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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2604 - 2607

 2604. A man wanted to become a Samurai swordsman so he went to a master and asked for instruction. The master said to him, “I will teach you my art, but first you must take this shovel and dig a tunnel through yonder mountain.” The student, having confidence in the master, began to dig a tunnel through the mountain.

  2605. As he dug he thought to himself, there must be some connection between this shovel I have been given to do this task, and it obviously must have a relationship to the beautiful swords those Samurai’s have, and that I too will have once I finish with this task I have been given.

 2606. As he dug each day he tried to think how the motions of the digging could be related to all those striking and slashing motions he had seen the Samurais perform, but he could not manage to make any connection. Still, day after day he pursued his task until almost a year had gone by. 

2607. Then one day the master crept up behind him with a bamboo pole, and without so much as a greeting he proceeded to flay his student about the head and shoulders from behind until he was unconscious and black and blue all over his body. After that the student continued to dig away at his tunnel.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2600 - 2603

 2600. But I will not defend myself and claim that I did not copy the story line from a movie. The story line I am going to refer to exists very often in life itself, and so it is not surprising to find it appearing here and there in many existing biographies.

 2601. What I am talking about is that situation where a novice goes to a master and asks to learn a specific martial art. The master refuses to teach the student until the student spends some weeks or months involved in some seemingly meaningless task, like the waxing of cars in the, “Karate Kid.” 

 2602. This endless involvement it a repetitive task is used to mold the aspiring character’s temperament, and somehow, in that activity, the necessary transformation  happens, and the student becomes in his turn, a master.

2603. So Faldoni’s painting of faces every day served the same function as the waxing of cars, and both have their origin in the story of the man who must dig a tunnel through a mountain. I do not know the source of this story or where I first heard it, but I consider it the grandfather of all of the others and I will give it here in an abbreviated form.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2596 - 2599

 2596. When given this task of making a picture of the world or things in it, the brain begins to hum along in fourth gear, and is happy to disregard anything that does not fit into its measurements and calculations. 

 2597. Regardless of the truth of the real world, the lightest light in a painting is just going to be white paint, and the darkest dark can obviously only be black paint, and that black paint will have light shining on it. And all the myriad tones and tints in-between find their place somewhere in the middle between those two.

 2598. You may suspect that Faldoni as he worked at his face painting project was gradually developing both skills and perceptual abilities as he progressed, and even though he considered what he was doing strictly his private business, of no concern to anyone else, it was bound to happen that someday the truth of his gradually changing character would be noticed.

2599. Like so many events in his life, his new abilities were noticed by accident. But, before I tell you about how Faldoni’s skills were discovered, I want to point out a comparison of Faldoni’s life to certain story lines you might find in, of all places, martial arts stories. Perhaps you have already noticed the similarity.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2592 - 2595

 2592. You can see the hopeless muddle a person like Faldoni or myself can get into when they desire over and over again, to apply absolute measurements to things which are so variable. But I ask you in all seriousness: how is it to be avoided.

 2593. It is the same as complaining that a ruler keeps giving you dimensions in inches, or that a wheel has a tendency to roll around. It is like wondering why snow always appears to be cold, and sugar invariably tastes sweet. Things have there properties because of the nature of the mechanisms that measure them, so the machine produces exactly the observations it was constructed to find.

 2594. The idea that there must be an absolute color of green and a finite measurable specific shade of red, and also that there is an up and a down,  a hot and a cold, near and far, big and small, all of these are a product and expression of the construction of the  brain that was put into our skull, and the more we become aware of the capricious and evasive nature of reality, the more hopelessly inadequate that brain turns out to be.

 2595. But, as inadequate as the brain is, it is in its element when asked to simplify reality down to a pencil drawing or any kind of little painting.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2588 - 2591

 2588. And if I do discover its true color, I can’t help but ask myself, do the lights in the dressing room consist of fluorescents, or incandescent bulbs? And if they are fluorescents, will the color of the dress be more blue? And will it be more orange under an incandescent bulb?

 2589. It occurred to me that there might be no way to avoid the relativity of the color of the dress. Perhaps I could take the dress outside and look at it in the bright sunlight. In the light of day I might be able to discover the true color of a thing, and feel secure in the knowledge that even though the color of the dress in certain other uncontrollable situations might become confused, at least there was a place in the bright sunlight where its true reality could be found.

