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Showing posts from October, 2010

Chess Lessons

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My son Max is learning to play chess, so I'm playing again, after thirty years' absence. Chess teaches me important lessons, rank amateur though I am.  The most important lesson is to focus on a goal. The rules prevent an easy win by accident. You must plan ahead and avoid distractions. This is hard to do. It's much easier to keep the false score: how many pieces have you taken? Once you start paying attention to this side issue, it's almost impossible to remember the goal. The goal is to pin your opponent's king, not to take his other pieces or protect your own. A good player projects his mind to the end of the game, then calculates backward to see which move, now, will get him closer to victory.  Life is even more distracting than chess. We find ourselves planning just to get by. We only want to keep our job or get a promotion, without thinking of our longer-term goals. Where do we want to get in life? Will this job will take us closer or further away? What wil

Farm Life

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I lived in Kansas in 1974-76. Our tiny town floated like a ship on an ocean of wheat and corn. You could walk from one city limit to the other in fifteen minutes, and when you reached the last street, you faced an endless, flat horizon of grain. Despite the isolation, I liked the town and the school I attended. A young farmer hired me to help with his operation north of town. His name was Don and he lived in a trailer on the flat land, with no cover from the vast Kansas sky. He was married to a pretty woman named Rosa, so they named the place RosaDon Farms. I usually worked at Don’s paired up with another boy from my high school. Don treated us with respect and paid us well, far above the minimum wage at that time. It was hard, physical work, exactly what you’d expect on a farm. At that time, I had spent most of my life in rural areas, but as things turned out, Don’s was the first and last farm I’d work on. We cleaned up his pig pens, sweeping and pushing their poop down a trough

More Drawings

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Or as if I do not secretly love strangers! (O tenderly, a long time, and never avow it;) —Walt Whitman I've drawn people while on the bus, in restaurants and bars, at performances and during jury duty. It's like hunting; any place I can corner them for a few minutes, I must take a chance. I don't do this now, because my life does not contain the kind of time and space necessary. If I outlive the present project, I may return to the drawings. I'd like to observe the human figure again, after many years of concentration on other subjects. The big constraint in this work is time. I almost never asked someone to sit still for me; I didn't want them to know I was there. I knew they would get up and go somewhere else in a few seconds to a few minutes. The challenge was to steal as much of their visual soul as I could in the time available. Predictably, much of what I produced was really terrible, but occasionally I got lucky. I especially liked drawing on the