely pace – slow enough for conversation and contemplation. The best way to ride a bike.

It seemed too soon when we all arrived at The Lot. This is a new restaurant/beer garden located near the spillway of White Rock Lake. They have build a bridge over a drainage that connects the place directly to the Santa Fe Trail. It’s great… you can go for a pleasant ride or a run or even a bit of a walk and simply slide over and across and there you are.

The new bridge from the Santa Fe trail into The Lot

The new bridge from the Santa Fe trail into The Lot

Everybody sat around outside and talked bikes and cities and other stuff. The place used to be a sand volleyball and swimming pool sort of club. I noticed that the beer garden is lined with concrete ledge that still has the depth markings on it – they filled in the pool to make room for seating.

So this weekend I decided to stop by the place again. There was a nice crowd on a warm day and a live band playing. I stayed for a bit and rested, until I decided I had better get back on the road – I was only halfway home, after all.

Right Angles (#23)

Texas Sculpture Garden,
Frisco, Texas

Gunner Theel American (New York)
Right Angles (#23)

Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!
—-Melville, Moby Dick

right_angles2

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
—-Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

right_angles1

We must beat the iron while it is hot, but we may polish it at leisure.
—-John Dryden

Bullsnake

I wanted to get in a (relative… for me) long bike ride today. I took my commuter bike and loaded it up with my Kindle, my camera, notebooks and pens, plus some extra water. My idea was to ride a bit, rest and read and then ride some more. I put together a route that wound through Garland, back across town to the Pearl Cup coffeehouse, then back home.

Nick is home and he rode with me east into Garland, then as we cut our way back he turned off and took the Owens Trail home. I was feeling a little off and decided I was getting overheated. It’s the first day over 90 – which soon won’t be very hot, but I haven’t acclimated to it yet – plus it’s very humid. So I hung out in a shade structure next to the athletic fields – drank some water and read a short story. Within a few minutes I felt a lot better.

I enjoyed talking sports with some guys that showed up with a truck full of coolers and grills that were setting up for an all-African soccer tournament later in the day. I took off, dropped down into the Spring Creek Natural Area and then under the highway to the Canyon Creek neighborhood.

The Pearl Cup has finally put a sign up and built a bike rack in front. Their mocha coffee had some nice latte art and plenty of caffeine and sugar. It was cool inside and I settled in with my Kindle to rest a bit.

A couple nights ago I finished a novel that I had found recommended in an article about the best books of this centuryThe True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey. It was a very well written, interesting book… and I’m glad I read it, but it didn’t speak to me in any personal way. Now that it is finished, I’m working on a huge collection of Joyce Carol Oates stories I carry on my Kindle – eleven new ones and more than two dozen classic stories from a forty year period. It’s called High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories 1966-2006.

Her writing resonates with me. As I read her harrowing, dark short fiction, my mind fills with ideas that I will have to write out. I fill pages in my Moleskine with short story ideas. Her writing shares with me the desire to explore the too-thin membrane between our illusion-filled world and the horrific void beyond.

So I drank my coffee drink and a dozen glasses of iced water, read some stories, and wrote some pages. Then I took off, riding back to the thick creekbottom woods of the Spring Creek Natural Area, did a lap of the loop trail, and plopped down on a favorite bench to crank through another story.

It happened to be a well-known story that I was familiar with – had read a couple times before. It was “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” (read it here for yourself). I hesitate to call it one of my favorite short stories… though I have to call it that – because there is no other word that fits. It is simply too disturbing to embrace fully. But it is a work of genius.

Though nothing explicitly bad happens in the tale – there is no doubt that the world has ended for poor Connie. So much in the story is ambiguous and subtly horrific. I was reading slowly, carefully, and paying complete attention to the words splashed across the Eink display. In the corner of my eye I saw a jogger going by… then he stopped and I heard a loud “Oh!”

I looked up.
“Don’t you see it?”
“What?”
“There, right there.”
I looked carefully where he was pointing, on the concrete trail right in front of where he was standing. There it was, a snake. A big snake.

I stood up and we looked at it carefully (from a safe distance).

“I think it’s a bullsnake,” I said.

“Here, I’ll Wikipedia it,” the jogger said, pulling out his iPhone. “It looks like the right pattern.”

I have seen bullsnakes before. In seventh grade we had one in biology class. I have no real fear of snakes that I have seen (as opposed to snakes I haven’t seen, which scare me) so I would rush my work and play with the snake. One day I wasn’t paying close enough attention and the thing managed to slip through my collar at the back of my neck, slithering under my shirt and winding around my chest. A friend of mind jumped behind me and managed to grab the tip of its tail – then pull the thing out.

