Category Archives: Art

My brother is a chef on a boat, and he illustrates the menu every day

My identical twin brother works as a chef on a boat that stays out at sea for months. He started drawing pictures illustrating the meals on the menu in the cafeteria. People started taking photos of them to send to their friends and families every day. These are too good not to share.

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan

Pork chops with apples

Pork chops with apples

Seared tilapia

Seared tilapia

IMG_0535

Beef and broccoli

Hamburgers

Hamburgers

IMG_0539

Mashed potatoes

IMG_0541

Brisket

IMG_0542

Pork medallions

Fish cakes

Fish cakes

Beef tacos

Beef tacos

IMG_0545

Pizza

IMG_0548

Navy beans

IMG_0549

Spicy corn

IMG_0551

California veggies

IMG_0553

Sweet peas

IMG_0557

Beef tips

Smothered chicken breast

Smothered chicken breast

IMG_0493

Catfish

IMG_0494

Grilled chicken

IMG_0495

Fried chicken

Pizza

Pizza

Peach cobbler

Peach cobbler

IMG_0498

Chicken tenders

Blackened salmon

Blackened salmon

Tacos

Tacos

Blackened chicken

Blackened chicken

Peppered steak

Peppered steak

Roasted beef

Roasted beef

IMG_0508

French fries

Chicken alfredo

Chicken alfredo

Rib-eye steak

Rib-eye steak

IMG_0519

Glazed ham and friend chicken

IMG_0522

Artisan pizza

IMG_0523

Alice spring chicken

IMG_0527

Shrimp po boys

Tacos

Tacos

Chicken scallopini

Chicken scallopini

Red snapper

Red snapper

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes

IMG_0534

Catfish

 

If you want to see my drawing style, check out the links below:


An imagined conversation with my abusive, narcissistic father

I haven’t spoken to my father in over ten years, and I’ve often imagined how our next conversation may go, if it ever happens. I needed to vent this for a while, but I didn’t because it’s TMI. I’m doing it anyway, not to be emo or fish for sympathy. My hope is that, if anyone else raised by an abusive, narcissistic parent reads this, it might make them feel less alone and less crazy.

If you identified with this post, you may enjoy the Reddit forum, “Raised by Narcissists.”


Plot Breakdown: Back to the Future

back_to_the_future

This is a breakdown of the plot to Back To The Future. It divides the plot into 38 beats and the time they occur, rounded to the nearest minute. The beats are color-coded to show which quest chain is active at that time, and the beats are broken down into 6 sub-beats. Instances of foreshadowing are mapped to the beat they influence and are color coded according to their purpose.

Click the picture below to enlarge the image. Click here to download an Excel spreadsheet of the plot breakdown.

Back to the future Plot Picture

 

 

If you liked this post, you may like these: 

Formula Plot Tempates

Tips on being a writer


What is art?

Recently, a friend asked what art means to me, and I told him the answer was essay-length. So I’m writing this blog for him and sharing it with you.

The dictionary defines “art” as, “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”

Wikipedia defines “art” as, “A diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts – artworks, expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”

These definitions aren’t enigmatic. At its core, art is simply something that pleases the senses. If a human creates it, so much the better. That sounds simple, but thousands of books have been written further defining and explaining what art is, and every one of them is debatable.

Art is as much a question as it is a noun. No matter what answers you come up with, you can’t prove any of them. So there’s no point arguing what good art is, but that doesn’t mean there’s no point asking the question. If you devote your life to being an artist, you need some kind of answer/philosophy/framework that guides your creative process.

My definition for art is, “Whatever pleases the senses,” but I judge the quality of art by four criteria:

  1. How pleasing is to the senses?
  2. How much practice, skill and effort did it take to create?
  3. How intelligently and harmoniously is it ordered?
  4. How much useful meaning does it have?

