2015-12-21

Friendships and Communities are Personality Amplifiers

Friendships and communities are personality amplifiers.  Never do we feel as justified in our beliefs and actions as we do among others who have propensities or tendencies toward common beliefs and actions—no matter whether those beliefs and actions are good or bad.  The unconscious feeling of justification we gain from each other inevitably leads to a growth in those feelings and actions within the individual members of the friendship or community.  So, the reason I say that community and friendship amplify personality is not just a matter of that personality being recognized among a larger number of people.  It truly grows within each person as a consequence of being validated by the others in the group.

The example that prompted this thought is my two little boys.  They are two years apart: one is three, the other is five.  They are the best of friends—it seems they do everything together.  When one wants to act like he is a puppy by crawling around on the floor with his tongue hanging out of his mouth, the other will always follow.  I have a third boy who is 11.  He was not given the luxury of having a male sibling close enough in age that I would call them "friends".  I can now see how personality is amplified by friends.  The older boy might have gotten into a small amount of trouble once in a while on his own, but the two younger boys are constantly out of control when they are together.  I watch them carefully.  If one of them takes offense at my denying him an extra cartoon and he decides to express his being offended with weeping and wailing, the other—not quite instantaneously—follows suite.  And this pattern goes for positive behavior as well.  If one boy—miraculously—decides that it might be fun to obey his parent's wish to do some cleaning, the other boy will go right along with the game.

I hesitate to complete my thought, though it is such a natural progression.  I hesitate knowing the pain out there in the world caused by beliefs and actions that were amplified beyond all rational proportion.  Terrorism is a community first, and a force of destruction second.  It makes little difference whether that community is a local community or an online community.  Yet, at the same time, community can amplify the most positive beliefs and actions.  This is why it is so important to have a church, a synagogue, a mosque—any community built on positive beliefs and actions.  If we are to ever hope to progress, morally, spiritually, ethically, as far as we are capable, we must live in a community of like-minded people—and interact regularly.



Football vs. Funerals

Today I attended a funeral.  Call me morbid, but I prefer attending funerals to football games.  That is, you can try to call me morbid, but you would be mistaken.  Are funerals morbid?  Not at all.  Just like a well-written obituary, there are few thoughts as rewarding to hear or read as those lessons extracted from the perspective of an entire lifetime well lived.  The speakers at funerals speak about the best and brightest moments of life.  They know how to put things into perspective.  They speak words of comfort when comfort is desperately needed.  Those same words may help you in the future when you least expect.

On the other hand, someone could make a case for football being morbid.  At the same time I was attending that funeral, I am sure someone, somewhere, was attending a football game and thinking, "This sure beats attending that funeral my wife/mom wanted me to go to."  What is football other than a thinly veiled reenactment of war.  The two sides line up on their field of battle dressed in armor complete with coats of arms, ready to do their best to punish the other side for having the audacity to exist and breath the same air.  One side makes an offensive move while the other side takes a defensive stance against it.  They take turns doing this until time runs out.  Bodily injury is common.  In fact, there are nearly one injury per player per year in the USA.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_issues_in_American_football)  At the end of the game, what do the fans leave with?  The fans of the losing team feel badly for something they had no control over, while the fans of the winning team get all inflated with pride based on just as rational a reason.

On the battlefield of life, when faced with the question of football vs. funerals, there is no contest.  I will choose the funeral every time.  Why?  Because I love life.  On the other hand, depending on how the teams play, sometimes we are lucky enough to witness both a football game and a funeral on the same day.

This could spark a little controversy.  Just note that I do not have anything against people who play or watch football.  Two of my favorite people in the world loved watching football (my dad and my grandpa).  I am simply trying to relate an interesting comparison that popped into my head today while waiting for the action to start.



2015-12-19

Drawing Megan

This is the story of how I drew Megan.  Sorry that most of the photographs were taken by my extremely cheap phone camera.

There once was a beautiful young woman who got married to a nerd.  Before the wedding, there were pictures taken of the beautiful young woman.  The nerd has ever since been especially fond of one picture in particular.


So I decided to use this picture as the basis for a large pen-and-ink drawing.  Here is the beginning of the initial pencil drawing of the main elements.


Here is the completed pencil drawing of the main elements (darkened so you can see the pencil lines better).


I had originally planned to draw a plain cross-hatched grid for the background, like you can see in traditional engraved portraits.  Then I realized that I should fully execute my plan for practicing techniques to put in future illustrations by adding something more fractal-like.  What I needed was a fractal-like curve that had similar properties to a grid: it filled the space evenly with a uniform line thickness.  It did not take me long to discover the Hilbert Space-filling Curve, or Hilbert Curve for short.  What did take me a while to find was an existing image of it pre-rendered at a sufficient level of detail to cover my entire picture.  But then I had to draw it without being able to trace it.  That required more time than it took to find it.


Next is the Hilbert space-filling curve print-out that I traced with pencil on the print-out, itself, as I copied it line by line to my large drawing's background on a pencil-grid that I had already drawn as a guide.  I drew a few tiny line segments at a time.  At one point I discovered that I had drawn a section of the curve (maybe a few hundred line segments big) in the wrong place—it was shifted by one unit of the grid.  I had to erase that part of the background and redraw it.  Thankfully I had first drawn the curve in pencil before inking it.  I remember doing much of the inking of the Hilbert curve while I "watched" the extended Hobbit movies with my family.  Actually, I also associate this pen-and-in portrait with a number of fascinating audio-books that I listened to while drawing it, including biographies of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris, Phantastes by George MacDonald, a lecture-summary of the book "Goedel, Escher, Bach", a long series of lectures about life in the Middle Ages, the extended Lord of the Rings movies, and several others.  One can listen to a lot of good material in about 150 hours.



Here is the final drawing sitting on my drawing table.  You can see my lap top plugged in to my big Altec Lansing speakers in the background ready to play me another audio-book.



Here is the final pen-and-ink drawing professionally digitally scanned at Replicolor in Salt Lake City, Utah.



Here I have digitally made some minor corrections to the black and white line drawing and have added color.  I consider this the final version.  This is the same version I have listed in my American Frame Art Galary.  The coloring is subtle—on purpose.  On my laptop, I can barely see the colors, while on my desktop they are easier to see.



After finishing the color version, I tried out some of the filters that come with the free image editing tool called Gimp.  This image shows the mosaic distortion filter.  I love the blending of the colors in tiles around the top of the rose, including the brown of Megan's hair, the pink of her lips and the rose, the subtle blue of the background, and the green of the leaves.



This image shows double-thresholding—that is, mapping light and dark greys to black and middle-tone greys to white.


That about wraps it up.