L.12.1: Funt’s Rules Revisited

All in all, I feel my rules are pretty much the same, and actually, I think that I am following these rules more now than I was when I wrote them. But for the sake of the assignment I will expand and reflect on each.

1) It’s okay not to finish something. Process is more important than product. If you’ve learned all and stretched yourself as much as you can, finishing for finishing sake is not necessary.

I still live by this one, and I think that this one makes me more Lichtenbergian than anything. While I do believe that process is more important than product, this can often get me into the trap of never finishing things. I LIKE writing this screenplay. I LIKE making this animated short. If it’s ever finished, then I won’t get to work on it anymore. Futzing with it forever is a much more inviting idea. “Ah,” I tell myself, “But when this thing is done, I get to start work on a new thing, and have fun working on that.” Reasonable, but then from another part of my brain, “Yes, but you KNOW working on this is fun. What if working on the next thing isn’t.? Or the next thing? What if I never work on anything that is as fun as working on this thing?” And so it goes.

2) Have something to write/draw with or on with you at all times.

Yes. I do this. I have a very specific breed of notebook that I like having with me in particular. I like them so much, in fact that I have bought out Target’s entire supply three times, so I have a stockpile of them in my closet just in case Target decides not to carry them anymore.

3) Let everything inspire you.

With the aid of hindsight, I find that I am really good at copping out on Lichtenbergian questions sometimes. Of course on this one. I suppose a better way of saying this one would be: Look for inspiration outside of your tried and true sources, and don’t have hard and fast rules about how something is inspiring to you. I have tried to make from an interesting magazine article I read one time, a screenplay, a short story, and an animated short. Now it is the inspiration for a one-man show, which is the perfect way to tell this story. You’re idea for a graphic novel might make a better short film. Or your poem might make a better song. Who knows.

4) It’s never either as good as you think it will be or as bad as you think it’s turned out.

Okay. Except when it is.

5) Have fun.

I hate how simple this one is, but it’s true. the idea of the tortured artist is preposterous to me. If it isn’t fun to work on or be a part of, don’t fucking do it.

That wasn’t too painful. But I agree that a series of rules for kickstarting might be in order.


I have yet to achieve my goal of some years ago of writing non-stop for a 24 hour period.  In the last three weeks, however, I have managed to write for five hours.  (Not five together, but five separate hours on five separate days, but for those five hours, the keys didn’t stop once.  No stopping to think; just a response to stimulus with infinite digressions allowed- but no distractions.)  This yielded 35 pages & over 22,000 words.  This was the result (which you can click to embiggen):

These were the top 50 words that showed up in the mess of 22,000.  Process, implications, and thoughts after the jump:

Continue Reading →

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A Lichtenbergian Charitable Contribution

Tonight as I walked home from Grinchmas it was nice and chilly, I was listening to Christmas music on my iPod, and I was just generally feeling in the holiday spirit. As I walked I lamented that with Grinchmas, I didn’t have time to do something charitable this year for the holidays. Something where I could donate my time, like a soup kitchen or giving out presents to sick kids. Things I have done in the past, but not for a while. I really wished that I could do something like that because this year, more than I have in a long time, I feel very fortunate, and I wanted to give back.

As I neared CVS, where I was headed, an older black homeless guy came up to me and asked if I could spare any change on Christmas. I stopped in my tracks. I said, “Listen, man, I’m going in here to CVS. You come in here with me, and I’ll get you whatever you want.” He looked at me askance, as I am sure he doesn’t get this kind of offer often. I said, “I’m serious. Come on in with me.”

Let me stop you right here just to let you know that this homeless man does not turn out to be Jesus at the end of this story.

We went in and he went over to the little prepared foods section and grabbed a sandwich, then a bag of chips. Then he went up to the candy counter and grabbed a candy bar. Almost like a little kid he came up to me and said, “Can I get this too?” I said, “Get whatever you want, dude.” He grabbed two candy bars. Then he went to the liquor section–yes, in California there is a liquor section in CVS. He grabbed a small bottle of cheapo vodka, looked at me sheepishly and asked, “Can I get this too?” I said, “If you want it, get it.” Then I pointed to another bottle that was a little more expensive, but not much, and asked, “You want one of these?” He said, “No, I like this kind.”

I got my things and went up to the counter. He looked ready to run at any second, as if I had planned to lure him to the counter and then say, “I don’t know what this man is talking about. I’m not purchasing this stuff!” I bought the things and ended up spending a little over sixteen bucks on the guy.

We got outside, and he held his bag. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, and said, “That’s one of the nicest things anybody every did for me.”