I’ll elaborate on each point:

  1. How pleasing is it to the senses?

Anything can be art as long as it’s pleasing. The view from a mountaintop, the sound of the ocean, the smell of a rose, or the feel of sand between your toes are all examples of naturally occurring art. They weren’t created by humans, but they’re mind-blowingly pleasing, and it took more skill and effort to create than anything humans can do. All of nature is designed mind-blowingly elegantly and harmoniously, and nature is as meaningful as life itself. So in my book, nature is the undisputed greatest artist and piece of art of all time. You can call the source of the universe’s artistry, “God…” or not. It doesn’t matter, but don’t say the Milky Way isn’t art just because a human didn’t create it.

As far as humans creating art goes, the bare minimum we have to do to create art is create something that pleases someone. It doesn’t require any skill or effort. You can create an enjoyable painting accidentally by spilling a tray of paints on a canvas.

It doesn’t even matter if you believe your work is pleasing. As long as someone else does, it’s art, because they perceive it to be, and if it’s real to them then it’s real in their universe.  If that person pays you $1 million for your “painting,” that proves your work is worth is worth $1 million… to them. But if another person wouldn’t pay you a penny for it, then they’ve proven it’s worthless… to them. There’s no inherent worth to any piece of art. It’s value is measured on a case by case basis. So if you want to become a rich artist, create what everyone wants most.

the price of anything

  1. How much practice, skill and effort did it take to create?

I’ll pat you on the back for selling splatter paint for $1 million dollars, but I won’t respect you as much as Rembrandt. If anyone can reproduce your work, then it belongs in an expensive children’s art gallery at best. And if the main reason people buy your art is because you’re the-famous-splatter-paint-guy, and they’re investing in a widget they believe will increase in value as you increase in popularity, then your work belongs in a collector’s museum next to baseball cards and Beanie Babies. Frankly, if you can convince someone to give you $1 million for splatter paint that an elephant could recreate, you fit the criteria of a con artist.

If you spend your childhood practicing painting, and then go on to earn a degree in art, and then spend 20 years practicing until you can paint photorealistic portraits from memory, then your work belongs in a world class museum next to other master tradesmen. Putting Rothko paintings in the same museums as Normal Rockwell is like putting a sundial made from a stick in the ground next to the Rathaus-Glockenspiel and saying they’re both worthy of the same space.

  1. How intelligently and harmoniously is it ordered?

Beauty may be subjective, but it’s not arbitrary.  It can be understood, and its concepts applied. The human brain is hardwired to find certain patterns more appealing to the senses. The better you understand these patterns, and the more skilled you are at using tools to create them, the more pleasing work you can produce consistently, which means you deserve more respect than a one-trick ponies.

Every artistic discipline has well established guidelines for how to create work that is ordered, balanced and harmonious. There is music theory for sound, spatial/color theory for sight, culinary theory for taste, angles/pacing for dancing, structure for oration, rhyme and meter for poetry, plotting for stories, etc. This even applies to massage and sex.

This raises the question, what’s the common denominator that separates good painting, dancing, and singing from bad painting, dancing and singing? What makes art pleasing? I asked myself these questions one day while staring at a Jackson Pollock painting.

pollock

I reasoned that if a Pollock painting is high art, then so is static television. They’re both just chaos, and chaos isn’t art. Chaos is just chaos. That’s the absence of artistry.

I further reasoned that if complete chaos is the absence of art, and complete order is equal to complete chaos, then art is balance between order and chaos.

The easiest way to explain what that means is by using some examples. Imagine you own an empty field by your house, and you want to plant trees in an artistic pattern to beautify your property. If you plant one tree, then there’s a feature to talk about, but it’s the bare minimum to make your yard a piece of art. If you plant two trees in random places, they won’t take your breath away. They’ll look random and uneventful. If you plant those two trees in symmetrical places, they’ll give shape and reference to the geometry of the field. If you plant three trees in a triangle in the center of the field, you’ll create an image and negative space in the design of the field.

The more order you introduce into your landscaping, the more artistic it becomes to the eye… as long as the spaces are harmoniously balanced and you don’t over-saturate the field with trees to the point of chaos.

