Monday, October 24, 2011

Dinosaurs: Tyrannasaurus Rex: Value Intellectual Hunger

Asked to name one Dinosaur, many people will come up with T. rex.  Asked to describe this Dinosaur, people will mention her small arms and mouth full of sharp teeth.  Found in North America, T. rex lived during the Cretaceous Period, and was one of the last Dinosaurs to exist.
            Like other Theropods, T. rex walked on two legs, and was a member of the Saurischia Sub-order (also known as “Lizard-hipped dinosaurs”).  She was the last in a very successful branch of the Theropods known as the Tyrannosauridae.  This is important to know, since T. rex was originally thought to be a close relative of Allosaurus and other Carnosaurs (large Meat-eaters).  However later studies proved that She was a member of the Coelurosauria Family, who are related to Birds.  In fact, young T. rexes had proto-feathers before shedding them for the scales of an adult.
            A nightmare for other Dinosaurs, T. rex possessed a keen sense of smell to hunt Hadrosaurs and Triceratops.  (Unlike popular depictions, T. rex did not hunt Stegosaurus of the Jurassic Period.)  Because T. rex was the only major meat eater of her time, scientists think that adolescent T. rex filled an important ecological niche.  Studies show that teen-age T. rex had a longer childhood than other Dinosaurs, and filled the niche of middle-size predators.  Being constantly hungry, teenage T. rex scoured the countryside in search of food (much like human teen-agers).
            Stouter than other Tyrannosaurs, adult T. rex had more powerful legs to pursue her prey.  Meanwhile adolescent T. rexes ran faster than many other Dinosaurs. As the most terrifying of Dinosaurs, T. rex had giant spikes for teeth.  With these teeth, She pierced and gripped her prey.  Using her powerful jaws, T. rex crushed bones and ripped away large chunks of meat from her unfortunate victim.      
T. rex is more than an eating machine or icon.  She is a complex being who we have yet to discover more about.  Every idea that we had about Her we were forced to discard upon learning new knowledge.  T. rex challenges us to explore and to give up our intellectual conceits.
            As adolescent T. rex relentlessly explores her territory, so we can explore to satisfy our intellectual hunger.  She teaches us not to be afraid of our intellect, but allow it to mature.  Embrace her fierceness, and let T. rex guide you in your pursuits.  With Her by your side, you can become more than you are.  However do not become so domineering that you frighten everyone away.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Art and Nature: Art for Art's Sake (2 of 2)

These two artists changed my thinking about the purpose of art.  The artist statement by Jose Clemente Orozco (Mexican 1883-1949) concerning his mural “The Epic of American Civilization” (1932-1934) further cemented my new perceptions. He said (his capitals) “IN every painting, as in any other work of art, there is always an IDEA, never a STORY. The idea is the point of departure, the first cause of the plastic construction, and it is present all the time as energy creating matter. The stories and other literary associations exist only in the mind of the spectator, the painting acting as the stimulus.” 

The value of the art lies therefore within the viewer.  For example viewing paintings by Stuart Davis (American, 1894-1964) is an experience in lyricism.  Davis explored how painting was like music through colors, shape, and words.  Each painting reflects the pulse of a place, rather than the place itself.  A forefather of the Pop Art Movement, Davis translated squiggly lines and flashing colors into striking visual images.

Another example music explored as painting is “Jazz” (1947) by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954).  With his painted cutouts and bright colors, Matisse created the visual aspect of jazz.  His designs experimented with rhythm and repetition that was broken by improvisation much like jazz music.

In contrast, the Neoclassism Movement (1760-1850) regarded art to be a medium to uplift and enlighten the spectator.  Subjects from ancient Greece and Rome were plumbed for their ability to morally educate people.  The purpose of art was therefore to promote ethical behavior for all classes.  Hence, “The Stone Breakers” (Gustave Courbet, 1849) or “The Man with the HoeL’homme a la loue” (Jean-Francois Millet, 1860-1862) was scandalous.  Menial labor was not a worthy topic for art.  

What is considered art changes in various eras.  Menial labor instead of abstract art can be a vehicle to contemplate life.  From my experiences in studying art, I learnt that art for art’s sake encompasses a wide variety of art.  It is up to the viewer to decide how to regard it.  Art simply is.  It has no other purpose than to simply be.  In his principles of aesthetics, Immanuel Kant (German, 1724- 1804) stressed that the object of art should exist only for itself.  Art becomes a vehicle for the observer to engage with it.