I said, “Nah, Merry Christmas, man.”

“Merry Christmas, my brother,” he said. “Hey what’s you’re name?”

I said, “George Lichtenberg.”

He said, “Merry Christmas, George,” and handed me one of the candy bars.

I cras melior est-ed on my giving this year, but better late than never.

Evidence of a forest in this tree (or of Aphorist industry)

As a rebuke to those who might accuse us of not seeing the forest for the trees.

We Lichtenbergians are in the midst of our most reflective season.  We’ve pitched our camp at the foot of the final peak, lit our cooking fires, fed the pack mules and llamas, gathered and voiced a hearty hurrah for our president as he undertakes the final ascent to the ultimate transpersonal apex of revelation, fulfilling his ultimate mandated task as our society’s designated head.  He vanishes into the blinding white.  We wave.  It’s how we do things.

And while we wait, anxiously fidgeting about our campsite, we reflect.  We look forward and back.  And I’ve decided it is the task of the aphorist during this period to help provide diversion.  To facilitate meditation upon all things Lichtenbergian.  Over the next few days I will try and add to this post new perspectives and discoveries as time permits.

Today, however, time is not my friend.  Time has brought me housecleaning and preliminary conversations with tradesmen.  Today I will only note briefly that my recent dip into Peter Gay’s The Enlightenment: an interpretation has led to some surprises for me and the way I perceive Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, the way I weigh his influence on our group and our activities.  Though our official focus is on the vicissitudes of the creative impulse, we are, I think, inevitably led to see ourselves also as supporters of something akin to the Enlightenment.  To poorly and vaguely define that (and realizing, of course, that the actual Enlightenment took place close to three hundred years ago) in one crisp sentence is my only goal for today.  And I’m going to say that it means to be caught up in certain tensions:  between reason and superstition, between science and mysticism, between privilege and egalitarianism, between the parochial and the cosmopolitan.  Well, okay, shucks, just one more sentence:  we strive once and forever to throw off all vestiges of barbarism.

Added on Dec. 9, ’11:  Must keep my promise.  Maybe if I go back to the moment when I first felt the need to post this “aphorist” entry, I can find further material to share.  It was during my Saturday morning pre-dawn reading ritual.  I am programmed to wake up between 5 and 6 am, so even on Saturday morning that’s what I do.  I get a cup of coffee, prop up on pillows in bed, clip a little LED onto a book–Gay’s The Enlightenment at present–and sink into cosy bliss.  First thing I note:  it must be non-fiction.  What’s with that?  It allows me to include in my reading an ongoing inner conversation.  I think this is where I do the conversing about thoughts and ideas that I should do when I sit “about the fire.”  So, be assured, I do enjoy Lichtenbergian conversation; I just do it at the wrong time and only when I am actually alone.  Not virtually alone, however.  My inner conversation is always peopled with my ash-bound brethren.  I also tend to add female locutors (Freudian alert: originally typed “locators”), but that’s just me adding extra spice to my meal.

At any rate, I read and exercise a need to relate what I read to others as I’m reading.  So there I was with the Peter Gay book.  The subtitle, I might add, is The Rise of Modern Paganism.  Not as overt an embrace of Dionysis as one might wish to infer.  “Paganism” in this book is more a way to characterize the tendency of the philosophes to appeal to personages of the Classical era to underwrite and embolden their Deist, or in some cases more wholly atheist, anti-clericalism.  Not so much our pagan-like countenancing of the power of chaos  (unless your fears of humanism tend to run that way and so you reflexively bring that to the table with any mention “enlightenment” themes:  such thinking invites darkness, chaos, etc).

So I was prompted to offer my first bit of posting.  But now what?  See, that’s my problem.  I am at a crossroads, perpetually, as to what I am about when I gather to discuss or when I deliberately sit to write a prompt for discussion.  And the result is a wiping of the board.  It all goes away.  Willful repression?  Sometimes I go dangerously psychotic and want to heal the world with our discussions, but that neglects the idea that we are playing with questions of creativity rather than politics and philosophy.  Notions of spirituality get tangled up with my perceptions of the everyday.  The healthy diversity of views among the brethren also adds to the dizzying blur, and that reminds me that everything is up for grabs (and sometimes leads me to fear stepping on toes–mostly my own).  And I come back to the inspiration of Lichtenberg himself and the question of how ambition can misguide or confuse or paralyze talent.  Or how creative desire might possibly conjure in the absence of talent, if it can.  Maybe we should forever return to that.