You can make a nice spiral of trees and rightfully call it art, but if you plant rows of palm trees and shrubs in paths that create Celtic knots or a portrait of Marilyn Monroe, then you’ll have achieved order to the point of elegance. That should rightfully earn you more respect than a guy who throws seeds at his lawn in wild, emotional strokes.

The same concept is true for music. One note is an event. Two is almost enough to make something else. Three is a pattern. For a song to be enjoyable, the notes have to follow patterns, and those patterns can’t deviate too far, too often or the song unravels into chaos and sounds like Black Flag.

I can’t tell you the exact mathematical formula for beauty. Some people have said it’s the Golden Ratio, but they’re probably wrong. Whatever it is, it’s simple enough to be able to tune into without being able to articulate it, and some day scientists will figure it out. They’ve figured a lot out so far. It’s only a matter of time before science finds a unifying theory.

I believe they’ll find the most pleasing patterns consist of layers of increasing inorganic complexity, filled in with layers of organic complexity. The easiest way to explain what that means is by using an example.

Techno music is bare, elegant auditory art. Listening to it practically walks you through the steps of structuring art. It begins with a simple, steady bass beat. That’s the first layer of order. Then a slightly more complicated beat overlays that. Then they progressively faster and more complex. At some point, layers are added that aren’t just numerical beats. They’re chaotic and organic. By blending all these layers of complexity at a pace that’s pleasing to the ear, the DJ achieves elegance.

I’m not saying techno is the highest form of art or that every song needs to follow the same pattern, but it’s no accident that most popular songs have drums, a bass guitar, a backup guitar, a lead guitar and vocals. These fulfill the unspoken need for harmonious layers of order and complexity that the human mind seems to enjoy.

  1. How much useful meaning does it have?

My unifying theory of life is that life exists to fulfill its potential. Whatever helps life fulfill its potential is good, and whatever hinders it is evil. There’s a time and place to stop and smell the roses, but if all you do is dance in the rose garden all day, you’re going to die hungry and miss out on everything else life has to offer. Life is short and hard. There are lessons to be learned and goals to be accomplished. We don’t have time to fill our heads with white noise our entire lives. Art that teaches you something is inherently more valuable than something that doesn’t.

Sometimes bad art teaches us something profound, and some modern artists would say the idea is more important than the work itself, but in my opinion, if the idea is the only thing that’s worth anything, then the artist’s philosophy book would be worth more than their art.

Art may have a higher purpose than our own personal edification and petty entertainment. When you take a step back and look at art from the cosmic perspective, whenever we make art, we’re just rearranging pieces of the universe. And we, ourselves, are just rearranged pieces of the universe. So we’re the universe rearranging itself. And for what? No matter how much we rearrange, we’re all going to die someday, and eventually the universe will cool and blink out of existence, erasing everything we’ve done.

So why create anything? Why does anything we do matter at all? The funny thing about that question is that the universe thrust us into the position to ask it without asking us first. It went through a lot of trouble to bring us into existence, and all we do is just see, hear, taste, smell, feel, shit and die. The universe made us out of its self to do that. We’re the hands, eyes, ears, nose, and skin of the universe whether we want to be or not.

Maybe the universe didn’t make us for our sake. Maybe it made it for its own sake…. or both. Either way, if we can maximize the majesty of living by creating pleasure that doesn’t occur randomly in nature, then maybe we have a moral obligation to do so for our own sake as well as whoever else may be watching from afar and/or from within. It may be one of the only meaningful things we ever do in life.

If you liked this post, you may like these:


My quest to build a perpetual motion machine

“A perpetual motion machine is a hypothetical machine that can do work indefinitely without an energy source. This kind of machine is impossible, as it would violate the first or second law of thermodynamics.”

Despite the fact that it’s impossible to build a perpetual motion machine, many have tried, and all have failed, including me. This is the story of how and why I attempted the impossible.