I now agree with Oscar Wilde (Irish, 1854-1900) on beauty and art.  He said, “Aestheticism is a search after the signs of the beautiful.  It is the science of the beautiful through which men seek the correlation of the arts.  It is to speak more exactly the search after the secret of life.”  Art for art’s sake prompts us to seek beauty.  We contemplate the art and discover life.  We can look at Pollock’s drip paintings or “The Stone Breakers” as a window on life beyond our senses.

Works Used

Arnold, Michael, “Stuart Davis, American Painter, 1894-1964” Simply Art, 2011,,

Coyle, Laurie and Rick Tejada-Flores, “OROZCO: Man of Fire”, Paradigm Productions, 2007,, 

Dabrowski, Magdalena, “Henri Matisse (1869–1954)”, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004,,

Essak, Shelley, “All About Art History”,,,

---, “Guide to Art History”,, 2009,,

Janson, H.W. and Dora Jane Janson, “The Story of Painting”, Harry N Abrams: New York, 1966.

Horsley, Carter, “Mumbo Jumbo and Mud Pies: Jackson Pollock”, The City Review, 1999,,

---, “Matisse: Life and Painting”, Henri, 2011,,

---, “Orozco – An Epic of American Civilization”, Dartmouth College,,

Slater, Barry, “Aesthetics”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, July 2005,,

---, “Willem de Kooning”, The Art Story: Modern Art Movement, 2011,,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Art and Nature: Art for Art's Sake (1 of 2)

Louvre: 1805
In pondering “art for art’s sake”, I need to narrate my first encounter with Abstract Art.  At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, I decided to view paintings by Willem de Kooning (Dutch-American, 1904-1997), a prominent Abstract Expressionist.  These paintings featured black brush strokes on a white canvas.  My first reaction was that "this is not art”!  To me, his paintings were simply large squiggles on canvas.  My definition of art meant a representation of people or objects concerning a particular subject.

Then I encountered the drip (poured) paintings by Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956).  I considered these paintings to be a complete waste of paint.  They were simply a mess of color drips and splashes.  I wondered how could these paintings be considered art.

My view was that art had a function, and had to be representational.  A person painted a picture to express an idea.  Art had to have meaning of some kind even if it depicted a bowl of fruit.  The observer had to see something.  De Kooning, himself, said, “Even abstract shapes must have a likeness.”

Revisiting de Kooning’s paintings, I noticed that the artist had painted over several brushstrokes.  I realized that in each picture, the artist had planned the positive and negative spaces.  Every painting had its own internal logic and structure.  The interaction I had with de Kooning’s paintings was different that the others since his paintings engaged the subconscious.

With my new perceptions of art, I looked at Pollock’s paintings again.  Through dripping paint on canvas, Pollock wanted to access the unconscious mind, and push beyond normal artistic conventions.  Some of his paintings were dismal failures, but others did succeed.  In fact, some art historians say that Pollock reinvented the Western tradition of art.  By his efforts, Pollock’s paintings could exist for themselves alone.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Negative Energy: Envy

Covetousness is usually defined as “having an urgent desire for possessions.”  I would expand that definition to include intangibles such as abilities, power, prestige, talents, and time.  People can covet others’ good fortunes as well.  Furthermore, various synonyms of covetousness expand the concept beyond possessions to include envy, gluttony, greed, and jealousy.

I take exception to the saying that “money is the root of all evil.”  Money is not the problem.  It is people’s relationships with money that causes conflicts.  The actual saying is “the love of money is the root of all evil.”  Our desire to accumulate wealth at the expense of other things is the origin of our problems with money.

Money, itself, is neutral.  The problem lies in how we relate to it.  The book, “The Millionaire Next Door” discusses chronic over-spenders (“Under Accumulators of Wealth”).  Instead of respecting money, these people spend it to gain power, prestige or emotional security.  Because of their disrespect for wealth, these people always need money and always desire more things.  In “Color Wisdom Workbook”, Tori Hartman writes, “Like a road warrior, money journeys everywhere but it stays where it is welcomed.”  If you accept abundance and practice generosity, then you welcome money into your life. 

Working towards a goal, we usually channel our desire for money for good.  Saving for a rainy day ensures our future, while paying for a modest home ensures our present.  When we channel our passions for noble aims, we give more to and receive more from the universe. Money becomes an exchange of energy. 

Covetousness involves the lack of respect for the self.  Our need for something can outweigh our desire to maintain our integrity.  Our supposed needs push us beyond our authentic selves to destroy us.  We lie to ourselves and others.  We scheme how to get something, and then how to get even more things.  As we manipulate ourselves and others, we destroy our relationship with the universe.  We then become a victim to the greed that overwhelms us.

A PBS children’s program “Martha Speaks” (2008 - , Design Studios) explores other aspects of covetousness in two stories.  Urgent desires and how to cope with them is the topic of “Martha’s Dirty Habit” (30/1-30). Martha, the dog, cannot stop digging holes in the yard during the springtime.  The featured words of this episode for children are “crave, desire, drive, habit, need, urge, and weakness”.  After much problem solving, the family decides to put Martha’s digging to good use.  They plant trees in the holes she digs.  The lesson conveyed to children is channeling your urges for productive uses.

The other story “Helen’s All Thumbs” (30/1-30) focuses on Martha’s owner, Helen.  Because of her obsession in playing a computer game, Helen abandons her friends.  (The concepts introduced are “addict, break, hooked, preoccupied, quit, and rid”.)  Moreover, Helen spends so much time playing the game that she neglects Martha and Skits, her two dogs.  Her obsession isolates her from her friends and responsibilities.  Eventually Helen has to give up the game, since she cannot moderate her playing.

These two stories focus on the emotional aspects of urges and obsessions.  Our desires and cravings come from places where we little understand ourselves.  Why do we want what we want?  Are we hard-wired for these urges?  What can we do with this knowledge of ourselves?

We can examine ourselves, and see why we lie to ourselves.  Jealousy of others’ good luck can cause us to sabotage their efforts.  Our laziness and greed can prompt us to write to lottery winners or rich celebrities demanding their money.  Rather than trying to succeed by our own efforts, we become dishonest instead.  We need to cut through these lies to reclaim our integrity.

I see covetousness as ambition on steroids.  It goes beyond passion and enters the territory of emotional destructiveness.  Pay attention to the feeling of wanting more, and discover what is driving it.  Honor that primary feeling – feeling lonely, sad, etc, and do not try to cover it.  The hard part is to give up our need for wanting things to wish away our uncomfortable feelings.  Facing the original feeling honors our integrity.

Works Used:

Hartman, Tori, “Color Wisdom Workbook”, PDF from author,,

---, “Martha Speaks”, PBS Parents,,

---, “The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus”, Merriam-Webster: Springfield (MA), 1989.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ghost Riders in the Sky or the Wild Hunt

The wild hunt: Åsgårdsreien (1872) by Peter Nicolai Arbo
Going by many names, the myth of the Wild Hunt can be found throughout Europe.  Although the details of the Hunt changes from region to region, the core remains the same.  A troop of the Dead is lead by a God, notable figure, Cursed Hunter, or the Devil (in Christian versions).  Dogs and livestock, such as horses or pigs, are included in the Troop of the Dead.  Usually the procession is in pursuit of something.  

The Furious Host are usually heard before They are seen.  When the sky darkens, thunder rumbles and lightening flashes warning people of Their coming.  Then the baying of the hounds, blowing of the horns or shouts of the Dead are heard.

The Wild Hunt can appear at any time.  However most sightings are reported during the times when the Dead roam freely upon the earth.  These are February, Midsummer, Winter’s Nights (October), and Yule.

A person encountering the Furious Host could escape by lying face down on the ground.  They could also greet the Leader of the Hunt politely, and receive gold.  A disrespectful person would be abducted or be told they were to die soon.

The Western song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” (Stan Jones, 1948) is a retelling of the Wild Hunt.  The songwriter Stan Jones (American, 1914-1963) heard the story of the Wild Hunt in Arizona.  He was a teenager riding the range with an old cowboy.  Whilst watching an on-coming storm, the cowboy told Jones a Western version of the myth.

Jones’ song tells the following story.  A cowboy riding a ridge sees a storm coming up.  Suddenly, he sees and hears a herd of red-eyed cattle with shiny black horns.  Possessing flaming brands, the cows also breathed fire.  This was the Devil’s Herd passing by him.

Pursuing the herd was a group of gaunt, sweaty, and tired cowboys.  They were trying to stop the stampede of the Devil’s Herd.  The horses that the cowboys rode were also snorting fire.  (Suffering riders is a motif in many Wild Hunt legends.)

One of the doomed cowboys calls the watching cowboy by his name.  He warns him of his potential fate if the cowboy does not repent.  He will then become one of the cursed group chasing the spooked cattle.  Shaken by his experience, the cowboy returns home.  (Being called by name and asked to repent is in Christian motifs of the Wild Hunt.)

Works Used:

Berk, Ani and William Spytma, “Penance Power, Pursuit: On the Trail of the Wild Hunt”,

Boxell, Geoff, “The Wild Hunt or Fairy Raed”,

Lecoutex, Claude, “Phantom Armies of the Night”. (book)

Sundlin, Michelle, “Stan Jones”, WMA Hall of Fame,

---, “The Wild Hunt”, Orkneyjar – The Heritage of the Orkney Islands,