Tomorrow is Saturday.  I’m going to strive to bring some of my (though it’s really “your”–which is somewhat presumptuous, implying I can think successful impersonations of everyone) lively reading conversation to this space.  Stay tuned…

Freudian washed up on Jungian shores

Here’s what I knew earlier today.  The image below was on a piece of paper my father kept folded up in his wallet.  Underneath it was inscribed “People are no damn good.”  I don’t remember the first time my father showed it to me.  I was very young.  It always tickled me.  I can sort of remember my father saying something to the effect that he kept it because he found the image amusing.  Someone had given it to him.  Memory is unreliable, of course, but I think I carried away a feeling that he found the inscribed sentiment brutally true.  I remember him referring to the figure as “some chinaman living in a box.”  My father would have been characterized by most who met him as a genial and pleasant guy, but this cartoon somehow resonated for him.  That, at least, was the conclusion formulated by my younger self.  I saw it as his secret truth.

I decided to take a few minutes and go online to find out more about the cartoon, to investigate, finally, a profoundly significant paternal signifier.  Was this, perhaps, the very “name of the father” itself?  In my perpetually inflated view, I was going to start some journey of psychoanalytic investigation, work my rusty Lacanian chops, and end up with a charming, but nonetheless challenging, bit of literary autobiography.  This little cartoon, with it’s corrosive brief assessment, had always functioned for me as a tiny banner of identity.  I jokingly refer to it as my “birthright.”  And most people would probably characterize me as a genial and pleasant guy.

There was something else.  Behind the amusing clarity of it, I convinced myself I had detected a quality of bathroom banality, of the kind I imagined exchanged by chuckling GI’s from my father’s war years (WWII).  What was I to do with that?

So I began to investigate.  I discovered the artist is William Steig.  Yes, of Shrek fame (the creator of), but also famed as one of The New Yorker’s premiere cartoonists and illustrators through the second half of the Twentieth Century.  I am exultant to think of my father carrying around a Steig cartoon.  It flatters my ego.  But I also realize he may not have known who Steig was.  The cartoon first appeared on a best-selling “studio card” from around 1940.  So it was ubiquitous.  The Shrek of the moment.  The refined had been tempered, or brought back to earth, by the everyday.  I begin to work up to a theme.  I noted, also, that my knowledge of Steig was, until I began exploring today, superficial.  I did not know that I should have been “in the know” about Steig before I began looking into him.   That, too, fit with the self-portrait I was seeking and would fit nicely with the theme that began to simmer.  Then, in search of more appearances of the cartoon on the web, I googled a link…


This is where it gets bizarre.  And to fully appreciate how bizarre, I have to make some confessions.  I have a few quirky interests.  We all do, I realize.  Nothing seriously off the map, I can assure you.  No doubt we all have a collection of topics or themes which inevitably trigger our curiosity should we see them referenced in a book title or in a magazine or online.  Some of mine, many of mine, were all linked together in a network of associations in the article above.  Wilhelm Reich, Kate Bush, Patti Smith’s Horses (which I was reading about just yesterday), Makavejev and his films, including WR: Mysteries of the Organism, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard.  And in the midst of that was a photo of a button with the Steig cartoon.  It appears as the article makes reference to one of Reich’s dubious achievements:  the Orgone Box.  I did some more digging.

Turns out Steig credits Reich with “saving his life” through his encounters with the emigre analyst in New York in the 1940s.  Steig, evidently, owned an Orgone box and sat in it every day of his life.  The “angry chinaman” is in fact an image in which Steig is exploring symbolically some aspect of his Reichean experience.  Much of his work did.

I’m not a Reichian, but, because of my background in psychoanalysis and my study at the University of West Georgia’s psychology department, I’m intrigued by Reich, and I’m intrigued by others who have been intrigued by Reich, and an image of a large portion of that world of interest was contained in the cartoon in a way that now feels like a marker of destiny.  This was not the exercise in autobiography I was expecting.

Further oddness.  I clicked on another link…


Kind of funny.  A collection of “black velvet” work by a Tahitian artist, including a version of the cartoon.  Go down to the comments.  Someone asks who the original artist was for the cartoon.  Kevin Slaughter, who’s blog it is, thinks it’s Donald Hardman.  But he is corrected by someone named “Marc,” who identifies the artist as Steig.  It was not me.  It was some other Marc with a “c.”

So I wound up discovering that the cartoon in my father’s wallet did, in fact, lead to a very accurate portrait of who I am.  It’s amazing to me that so many of my interests, and my identity to a certain extent, was, through the cartoon, thrown up onto a screen in an instant.  Did someone say “synchronicity?”  Why not?  I didn’t get to the root of myself as a misanthrope stuck in a box, however.  I’ll have to work more on my own to put that story together.