Two events happened when I was seventeen years old that led to my decision, but in order to understand why those events mattered, you should know a little bit about me. The Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator says I have an INTP personality, and while that test isn’t perfect, it gives a pretty accurate description of me:

“INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities. Their weaknesses include poor organization, insensitivity to social niceties, and a tendency to get lost in abstractions. “

I’ve been that way my entire life, and like many other INTPs, I’ve also always had an affinity for puzzles. Growing up I was fascinated by riddles, chess, cross word puzzles, magicians and Celtic knots.  So when I walked into my high school Economics class one day and noticed some student had left a print out of a chain-mail E-mail on the chalk board tray that contained a logic problem the E-mail claimed only 5% of the population was smart enough to answer, I greedily stole the paper and took it home with me. It took me five hours to solve the problem, and to be honest, I got a little conceited over my victory until I realized I was naive enough to believe statistics in a chain mail.

The puzzle was hard, but it wasn’t that hard. This made me want to know what my limits really were. So I bought a bunch of puzzle books and worked my way through them with varying levels of success, but after a while they all got boring. I was just rearranging words, shapes and numbers.  My actions felt tantamount to mental masturbation. I wanted to solve a really hard puzzle just for the fun of it and to test myself, but I wanted to do something that mattered.

This is the state of mind I was in when the second event occurred. I was sitting on the living room floor drawing while my father flipped through the television stations. He stopped it on PBS, which was playing the first episode of Stephen Hawking’s Universe. I watched in awe as Professor Hawking’s sci-fi voice took me on a tour of the evolution of scientific innovation. He amazed me with tales of scientific geniuses who had the ambition and audacity to solve the fundamental riddles of the universe. I’d heard of Galileo and Isaac Newton before, but until then I hadn’t put them on my list of personal heroes.

I watched the rest of the series as PBS slowly aired them. Then I went to the mall and bought the series on VHS with money I’d earned working as a projectionist at a small town, three-screen movie theater.  Every time I watched the tapes I understood a little bit more, but that just made me realize how little I really knew. I wanted to solve unsolved mysteries, but I knew I was never going to solve the problems cosmologists are working on today. Even if I could, I hate math. I wished I could have been born in Copernicus’s time. Back then a clever fellow could make historic discoveries with a few lenses and mirrors without using much math. By the time I was born all the easiest scientific questions had already been answered.

Feeling discouraged, I did some Google searches for unsolved scientific problems and stumbled across an article on perpetual motion. It hooked me immediately. Here was a real world logic problem that could have a profound potential impact on humanity as well as my self-worth.

I bookmarked every site on the internet that even mentioned perpetual motion, and almost every one of them stated, with varying degrees of belligerency, that anyone who attempts to build a perpetual motion machine is stupid. I understood the reasoning behind the warnings, but they’re a little short sighted.

Would these same critics ridicule anyone who attempted to solve the world’s hardest crossword puzzle? Time enjoyed is never time wasted. There’s no reason to judge people who want to try to solve theoretical logic puzzles, even when that entails building a useless machine. There are far worse hobbies a person could have, like trolling aspiring inventors on the internet. I knew from the beginning there was at least a 99.99% chance I’d fail, but the worst possible outcome is all my efforts would only amount to me having fun and practicing my thinking skills. If anyone laughed at me for that, then that’s their problem.

After ignoring the Internet’s warnings, I set a goal to design a machine that isn’t a true perpetual motion machine; it would break down eventually, but it would generate enough electricity in its lifetime to make the cost/benefit analysis of building it add up.  The problem with this goal is that it means the machine would have to generate more energy than it uses, which is even more impossible than building a machine that can run without losing energy.

These facts didn’t intimidate me, because I learned the secret to solving impossible problems from Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek: Cheat.