 2590. But then a cloud might pass in front of the sun, and the color of the dress I had assumed was truly a sort of salmon pinkish-tan would begin to turn slightly toward an antique rose sort of color. And later the sun might go down, and the dress become a dark golden purplish-blue. 

2591. Still later, in the middle of the night, a moonless, starless night, the dress would seem to my eyes to be pitch black, so black that it would be indistinguishable from its inky black surroundings.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2584 - 2587

 2584. Soon the mood of the scene changed from hopeful to anxious and as the mood changed so did the colors of the actors, and soon the color of the backdrop changed also. Whereas the clothing had been red at first, gradually it changed to gold, and then to a murky brown, and at the same time the hues of the background went from blue and green to an ominous dark purple. 

 2585. I was so disturbed by this change of color that I began looking around trying to figure out how it could have happened, and I noticed high up in a balcony  strange contraptions: sets of spotlights in front of which were colored filters, and there were people up there manning the color changing machines. They would insert filters and suddenly, as if out of nowhere, the color of things on the stage would change dramatically.

 2586. It became obvious to me that the stage and the actors had no real color of their own and the color of things on the stage was determined by the mechanics of the lights and the filters. This was certainly a frightening and upsetting realization. 

 2587. I began to wonder about a certain dress worn by the main female character. In the first act it had been green, but now in the third act it was purple. I wondered, “If later I go into her dressing room and have a look at that dress, will I be able to discover it true identity, its true color, away from those disturbing and changing lights?”

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2580 - 2583

 2580. Furthermore, you might point out to me that nothing is exactly as it appears but has to be understood as part of a matrix, and it is the matrix that provides the identity of a thing, and not the accumulated impressions of a lot of independent absolute identities.

 2581. But, listen to what you are saying. You are telling me that things like colors, shapes, tints and hues do not have absolute identities, and are subject to constant variation depending on the flux of the environment, and, as a consequence you might say that there are no concrete absolute perceptual identities for things. Everything is in flux, and constantly changing. Next you will be telling there is no such thing as reality at all.

 2582. I simply can’t accept that notion of yours and I reject it unconditionally. I think it is absolutely false, and not only is it false but it is dangerous and pernicious and in the end those notions go right to the subway stop labeled, “No right and no wrong,” and I do not want to live it such a disturbed place.

2583. I remember one time I was watching a play in a theater and the actors and actresses were dressed in red costumes and saying their lines against an architectural backdrop which was all various tints of green and blue.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2576 - 2579

 2576. You can see at a glance that the two orange squares look like different tints of the same color. The one on the black background looks like a lighter color. But, if you reverse them, the one on the black remains the lighter tint. You may even suspect that those two orange squares are not quite the same to begin with but they are, that is if you are doing as you are told. 

 2577. The effect is even more dramatic if you compare the tomato squares to two different colors, rather than to just a light and dark background. Take your January Architectural Digest that you borrowed from the library and go to page 184. Tear out the page; it has a nice intense sky blue up toward the top. As soon as you tear it out you will see on the previous page a gold color that is the back wall of a bathtub.

2578. The bathtub surround may be garish and over done in a pure white setting, but I am sure the designer, whomever he was, thinks it was the right touch, nevertheless the gold color toward the top can be a nice contrast to the sky blue of the previous page. Put the tomato squares on the blue and the gold and observe an even greater difference than in the previous experiment. 

2579. Perhaps you think this is just as well, and of no consequence, and you might point out that there is nothing in this universe that isn’t affected, and or adjusted  by the effect of its surroundings.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2572 - 2575

 2572. I have a copy of the January 2014 “Architectural Digest,” on my table, it just came today. On the first page is an advertisement for Sub-Zero refrigerators. The page is almost all orange, tomato orange. Tear out that page and make two little squares of one inch each of that orange color. Be sure the squares are the same tint of orange.

 2573. When you make these squares of orange, be careful not to let any of the white show along the edges such as happens if you don’t tear if carefully. You don’t want those little white ragged edges to show. Those white edges are very effective when used in collage, but have no place in scientific experiments such as this is.

 2574. On page two is an advertisement for Rolex. It is mostly white, tear out that white page and get rid of the light gray area at the top, so you just have  the bottom third that is pure white. 