Another day, I moved my hand into its aquarium cage too fast and the bull snake reared back and struck at me. It was harmless, but it scared me – I was a lot more careful after that.

Today, the jogger and I watched the snake crawl through the clearing and across the trail. If I moved too close it would rear like it was going to strike and I’d jump back. It was slender but at least six feet long – reaching pretty much across the concrete trail. The jogger finally decided to move on.

I sat down and started reading again, keeping one eye on the snake as it slowly moved toward the thick woods. A family came across the bridge and saw the snake. The father, riding an expensive, fully suspended mountain bike stopped, and then went after his small son – who was on a little bike with training wheels and went straight for the snake. He had no fear.

The mother followed along behind, walking a small dog. She veered way off the path, walking the dog through the thick knee-high scrub and weeds to stay far away from the snake. So she was afraid of the snake she saw, and then exposed herself to the snakes (that are undoubtedly there) that she couldn’t see.

Finally the snake reached the woods and disappeared in an instant. I finished the story – somehow the presence of the snake added to the darkness and terrible foreboding of the story. The snakes are there, whether you know it or not – sometimes they come out… and remind you of what is waiting, hidden, behind the membrane of illusion.

I think this is a bullsnake.

I think this is a bullsnake.

Bullsnake

Bullsnake

Maternal Caress

Texas Sculpture Garden,
Frisco, Texas

Eliseo Garcia, Farmers Branch
Maternal Caress
1999 Cordova Limestone

“Touch. It is touch that is the deadliest enemy of chastity, loyalty, monogamy, gentility with its codes and conventions and restraints. By touch we are betrayed and betray others … an accidental brushing of shoulders or touching of hands … hands laid on shoulders in a gesture of comfort that lies like a thief, that takes, not gives, that wants, not offers, that awakes, not pacifies. When one flesh is waiting, there is electricity in the merest contact.”
― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose

maternal_caress

What I learned this week, May 17, 2013


Esquire: The Best of What I’ve Learned


The Jobs Question: Work Is A Human Right


100 Great Workout Songs


The 75 Books Every Man Should Read

An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published. How many have you read?

I’ve read… 44 of these books, though many were so long ago I barely remember them. I hope I live long enough to get through them all.


A short film about the history of the place (sort of) where I work.

The Chip That Jack Built


Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

NYC Study Finds Protected Bicycle Lanes Boost Local Business

Bike Lanes on Custer Road

Bike Lanes on Custer Road


Sorry, College Grads, I Probably Won’t Hire You

Takeaway from this article? Learn some programming.

In part, it’s not your fault. If you grew up and went to school in the United States, you were educated in a system that has eight times as many high-school football teams as high schools that teach advanced placement computer-science classes. Things are hardly better in the universities. According to one recent report, in the next decade American colleges will mint 40,000 graduates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, though the U.S. economy is slated to create 120,000 computing jobs that require such degrees. You don’t have to be a math major to do the math: That’s three times as many jobs as we have people qualified to fill them.


Our 10 Favorite Books of 2012

Time Management

Texas Sculpture Garden,
Frisco, Texas

Zad Roumaya, Dallas
Time Management
2004 Aluminun, Paint
In Memory of Jody Young 1978-2004

Time Management, Zad Roumaya, feet hanging over the edge

Time Management, Zad Roumaya, feet hanging over the edge

“Life was not to be sitting in hot amorphic leisure in my backyard idly writing or not-writing, as the spirit moved me. It was, instead, running madly, in a crowded schedule, in a squirrel cage of busy people. Working, living, dancing, dreaming, talking, kissing — singing, laughing, learning. The responsibility, the awful responsibility of managing (profitably) 12 hours a day for 10 weeks is rather overwhelming when there is nothing, noone, to insert an exact routine into the large unfenced acres of time — which it is so easy to let drift by in soporific idling and luxurious relaxing. It is like lifting a bell jar off a securely clockwork-like functioning community, and seeing all the little busy people stop, gasp, blow up and float in the inrush, (or rather outrush,) of the rarified scheduled atmosphere — poor little frightened people, flailing impotent arms in the aimless air. That’s what it feels like: getting shed of a routine. Even though one had rebelled terribly against it, even then, one feels uncomfortable when jounced out of the repetitive rut. And so with me. What to do? Where to turn? What ties, what roots? as I hang suspended in the strange thin air of back-home?”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Time Management, Zad Roumaya, feet

Time Management, Zad Roumaya, feet

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Time Management, Zad Roumaya, Briefcase

Time Management, Zad Roumaya, Briefcase

Ready Player One

Old School Video game inspired graffiti, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Old School Video game inspired graffiti, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

I was looking through the READ (that’s as “red” not “reed”) folder on my Kindle and also in my Goodreads list at the books I’ve cranked through recently. After some thought I decided to give a bit of opinion on some of them… in case you might be interested (or interested in avoiding them).