If I couldn’t beat the rules, I would just work around them. Instead of building a machine that runs on its own power indefinitely, I would power it with a relatively inexhaustible energy source like gravity, buoyancy or magnetism. I hoped I could direct them in a novel way that tricks them into behaving counter-intuitively yet technically sound. These are my designs:

simple ramp perpetual motion machine

My first idea used magnetism and gravity to pull a metal ball up a ramp. Just before reaching the magnet it would fall down a hole, and roll down a ramp back to its starting point and repeat the process. This idea probably wouldn’t work, because the magnet would just pull the ball over the hole.

gear ramp perpetual motion machine

I thought you might be able to solve that problem by attaching a mechanism that uses the force of the ball to push a lever that either moves the head of the magnet away or pushes the ball away from the magnet, allowing the ball to fall down the hole.

piston pump perpetual motion machine

If that concept worked, you could replace the ramp with a vertical shaft and replace the ball with a piston.

trolley ramp perpetual motion machine

Magnets wear out eventually though. So I came up with a design that only uses gravity as the power source: Attach wheels to ten identical rolling weights that basically look like trolley cars. Connect each trolly with identical length strings so they’re all connected in a circle. Put the trolley chain on a long, winding ramp that they roll down. At the bottom of the ramp is a steep vertical slope  that leads back to the top of the ramp. The idea is that as long as more trolley cars are rolling down hill, pulling the car behind them, than there are trolley cars being lifted from the end back to the beginning, then the descending cars should lift the ascending cars.

bouy ramp perpetual motion machine

One problem with the trolley car idea is that it creates a lot of friction. I hypothesized I could improve the idea by turning it upside down and submerging it in water. Instead of using weighted trollies, connect a ring of hollow bouys following a long, winding path up to a steep decline, where they would be pulled down to their point of origin by the higher number of rising buoys.

magnet wheel perpetual motion machine

I wanted to come up with a design that involved a spinning wheel, since that would make it easier to generate  electricity. So I drew plans for a wheel with angled magnets that repel off other magnets anchored outside the wheel. I bought a hamster wheel and $100 worth of magnets, and proved that this idea doesn’t work. The force from the external magnet that pushes one internal magnet away will prevent the next incoming internal magnet from passing the field of the external magnet.

The wheel could spin if you could turn the magnets off until they’re in position to repel. You could create this effect easily using electromagnets, but that would use more electricity than it produces. The wheel might spin if you could block the magnetic field until the magnets are in position to repel, but I don’t know of any material that blocks magnetic fields.  The wheel might also spin if the magnetic fields could be redirected with ferromagnetic metal or you used a mechanism to push the external magnet away until the internal magnet is in place to be repelled.

Even if those plans did work, they still used magnets. It would be better to have a wheel that’s powered just by gravity. In order for weights in a wheel to spin the wheel indefinitely, there would have to be more weights pushing counterclockwise than clockwise. I hoped that could be achieved through the use of two ramps.

At the age of 19 I tried building this wheel using paper and straws. It didn’t work. So I took the spokes out of a bicycle and replaced them with cardboard rectangles and golf balls. The balls kept getting stuck and bouncing away until the cardboard bent. So I bought two Erector Sets and made a more stable wheel. I never could get the weights to stay on track.

Having spent hundreds of dollars and hours, I finally decided I didn’t have the engineering skills to build anything. To this day, I still can’t put Ikea furniture together without it being wobbly and crooked. So I gave up trying to build a perpetual motion machine and got on with my life. I’ve thought about paying someone to construct my designs, and I would, but I’m not convinced any of these designs would actually work. Someday when I’m old and have more disposable income, I may pay someone to build all of them so I can decorate my foyer with them.

Even if they don’t work, they would make interesting steam punk decorations. They’d be good conversation starters. You’re welcome to use and profit from my perpetual motion machine designs in any way you want, free of charge.  They’re free domain.

P.S.

My quest for meaningful puzzles didn’t end when I quit working on my perpetual motion machine. In fact, part of why I lost interest is because I had moved on to the next puzzle: the meaning of life.

