Thursday, August 29, 2013

Insert Idiom Here!

Have you ever barked up the wrong tree only to add insult to injury? Perhaps you bit off more than you could chew and flew by the seat of your pants just to call it a day when the shit hit the fan. Have you ever busted someone’s chops when they spilled the beans about some secret? Of course, you might just hit the road when someone you cared about through thick and thin dropped a dime on you and you got all bent out of shape for having an Achilles’ heel.  

Does any of this make sense? Well, if you haven’t figured it out, the above paragraph is full of idioms. Idioms are a string of words that have a ‘figurative meaning’ which is separate from literal meaning. According to Wikipedia, there are over 25,000 idioms in the English language. Now, English idioms are comical, thought provoking, bizarre and down right befuddling if you don’t know the context around their meaning, but I’d bet you would find you use them much more than you realize. A few people I know remind me that I often employ idioms and clichés far too often for their liking, instead of being direct and specific. I wonder where that comes from. To be honest though, there’s something whimsically fun in saying “don’t beat around the bush” rather than just tell me; I’m all ears, rather than I’m listening, or “Don’t have a cow” instead of please don’t over react. Idioms and clichés command power and have longevity because they either have a kernel of truth to them or touch on an emotional, social, or psychological level that resonates beyond their first utterance.

It doesn’t matter if you’re fit as a fiddle or sick as a dog. Sometimes you just have to bit the bullet and hit the road at the drop of a hat before you wind up pushing up daisies if you want to get something done. Through thick and thin, idioms have been with us, evolving, growing and persevering through social, economic, and cultural changes. Now I’d say they’ll be here alive and well long after all of us have kicked the bucket. To me that just takes the cake. Why? Well I love language, I love the intricate and dynamic nature of its usage, the flowing subtle or abrupt nuance each word brings to a sentence and the strange and interesting ways words originated. Quick story: one of the most memorable classes from college for me was one I didn’t take. Strange, right? Well, for two years I tried to get into this one English class called ‘the origin of words, idioms and phrases’ and for two years I couldn’t do it. The class was always full. Doesn’t that just burn your ass? I always figured everyone wanting to get into that class thought as I did. It must be pretty damned cool.

Honestly, I’m not pulling your leg, I’m on the straight and narrow here. You might say idioms are a dime a dozen, but sometimes, using them is right as rain. Think about it. A language without colorful metaphors and whimsical idioms and clichés would be such a drag. I’d rather live it up enjoying the vibrancy of our language. It’s better than being high and dry up shit’s creek without a paddle. I think one of the best things about idioms and the evolution of our language is it does not stop. Ever wonder why catch phrases from celebrities and TV show characters are so prevalent? It’s because they capture the essence and meaning of the day’s important or relevant feelings. Idioms have meaning because they sum up a lot of what we are feeling in a neat little package. Just make sure you don’t get bogged down in the muck. Sometimes putting things in your own words is a much better course of action.

If I’m driving you up a wall don’t jump down my throat, I’m almost finished. The thing about idioms is, if you really think about what they are saying, where they came from and how they are used, you can get a better understanding as to why they are used, why they have staying power and just how comical they can be. Just don’t overdo it. You might make someone as mad as a hatter. 

Bonus points if you can identify all of the idioms in this post!

Thanks for reading.

Questions and comments are welcome. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's Your Involvement?

by Douglas Clark

So I’ve been thinking. Is it too much to say that Humans have effected the Earth? Put aside the tinfoil hat, conspiracy theory nuts jobs, the dollar-hungry political pundits, the career-minded politicians, and the ignorant electorate for a moment and just think: Do human actions effect the Earth?

I was reading an article recently about Global Warming and the possibility of Human Extinction. I also just received the latest issue of National Geographic. In it was a story of rising seas and human involvement regarding climate change. I’ve been following this topic for quite some time. My personal belief is that Humans are altering the biosphere of this planet without understanding the long-term effects. Hell, if you don’t believe that pollution and global warming are happening, think about running your car inside the garage with the door closed. It gets pretty hot in there and the air is quite unbreatheable. 

Okay, that’s a simplification of the overall process but really, how is the Earth any different when it comes to our activities, except much larger? I’m not a scientist, but when it comes to the climate, I know enough to listen more to the guy that has a doctorate in climatology than to morons like Rush Limbaugh who know next to nothing about science. But whether you believe in global warming, climate change, Bigfoot, or gremlins, does it ever bother you that how you live your life might just be detrimental to the next generation?

