Assignment L.12.2: The buttocks thing

All right, with less than a week to go before our Annual Meeting, here’s an assignment:

Jeff Bishop’s “buttocks thing.” It’s time.  The assignment is simple: gather material à la Lacuna-style.  Dump it here in comments.  Perhaps it will be our Agenda on Friday night.

Here’s what inspired me: http://lifeand6months.com/2012/05/22/from-the-storage-archives-the-unseen-sailors-tattoo/

The West Coast Retreat

On Thursday, October 18, Marc, Dale, and Jeff B. flew from Atlanta to San Francisco, where they were met by Mike, who flew up from L.A.  They rented a Town & Country van (with a handicapped gear shift, which was actually kind of nice) and headed over towards Berkeley to pick up the key to The Cetusaurus.  Mike had lived in SF, so he was able to play tour guide as we headed across the bridges.

After we picked up the key, we drove a couple of blocks over to Phillip”s studio, a converted loft space crammed full of artists, Phillip included.  Phillip claimed to be a true Lichtenbergian in that he could not attend the very Retreat designed to include the West Coast members because he had work to do, but it was clear that the man is very productive.

Finally we hit the road and made our way over to the coast, where we drove up Highway 1. It is everything you”ve seen in the movies and commercials: a twisty, two-lane highway that hugs the mountains on the right and drops precipitously to the sea on the left.  It is absolutely gorgeous.

It”s also slow going.  The speed limit may be 55 mph, but only people in car ads drive that way.  It took us a good four hours to make it up to the house.  We started in midafternoon, and it was after dark when we got there.  (Great sunset, for which we stopped at one of the dozens of overlooks.)

There were also road signs warning of cows.  Cows.  And then, there were cows.  In the road, utterly unconcerned that they”d be struck by luxury vehicles careening around curves while filming commercials.

The house is exactly as you see it in the photos on the website.  Not as close to the beach as the photos implied, but that was OK.   We unpacked, sorted out sleeping arrangements, and opened the first bottle of wine.  As usual, the Thursday night discussion was over what we hoped to accomplish during the Retreat.

Jeff made no bones about the fact that he had been so productive that he had no intention of working on anything but grad school stuff.  Marc had brought reading to do.  Mike had a script he needed to finish, a song to work on, and juggling to practice.  Dale wanted to get back to re-orchestrating William Blake”s Inn, or failing that, to start on the “Five Easier Pieces,” and to work on The Book of the Labyrinth, a quasi-liturgical resource for meditation sessions in in the labyrinth.

Members will report on their progress in comments.

There had been no grocery store of note on the way up, and so there was no coffee for Friday morning.  Dale awoke early and drove back down to Manchester, where we were assured there was a well-stocked store.  (It was closed by the time we pulled through on Thursday night.)  It was well-stocked, being both a grocery store and an Ace Hardware.  Dale loaded up on essentials and made it back to the house as others were getting prepped for the day.

First, though, we had to go to the beach.  It was walkable, but it”s better to drive.  The beach was a giant boneyard of bleached tree trunk driftwood, driven there by Pacific storms.  Large outcroppings of basalt littered the terrain.

We drank it all in.  Jeff took a zillion photos.  Mike juggled.  Marc communed.   Dale drew labyrinths in the sand and meditated.   We climbed the outcroppings.

Finally we headed back to the house to work.  (See comments.)

The evening was given over to communion and meditation. (There was no hot tub, but a there was a sizable Jacuzzi which we used for solo soakings.)

Saturday.  We worked until lunchtime, and then at Marc”s suggestion drove back down the coast to Gualala for lunch and to play tourist at least a little bit.  Our main objective was the lighthouse at Point Arena, the tallest lighthouse in California, now renovated as an item of  historical interest.  More shipwrecks occurred there than anywhere else on the coast.

The view from the top of the lighthouse—they have removed the  to the museum—was stunning.

We headed back to the house for a little more work.  We wanted to drive down to the beach and watch the sunset from there—perhaps sacrifice a casino online goat or something— and there was some discussion about when we needed to make the trip.  Without internet, we were bereft of much information all weekend.  As Dale was debating starting supper—shrimp and grits—we were startled to realize that the sun, which had appeared to be safely above the horizon, was falling without let into the ocean eternal.

We leapt into the car and  rushed down the hill to the highway, watching with increasing hysteria as the planet revolved faster and faster, destroying our chances at this entirely meaningful experience.  At the end, all we could do was to pull in to an overlook and lamely get out to watch the afterglow.

Back at the house, we settled in to a quiet evening of discussion.  The main topic: “What do you fear the most?”  Loved ones were excluded.  We were honest.  You had to be there.