If you’re wondering what else I’ve done with my life, here are some other stories about my past:

Here are some books I’ve written:

 

 

 

 

 


Have a healthy balance of passion and duty

At some point in your childhood someone probably told you that you can be whatever you want when you grow up and that you should believe in yourself and follow your dreams. If you grew up watching Nickelodeon and Disney movies, then this idea was pounded into your brain. You may have left high school full of great expectations only to discover that good jobs, let alone dream jobs, are hard to find. Not only that, but life is as expensive as possible, and employers pay as little as possible. So the reality of the world we live in is that most people don’t get to be too picky about what they do for a living.

If you ever complained to your elders about how hard it is to follow your passion, the same people who raised you on dreams, probably told you to suck it up and deal with it. That’s life. You’re not special. You’re not entitled to anything, and in order to be a mature, responsible adult you need to put your wants aside and perform your duties without complaint. They might have even gone on to say that self-sacrifice is a virtue that should be practiced daily.

Things being as they are, part of growing up is discovering that your elders lied to you, coming to terms with the real world and then deciding whether or not you should follow your passion or devote your life to being responsible. There’s no quick, easy answer to that question. Everyone is different, and the world isn’t black and white. No one can tell you what’s right for you, but common sense should tell you it’s probably a bad idea to take either option to their extreme.

It’s obvious that throwing caution completely to the wind to pursue a hobby that might never amount to anything is risky to the point of suicide. However, abandoning all your passion in the name of responsibility reduces you to a machine and arguably defeats the purpose of life. You’re here to be you. If you sacrifice everything you want and everything you are just so you can survive, there was no point in being here. In your obsession with survival you committed existential suicide.

There’s nothing morally wrong with being selfish enough to give your own life meaning and try to enjoy your brief, precious existence. Passion is important. Style is important. You’re not just entitled to know what you want out of life, you have a responsibility to fulfill your unique potential, which is greater than that of an self-subjugating automaton.

Sure, survival is vital, but if you think your only options in life are to either be a painter, singer, dancer or worker, then the problem is that your understanding of the world and your own soul are too narrow. In order to understand how you can fit into the world, the first thing you need to do is take a personality test, but understand that that test isn’t perfect. Take as many personality/aptitude tests as you can until you have a good idea of what your strengths, weaknesses and dispositions are.

People aren’t born with one skill inside of them that they’re destined and obligated to find and nurture. Within your personality type there are hundreds, if not thousands of occupations that would bring you deep personal satisfaction. Even if the oppressive nature of our economy prevents you from spending all day every day playing, you should still get as close to your goal as possible. Then, in your free time, you should work as relentlessly as possible to overcome the obstacles between you and your chosen destiny.

Giving up on your dreams isn’t mature. That’s quitting. It’s self-imposed failure. The fact that life is tough isn’t a good reason to give up your dignity and accept a life of meaningless toil. You’re going to have to make sacrifices in life. That’s a given. You’re going to have to make some kind of compromise between passion and duty, but the important thing is to only compromise as much as you absolutely have to and make your sacrifices/compromises count.

If there’s anyone out there who believes that’s too much for the younger generation to expect out of life, then the problem isn’t that the younger generation is spoiled. The problem is that we’re so used to living in a wage slave-based economy we can’t imagine any other way, and our definition of maturity is inextricably ingrained in that world view. The solution to the existential despair that comes from living in an economy that prioritizes money over people isn’t for young workers to hurry up and die inside. The solution is to build a more humanitarian economy.

If you liked this post, you may like these:


Notebook sketches 2014-2015

IMG_1633IMG_1551 - Copy IMG_1695IMG_1540 - Copy IMG_1545 - Copy IMG_1546 - Copy IMG_1549 - CopyIMG_1552 - CopyIMG_1653 IMG_1554 - Copy IMG_1557 IMG_1559 - Copy IMG_1561 IMG_1649IMG_1654 IMG_1655 IMG_1656 IMG_1668

IMG_1756IMG_1775

IMG_1774IMG_1776


IMG_1831 IMG_1830

IMG_1934

IMG_1955
IMG_1835 IMG_1836 IMG_1837


%d bloggers like this: