"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper personal column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in more than 140 countries.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What to do about stale coffee on a blog's birthday?

Coffee with Clark was born as a blog on this day, May 3, 2009, with no idea about where it was going or if it would survive. 
The future blogger, Paris
After its seventh birthday, now beginning its eighth year, that is more true than ever. 
Judging from the declining number of posts this year and the past couple of months, it must be getting stale. At least the aging blogger is.
It's remarkable that it's stayed fresh as long as it has, because most blogs cease to exist after only a short time. But...
The blog has changed and aged, with the blogger. Is it time to just  throw out the dregs, rinse out the pot, and put it away?
I said last year at this time that I was wondering why I blog and the purpose of the blog. I'm no closer to answering that than then, but I know it's time for a change...it's time for fresh coffee or no coffee at all.

"It's time for fresh coffee or no coffee at all."
The aging blogger, Edinburgh
I planned to work on this during the summer, having sat in on webinars and more, trying to find  new directions, perhaps a new blog. My wife suggested this week that I should perhaps switch to a different blog.
Part of that is life stage, I know, some is laziness because I have plenty of ideas and stories to tell (for instance, I'm in the middle of reading about five books right now, all that need to be reviewed) but find myself just not wanting to sit down and spend the time it takes. This shows in the decreasing number of my posts, and the fact that I'm posting more paintings and less writing.
I have continued for several reasons, including teaching a blogging for journalists class at UCO. That pretty well demands that I be a blogger too. I don't believe you should teach something you can't do or haven't done.

And, I'm still a journalist--this is part of who I am. As one friend said, "You've got your newspaper column back." I don't want to give up the Coffee with Clark moniker because it's established, but there have to be some new directions. I'll probably try to keep it going through the summer, until I've met with consultants and others on taking my blogging to something that will be a pre-retirement and retirement effort that brings in some income and has a specific purpose.
So, on this birthday, here are the facts this year, and so far--the coffee is stale. Facts this year, and so far:

  • 33--number of posts this year, counting this one
  • 2--Month with fewest posts, June last year
  • 4 and 4--number of posts last two months
  • 144--number of countries where I've had readers
  • 203,000+--number of page views since beginning
  • 1,966 posts since beginning, almost all original
  • 339--number of posts from May through December, 2009
  • 76--number of posts in August, 2009 
  • 11--number of posts in August, 2011
 And yes, I'm open to suggestions. In this insane political year, I'm desperate to have a voice that's heard, because it is so essential as Oklahoma education and everything else in the state goes down the toilet. But party politics don't belong in Coffee with Clark. So, I don't know. Will the blog survive another year?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Storm a'coming on the Great Plains

Daily watercolor, 5.5 by 8.5--Stormy evening on the Great Plains
It's one of those evenings on the Great Plains. A storm is coming. You can see it, sense it, smell it, on the wind, in the air, in the color of light, in the rapidly changing skies and clouds.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Revelations, perceptions, realities and New Mexico

Morning dreaming of the high road to Truchas, 5" by 6" journal watercolor on back porch
Quiet time revelations after a walk
 in Hafer Park this morning

"Since perception is reality, therefore all art is reality. There are no false views, wrong expressions, when artists put down what they perceive."  -Terry M. Clark

Think about it--yes, some are better at perceiving than others--Mozart, Michelangelo, Cezanne, Picasso, Whitman, Conrad, Twain, Parker, Ansel Adams, McPhee, Prince, Mish, Jake Harms, and millions more in all the arts. Perhaps a few times, Clark?

"Above all, I want to make you see,"--Joseph Conrad. "When I'm on stage, I don't think, I feel,"--Keith Richards.

As an uptight first born journalist I began painting by trying to get every detail photographically right. Some freedom eventually came with more practice, and especially watching my grandchildren paint, for who there are no rules. Looking at early work, or at work now when I'm in a dry spell, I see this morning, that every angle is different, every color is different, every shape is different, depending on how I look at things, and knowing you will see them differently. Why have I not had this insight before on my work--whether watercolor or writing? 

It helps to attend the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts and be bombarded with a multitude of perceptions and realities.

Thus home from the walk to take out my leather bound watercolor journal--art and perceptions of reality in its own right--from Mind's Eye Journals--bought last year, but renewed with a visit at the art show with owner Teresa Merriman and her husband of Colorado. 

The high road to Taos, at Truchas, New Mexico, painted from memory, because that perception, that reality,  is so deep within.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Unsettled skies

"Unsettled Oklahoma skies"...today's watercolor, 9 by 12
It's one of those days, and months for that matter, and the skies today captured my mood without my even knowing it, until I made myself paint, and then write about it...the first blog post this month. 
Unsettled skies and more...
Plenty to write about, plenty of books and people, and yet like the skies in the opening pages of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, the rain won't come. Part of the drought is an almost aversion to the computer and keyboard, part a "rain shadow" from the peaks of activity in   the past months, and probably, part just because of the years and miles.
 But at least, there are the skies of the Great Plains, and the promise of rain.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

143 countries--from a land of beauty, brutality, slavery

March was a dry month for blogging as I was flooded with administrative work at UCO, having only  myself to blame for taking on tasks I consider important. But the cost in time and stress and details harmed my teaching, and since this is only the fourth post of the month, my blogging.
The high point for me was when I discovered a reader from far away Uzbekistan clicked on the blog, making the 143 blog this country has reached. Literally too pooped to post, too drained when you get home to even want to write.
I sure wish I know who this reader was, and the joy of new readers is my journey into discovery of countries, people, history and my beloved maps.
The central Asian country is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world (surrounded by landlocked countries).
One of the ancient mosques
Becoming independent with the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Uzbekistand is a country with a violent history and invading armies. It's known for its mosques, mausoleums and other sites on the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. 
Samarkand, a major city on the route, contains a landmark of Islamic architecture--the Registan, a plaza bordered by three  ornate, majolica-covered madrassas dating to the 1400s.
It's officially a democratic republic with a diverse culture and its official language is Uzbek, a Turkic language written in our Latin alphabet. Russian is also widespread as a language. 
What's left of the huge Aral sea
In addition to being landlocked, none of its rivers lead to a sea and about 90 percent of the territory is mountains and desert. It is home to the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea, destroyed by damming and abuse, and now largely dry.
Uzbekistan also has  the world's second highest rate of  slavery with 3.97% of the country's men, women and children living in bondage to slave masters in both domestic and industrial labor,  being forced to pick cotton for the country's main export. There are currently 1.2 million slaves in the country.
Who's invaded? Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the USSR. Ever hear of Tamerlane? This is his home, and his real name was Timur. His man  name struck terror across the  Asian world, seeking to emulate Genghis Khan.
Timur's Empire
A brutal conqueror guilty of genocide and more, ruled over an empire that, in modern times, extends from southeastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, through Central Asia encompassing part of Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and even approaches Kashgar in China. The conquests of Timur in the 1300s are estimated to have killed  up to 17 million people, about five percent of the world's population. His capital was Sarmarkand.
It's interesting to me that in America, we never studied any of this in history. Why?
The flag colors and symbols  carry cultural, political, and regional meanings. White stands for peace and purity, while blue represents water and the sky. It also alludes to the flag of Timur. Green  epitomizes nature and fertility – though it may also represent Islam – while the thin red stripes represent the "life force" within everyone. The crescent evokes "the rebirth of" Uzbekistan as an independent country, and the Islamic faith practiced by 88 percent of Uzbekistan's population The twelve stars, which signify the months of the Islamic calendar and the as  constellations featured in the zodiac.
Thank you Uzbek reader. I learned so much. And you got me back to blogging.