I have a daughter. She just had her 10th birthday. It pains me to think of the deplorable conditions the Earth might be in when she’s my age. Yes, some scientists say that by 2100 the Earth will be uninhabitable. Now I’m not such a doomsayer, but I do believe the last century’s worth of abuse we’ve visited upon the environment will be felt, and most painfully I might add. I know some people just don’t care, some people are selfish, some people are so greedy and power hungry and they’ll spite the world for a modicum of power. I’ll go all conspiracy theory for a second and say sometimes, I believe that those in power are just a bit sociopathic to do the things they do and still pretend that everything was done for the good of all. In my day-to-day life though, I just think, “What am I doing to make my daughter’s life and future better?” Because honestly that’s what I really care about. All of my dreams and hopes, aspirations and wants, accomplishments and endeavors are all secondary to her being safe, happy, with the potential for a better life. Like I said, some people don’t think that way, but I don’t think they should be the ones making the decisions that affect my daughter’s life and future.

So, what are you doing to improve your life and your world? Anything? Do you care about the greater good? I’m not saying you have to, but if you care at all about self-improvement, to me, communal improvement should follow right behind. At the very least, I would suggest educating yourself on personal improvement, and the effect people have on their surroundings. What you find might just blow your mind.

Thanks for reading.
 Questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Happened on 30th Street!

So last Sunday, almost the entire length of 30th Street (in San Diego) was closed down to automobile traffic to make way for pedestrians, bicyclists, roller skaters, skateboarders, joggers, etc. The city and other powers that be decided that opening up the local roads to citizens to walk and window shop would be a great way to promote local businesses and help people appreciate their city just a bit more. Having lived on 30th Street for over seven years, I can tell you, not only was it a pleasant change from all the bus, motorcycle, and car noises, but it also gave me a different perspective on my neighborhood. 

Usually, my street is bustling and humming with activity. It's a non-stop cavalcade of noise. Most of the time I can block it out. Other times, as with the really annoying straight pipe motorcycle guy that comes blasting through at 50 miles an hour, the cacophony is so disruptive, I simply must endure it until the ruckus passes. But on August 11th, blissful peace and quiet reigned along that thoroughfare. I woke up not to the strained bellowing of a bus trying to make it up the hill, but to laughing cyclists and joggers moving right down the center of the street, along the solid double yellow lines. 

After a while I decided to join the procession. I stepped out off the curb and onto the usually crowded road. With the passing by of so many people the instinctive need to 'look both ways' didn't even cross my mind. I walked for almost a half mile before I realized I should snap some photos of this event. After all, it isn't every day you witness this type of thing. 
This intersection is usually backed up with cars in all four directions. 

A bicyclist riding the line on any other day may get run over; at the very least horns would be a blazing. 

Just the vast emptiness of this one, with the people off in the distance in both lanes struck me. 

The truly bold businesses opened up stands to pedal their wares to passersby. 

I found this shot to be the most interesting. Not because there's so many bikes, but because this spot is usually quite empty of activity and people presence. 

I walked for about three miles in total. Seeing that busy street empty of cars and their accompanying noise I could just relax and enjoy the neighborhood. The silence reminded me just how peaceful San Diego can be (when you don't live on a busy street). It just goes to show that even in a large urban area, there are opportunities to enjoy the quiet life. I don't expect to see this happen again any time soon, but it was fun. The look on people's faces and the obvious release of tension and stress really made the whole experience worth it. Maybe next time I'll go for a bike ride instead of walking. And I'll go from end to end, just to get the full experience. 

Thanks for reading. 
Questions and Comments are welcome. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Treasures Lie Buried Just Beneath the Surface?

by Douglas Clark

I was reading an article about Mayan ruins in Guatemala where archaeologists are exploring the intricacies and wonders that lie within the pyramid walls. In these ruins a frieze was found carved in great detail. Apparently about 1400 years ago, Mayan artisans carved out their beliefs and cultural identity in the rock used to build their temples. If you know anything about Mayan civilization, their culture and identity died out almost a thousand years ago. Fascination took over as I read the article. Imagining those archaeologists uncovering the amazing artwork, which sat covered in jungle growth, unknown, untouched and undisturbed for centuries, amazed me. Think about it. The skill and dedication that went into crafting such wonderful work went unappreciated for so long. Empires rose and fell, cultures flourished and died, the lives of countless people marched on, and still not a soul knew of the amazing work, just out of sight. But it sat there and waited, just beneath the jungle foliage.