 2575. Next, turn to page 19, which is an advertisement for Kohler bathroom products. It is mostly all black. Now place your white Rolex page over half of the Kohler page. Now you have a surface that is half white and half black. After you have done that put your two little squares of tomato orange on that page, one on the black area and one on the white. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2568 - 2571

 2568. I am sure there is someone who might be reading this who is going to say, “So what if the face is painted first, and the background after, or visa-versa? What difference could it possibly make? What is a person supposed to do, paint everything at once, working on the foreground and the background all at the same time with two hands and two brushes?”

 2569. But it does make a difference. The effect of a color changes when the color of the area around it changes, and the effect is so great that the color first put down surrounded by white, can seem like an entirely different color when the surrounding area is filled in with a darker color. I am going to prove it to you, and you may be very surprised.

 2570. Go get a magazine: for example, “Architectural Digest.” If you want to do the experiment with the January issue of Architectural Digest then go get a copy from the library, almost every library has it and just tear out page 1, page 2, and also page 19. The library won’t mind. Take the pages home and do this experiment , but really, any magazine will do.

2571. “House Beautiful,” or even something like “Better Homes and Gardens,” is fine. I happen to like using Architectural Digest for my color experiments because all of the advertisements have to do with architecture and design, and there is no space given over to advertisements for various kinds of medicines, such as are found in the unsuccessful interior decorating magazines.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2564 - 2567

  2564. As you know, the master painted in the faces after the areas surrounding the faces had been painted in first by the apprentices. Before the master began to execute his portrait heads, the painting had an odd appearance. The closest thing I can think of would be to compare it to one of those flat stand-up cut out figures with just a hole for a face that you see at fairs where you can be photographed so as to look like Queen Mary, or Lincoln.

 2565. So, the part of the painting soon to be a face was a pure white patch with only a few indented lines indicating where the features would be, having been transferred there from the drawing. 

 2566. When Faldoni went back to his cell in the evening and began to paint one of his faces on his wall, he had just exactly the opposite situation to contend with. He invariably painted the face to completion first, and only after it was done did he turn his attention to the surrounding areas, and paint them in almost as an afterthought, so as to complete the rectangle.

2567. So, the procedure was reversed, for the master the background was painted first, and the face came after, and for Faldoni the face was painted first, and the background came after.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2560 - 2563

 2560. Faldoni did not realize that it is not humanly possible to do any sort of paintings that other students would not delight in finding fault with, and the better the work, the more savage the criticism might be. But, nevertheless, this imaginary criticism had the effect of goading Faldoni into finally abandoning the simple profile portrait and turning to more difficult views.

  2561. He even began to fearlessly attempt the three quarter view, trusting to his master's advice that if he just kept trying for twenty years or so, he would eventually succeed.

 2562. Previously in this story we said that Faldoni and the other apprentices could never learn how to paint a face by watching the master, but that was not entirely accurate. The truth is that if one continually tries and fails to do something, and yet every day gets to see that activity done perfectly by another, after a while one can learn something quite by accident.

2563. Now, what I am going to explain is quite mundane and obvious, and seemingly of no consequence, but it must be explained because, as ordinary a piece of information as it is, it is of the utmost importance.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Faldoni, parts 2556 - 2559

 2556. But people like the hero of our story, and there are many of them, myself included, never believe the statements of the people who dislike pictures of smiling babies and sunsets and we seek to find simple explanations for those contrary perceptions, never for one instant ever believing that those in possessions of such attitudes are ever sincere.

 2557. We would prefer to avoid at all costs those individuals who go around and are always proclaiming, “I love the things that you hate, and hate the things you find beautiful.” But they seem to be everywhere, so much so that people like myself, with absolutist ideas of beauty are often depressed and discouraged by what appears to be a lack of simple honesty in so many others.

 2558. Yet, deep down we know that those others are not being dishonest when they express their admiration for things we ourselves have an aversion for. One only has to watch fifteen-seconds of old films which show millions of fourteen year-olds screaming about Elvis, or a similar expression of passionate emotion at a Nuremberg Rally in the thirties, to know for certain that unknown others in their millions do not share one’s basic assumptions.

 2559. But a lifetime could go by, and I would like to state categorically that nobody ever convinces themselves that others have a different world view than their own. What we think, we project automatically into the minds and hearts of others, and no amount of contradiction can curb this tendency, any more that one might stop saying that the “sun comes up.”