Sunday morning, we got up and departed around 5:30 am so that we could arrive early enough in San Francisco for Mike to show us some of the sights.  After negotiating the worst road in America over the mountains—we had to stop twice so we could calm our nausea—we emerged into the Sonoma valley.  Vineyards at dawn, quite lovely.   The landscape in general is amazingly beautiful.

When we arrived at the city, we stopped at the battery overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, which is pretty majestic.  In town, we almost resisted referring to the streets of San Francisco, including that section of Lombard Street which Mike took us down because, as he put it, “We haven”t had enough twisty roads today.”

We also went to Fisherman”s Wharf, where Mike took us to the Musée Mécanique, a “collection of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines in their original working condition.”  It was awesome!

Finally, it was time to head to the airport.  We dropped Mike off at the Walt Disney Family Museum at the Presidio, where his sister would pick him up.  (He was taking an Amtrak train back to LA.)  After lunch at the airport, Jeff split off to go work on a presentation and then board the plane for Norman, OK, where he was attending a Native American conference.  Dale and Marc flew back to Atlanta.

Summations, additions, and emendations in comments.

L.12.1: Dale’s rules revisited

This is going to be painful.  You have been warned.

First, a recap:

  1. Start every venture with the words “Abortive Attempts”at the top of the page.
  2. Face up to the fact that quantity is better than quality—and more likely in the first place.
  3. Make your distractions as productive as your work.
  4. Defend your time.
  5. Learn to look/listen for what is missing.

One reason I proposed this Assignment is that I’m in a creative stasis at the moment and I wondered if watching other people create might help me push some button that would restart my energies.  Also, I thought it might be helpful to reexamine my own rules for creativity.

But I’m clearly missing something key here, because although my rules are still quite valid, they do not provide me with an impetus to get back to work—in this case, on the percussion piece for this summer, or indeed on anything else.

“Abortive attempts”? This is a great rule and a critical one.  Last year when I was working on the Cello Sonata, I had separate files for each movement just to fart around in.  I’d make and save “Adagio–Ideas,” for example, and I could plop down a melody or a chord progression without regard as to whether it was going to work or not.  If that’s all it was, a melody, and it didn’t go anywhere, I could skip a couple of measures, draw a double-bar, and start something else.  I could copy and paste, join bits together, insert crap here and there, and if and when I ever got something that was “right,” I could open the actual “Adagio” file and copy and paste my work there.

Whenever I got stuck, I’d head back to the Ideas file and plop out more abortive attempts.  It worked, even though it’s always more painful that those who don’t do this kind of thing can imagine.

Which leads to my second rule.  By plopping out huge amounts of stuff that does not work and will never work, I would come up with something that does and will.

However, in the static state I have found myself in for the past month at least, neither of these rules is useful.  I can’t even plop out crap.  It’s just not there.

I know, I know: plop anyway.  It would be worse than usual, but at least I’d be working.  That’s the trick, though, isn’t it?

Third rule: productive distractions.  I suppose I can claim this one, although none of the work I’ve done outside the realm of creativity could be reasonably claimed as “distraction,” since there’s nothing to distract from.  Still, I have worked fairly regularly in the labyrinth (and will be working more in a couple of weeks as a birthday treat to myself), so that’s all to the good.

Mostly, though, I have written letters to Craig.  I start a letter and work on it all week as I have things to say to him, and then when I get a letter from him I’ll respond to what he has to say and mail it off. And then I start new letter.  I wouldn’t call it an obsession, but it is the only thing I am rigorous about these days.

But these distractions are not serving the purpose that the rule implies, and certainly not the way distractions served me previously.  Working on the Preludes or the Cello Sonata, I might turn from one to the other, or a blogpost, or some task in the labyrinth, and those “distractions” actually served as a break from the work so that it could percolate while I was not paying active attention to it.  Now, my letters to Craig are not a break from the work, they are the work.

Defend my time?  Not necessary.  I have pruned away all outside duties and interests other than my job, and it does not consume every moment outside the office.  I have more than enough time to be writing not only the percussion piece but the Five Easier Pieces that I keep wanting to do this year, or a song for my young baritone friend John Tibbetts, or even, heaven forfend, getting a head start on arranging William Blake’s Inn for string quartet and synthesizers.  What am I going to do when I actually have to produce that gem?

My gestalt theory or creativity?  That’s only useful if you’re actually working on something, and I am not.

I think I need to develop another five rules for getting off one’s ass.

The one that comes immediatly to mind:

  1. Grind it.

If I think of more, I’ll add them.  Feel free to suggest some in comments.

Never become a Christian

I was going to email everyone this, but I think it’s time we had a good old Lichtenbergian discussion right here.

It’s a brief interview with the Indian mystic known as Osho. Although  he seems to have fallen prey to the traditional impulses of cultic leaders in his later years, I think what he says in this interview is brilliant.

Read—attack—defend, in comments.