It makes me wonder what’s just underneath the veneer of our lives, that mask that hides our true selves from the world and ourselves as well. What do we have to offer, that is just under the surface, but of which we’re totally unaware? One of my longest held fears, for lack of a better term, is that I won’t live up to my own potential. It’s a curious thing to think about how much you might accomplish compared to how much you have accomplished. Every once in a while, I sit back and remember the dreams I dreamed of in the yesteryears of my life. In some ways, I am totally and woefully off track and behind schedule. We all know my book isn’t published yet. I haven’t been around the world (thanks to the Navy I’ve made it half way), and a whole host of other things not yet achieved. But, I managed to accomplish much in the last decade or so. In just the last year I actually Finished my novel, which is light years ahead of where I was just two years ago. I set out to write that story, and wrote it I did. Which brings me back to potential; I always knew I could do it; the trouble was actually Doing it. It may very well be that my novel could sit undiscovered for years, centuries in fact like our Mayan friends’ stellar work. But does that really matter?

What are we here for? Fame, adoration, validation from others? Okay, maybe that would be cool for a while, but how meaningful would adoring fans and platitudes be if we truly didn’t have our heart in what we were doing? To me fame without substance is a hollow endeavor. What do you think?

Thanks for reading.
Questions and Comments are welcome.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pencils Down!

by Douglas Clark

I have the answers to Friday's Weekend Fun #4 quiz.

So here we go:

#1. Picasso: Blue Nude

#2. Rembrandt: The Blinding of Samson

#3. Jackson Pollack: Mural 

I chose these completely at random, but partly because I like all of them in one way or another. To be honest, the Rembrandt is my favorite. When he wanted to, his detail cast between dark and light is phenomenal. What do you think?

Thanks for reading.

Questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Weekend Fun #4

Okay, let's play a little game. Here are three paintings. Can you guess the name of the painting and the artist? 

I'll post the answers on Monday. Good luck. 

Thanks for reading. 
Questions and Comments are welcome.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Can You Feel the Inspiration?

How often have you heard a song playing on the radio, watched a favorite movie, or been part of a conversation where the subject matter was so familiar, so woven into your memory that it transported you to a positive, pleasant, and comforting place in your mind? Do you find solace there? Do you feel waves of nostalgia and happiness wash over you? I do.

I'll give you a couple of examples to illustrate my point. While in college, my roommates and I (who are still good friends) would watch Braveheart and Independence Day repeatedly. I'd say almost everyday, one or the other movie was always on whenever any of us walked into our dorm room. It got to the point where we could all recite the dialogue ad nauseam. 

Obviously one of the most famous scenes in the movie Braveheart:

ID4- one of my favorite lines in the movie. 

Another example is the song Take On Me, by A-ha. Okay I'm aging myself here but this one is a classic. As MTV began to emerge as a musical powerhouse (long before they abandoned videos for trashy reality TV), I'd watch with amazement and thoroughly enjoyed A-ha's video blend of live action and animation (I also had a school boy crush on the girl in the video). 
A-ha's video, Take On Me:

My last example is Rob Dougan's Clubbed to Death, the Kurayamino Variation

While I was writing my novel, everyday before I put pen to paper, I would listen to the entire seven minutes of this musical masterpiece. It got to the point where anytime I heard even a snippet of this tune, I was ready to write (almost Pavlovian you might say). 

All of these examples or triggers you might call them, elicit an emotional response of positivity that allows me to tap into my creative side. Now I deliberately focus on the positive here because I believe you gain more by positive motivation rather than negative. I'll admit negativity is powerful and it can elicit tremendous feelings that can be utilized for creative purposes. I would warn you, though, that negativity has a tendency to distract and divert more than it does to motivate. 

Now you might have a knee jerk reaction of "I don't have anything like those triggers to draw upon". Perhaps, but if you gave it enough thought I believe you could find a wealth of positive triggers to use. Remember, it doesn't have to be a song or a movie, it could be a poem, a painting, a play, perhaps a joke or limerick  or even a dance or gesture. In fact there is quite a bit of research to show the sense of smell is the strongest sense in recalling past emotions.

So why do I bring all this up? Well one of the first lessons I learned studying to be a writer is 'write what you know.' I believe everyone's life contains volumes of stories - adventures just waiting to find expression. Friends and classmates would ask me 'where do you get your story ideas?' To me the answer is simple: my life, my experiences and my emotions, it's what I know. And it's a great place to start. Your life experiences are a great resource to find motivation and inspiration for future endeavors, because you experienced them. Who better to tell us about them than you? You see, it doesn't have to be through a written story, it can be through a painting, a sculpture, interactions, a hobby. Building new experiences upon positive older ones can and many times does create a positive loop you can use to improve your perspective, disposition, and outlook. 

As a writer I hope when someone reads my work they'll have the same positive reaction I do to my triggers. You might work in a different medium, but if you can reach your audience in a similar manner, well, to me that's an incredibly moving inspiration story. 

Thanks for reading. 
Questions and comments are welcome.

Understanding Pandemics

By Doug Clark Head Writer -  The Inspiration Engine With all that is going on with Covid 19, I thought it would be a good idea to help ...