Picking books to read is always a difficult and tricky proposition. I am not a particularly fast reader (especially now that my eyes and brain are getting old and worn out) so to commit to a novel is an investment of a good bit of precious time. That said, I do love the feeling of perusing a list on the Kindle or a shelf of paper and deciding which tome to dive into next.

One feature that is always attractive are those books that have a movie deal done. I always like the read the book first (the book is always better, isn’t it?) and that way, when the film is flickering there in the dark, I can go if I want to – rather than giving the pathetic excuse, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to see that until I get a ’round2 reading the novel.” Sad.

But sometimes it leads me down a good path. If some Hollywood Icon is ready to plop down a few million dollars on a story… doesn’t that mean it might be good? Of course not, but it’s a nice thought.

So somehow I stumbled across a story about a book called Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and the fact that it is about to be filmed. I’m not now and have never been a gamer, but was looking for some lightish fiction – something fun and not too straining – and this one seemed to fit the bill. Plus, it was on sale.

And it was what it promised. A fast moving story – more than a little on the predictable side, but I did care about the characters… and that’s the important part.
I’m late to the party on this book, so bear with me – also, I don’t like to put spoilers in my reviews, so everything I write about will be obvious in the first few pages.

Ready Player One is set in a world that is similar to The Matrix. War and Pollution have pretty much destroyed the planet and the survivors spend most of their time in a virtual world, hooked up to a powerful computer network, living out artificial lives that are usually more pleasant and interesting than their real ones. It is different from The Matrix in that this is voluntary and everyone knows what is going on… though the border between real and virtual does get a little hazy now and then.

One unanswered question is that how much is the dystopian future caused by the presence of this virtual world – in other words… if everyone didn’t have this escape would they get off their butts and make the earth a better place to live?

Within this virtual world the founder of the network has created a fiendishly difficult game – a puzzle – a scavenger hunt – and the first person to solve the riddle through to the end will gain the most valuable prize imaginable – the complete ownership and control of the virtual system. He or she will become a living god.

The plot proceeds from this premise… pretty much in the way you think it does. My biggest complaint is the basic story – which is a classic teenaged fantasy fulfillment tale. I also wasn’t bowled over by the gaming elements of the story… it’s simply not my thing.

What I really did enjoy were the puzzle elements themselves. The game master was only a little younger than me and he based all the games, clues, and Easter Eggs in the virtual world on 1980’s pop culture trivia. A lot of fun and a lot of guilty memories for me.

So, if you are looking for a fun and exciting read, not too deep in philosophy or moral paradox, and steeped in Brat Pack Movie, New Age Music, and early computing trivia… then this is your man.

Now I’m ready for the film.

game2

Dancers MM – Texas Sculpture Park

I had some time and it was a gorgeous Texas spring day. I also had an empty digital memory card and a fully charged camera battery.

Looking around the web I found a link to an office park up in Frisco that had a cool looking sculpture garden in it and a number of other artworks spread around. So off it was up the busy tollroads to see what there was to see.

I’m a sucker for sculpture and there was a lot of it. A couple hours and about two miles of walking later my memory card was full. There were a few sculptures left, so I suppose I’ll have to go back sometime later. In the meantime, I should be able to get a few blog entries out of this.

I’ve been working on photo manipulation with my new Wacom Tablet and a copy of Corel Painter – please indulge my learning curve.

At the entrance was a large sculpture by Jerry DanielDancers MM, 2000 concrete, steel – two enormous dancers welcoming cars off the highway and into the park.

Dancers MM, Jerry Daniel, Frisco, Texas

Dancers MM, Jerry Daniel, Frisco, Texas

Dancers MM, Jerry Daniel, Frisco, Texas

Dancers MM, Jerry Daniel, Frisco, Texas

Dancers MM, Jerry Daniel, Frisco, Texas

Dancers MM, Jerry Daniel, Frisco, Texas