In search of a personal iconology

I don’t believe in prognostication. As far as I’m concerned fortune-telling is hooey. No, that’s not a swipe at those folks who dabble in it or even those who live by it. I have dear friends who don’t leave the house without checking their horoscope and they’re precious and dear to me, Just because something is off my list of, it doesn’t mean I think it’s gotta be off everyone else’s. I’ve been offered posts as judge and jury, but if I can’t be executioner, I ain’t gonna play.

Anyhoo, back on topic. I don’t believe in fortune-telling; but I do collect tarot cards. Yes it’s true. I have a small but — if I say so myself – impressive collection of tarot card decks. While I don’t use my decks to foretell the future, I do find them handy for brainstorming, putting a new slant on a situation or helping you see information you thought you knew inside out in a new light. Mostly, though, I enjoy the art. Once upon a time I made a (meager) living as a portrait artist and good art and photography always gets my attention.

With tarot though, it’s not just about pretty pictures. It’s pretty pictures that actually mean something. In tarot, each card has a specific meaning. Those meanings have been passed down for centuries, developing along the way.

There are quite well-meaning folks who swear the tarot was developed in ancient Egypt. Although I love Egyptian themed decks, actual tangible evidence supports the tarot’s development in Europe during the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages was an era in which few people could read, and even for those that could read, books were scarce. Everything – history, events, beliefs — were conveyed by storytellers. Storytellers and priests. Of course, the priests had the upper hand: a captive audience every Sunday and a three dimensional storybook: the cathedrals with their stained-glass illustrations, carved saints and gargoyles in the belfries.

While scripture deals with truth, Tarot deals in myth and legend, offering a pictorial glimpse into our collective conscience. Tarot images are symbols of universal ideas: Mother, Father, Hope, Death, Home, Family, Work, Peace… It’s up to the deck’s artist to convey each card’s meaning to the “reader,” a kind of visual shorthand. There are many decks that just fail to do that for me, but probably speak volumes to another reader. Which is probably why there are thousands of decks to chose from.

I’m fascinated by the idea of that visual shorthand. To develop my own deck, to analyze each card for it’s meaning and extend that to a more personal level, to my life and experiences – and then to translate that visually, finding a kind of personal “iconology” — that’s just too much of a challenge to pass up. So time to time, I will be posting my thoughts about this challenge. And, very probably images, as well. I wouldn’t mind input ever so often, either.

You have been warned.


Sudden Death: book of the week

Sudden Death This week’s book was Sudden Death by David Rosenfelt. I’m keeping the reading on the light side while I’m taking classes. Between reading for classes and doing homework, Mind-Like-Water is threatening to become Mind-Like-Sieve.

I was attracted to this series for the simple fact that the cover of one of the books featured a dog. I’m a sucker for books with dogs, no matter how slight the reference. In my defense, I checked out reader reviews before actually making a purchase. Even so, I find that I’m guilty of reading this series out of order, having read Dead Center first (which should have followed Sudden Death). I managed to keep track of everything just fine, however.

As with too many mysteries lately, I had the who-dunnit figured about mid-way through, but enjoyed the characters too much to care, Overall, the novel was pretty tightly plotted for what was still a “relaxed” read, with just the right level of humor and cynicism. I think this would make a decent TV series. A kind of Perry Mason meets Eureka, maybe.

Or maybe not.

Success! One Class Down!

I made it through my first class, on my way to my web designer certification. Yay, me! Our final project was a five page website using the information we learned in the class. There were some very clever designs, including pets and comics. Mine was based on one of my all-time favorite shows: The Sopranos. Take a look, if you like. I can still see much room for improvement but within the constraints of the course, I think I did pretty well. On with the next two courses…

Getting (Some) Things Done

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. As you may have noticed, the system has some rabid fans, many of whom have developed their own finely-honed variations of the system — not to mention entire lists of paraphernalia designed to accomplish their goals in style. There are notebooks (Moleskine!), software programs, websites and even pens, all pursued by the GTD faithful with the fervor of a religious cult. No, I’m not making fun; a little obsession can be good for the soul. I’m just one of those who missed the GTD train.

My personal organizational system follows a more David-Allen-meets-W-C-Fields approach. WC Fields advised:

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”

You gotta admit he had a point. Honestly, just how much can you expect to accomplish without ruining your health, your sanity and your relationships? Especially when it comes to business. I mean, sure, money’s nice. (It’s very nice in fact and if you have any extra, I’d deeply appreciate some dead presidents in my mail box — as long as they’re of the foldable variety.) But like the old adage says, they don’t put a luggage rack on a hearse. I’ve heard the “you can have it all!” schpiel all my life and all I can say is “yeah, sure.” Seriously, if I had it all, where would I put it?

So, hoping to get at least some things done without driving myself nuts, I’ve adjusted my personal GTD system accordingly. My running to-do list not only has a “Someday/Maybe” category, it has an IMD (In My Dreams) category and a SFGTD category (Something For God to Do). Hey, if I can’t have it all, I certainly can’t do it all, can I?

One of the GTD tricks I retained in my system is the brain dump or, as it is referred to by some: the trigger list. The object, for any GTD virgins out there, is to do a weekly review, citing tasks accomplished, new projects developing, items needed, persons to call and such, all generally adding to and deleting from your running to-do list. Far from transforming you from a human-being to a human-doing, the brain dump is an excellent way to get things off your mind and onto paper where you can keep track of them. Gray matter is too precious to be wasted on shopping lists and reminders to pick up the dry cleaning. The Trigger List attempts to cover every area of your life, helping you to focus on details and projects that need your attention, keeping as little as possible from falling through the cracks.

It’s probably one of those things that have to been seen to understand, so here’s one of the best I’ve found, courtesy of one of my favorite blogsOrganize IT.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. — Goethe

Image courtesy of

Blogging and plot blocks

I’m new to blogging, both as a writer and as a regular reader. (Yes, I do live under a rock. Thank you for asking.) In recent months I’ve enjoyed discovering worthwhile blogs and writers who (apparently) put themselves out there with enviable ease. It’s encouraging to realize there are so many great people out here, sharing their expertise, their experience, and their great good humor.

One of my recent finds is Brandilyn Collin’s Forensics & Faith blog. It is a now a permanent fixture in my rss reader. Ms. Collin’s June 3 entry resonated with me especially. Titled It’s Writer’s Block, You Blockhead, this particular article has made me nothing less than a fan.

Brandilyn bemoans those irritating people that declare writer’s block as nothing more than the lame excuse of a lazy writer. Certainly for a professional writer, writer’s block would be a frightening specter worthy of anyone’s sympathy. I have little use for those literary snobs, myself, but writer’s block, per se, has never been much off an issue for me (sorry, Brandilyn).

As the entry unfolds, though, Brandilyn admits that her issue is not actual writer’s block, but what she calls plotting block. Ah! now she’s singing my bar of blues. I can come up with great characters, I have files of research, scribbled short but succinct descriptions, and dialog guaranteed to to drive both plot and character development while still managing to sparkle. But too often rational plot eludes me. I have a book of characters chomping at the bit, with just enough plot to get them off the ground — but not enough to get them over the finish line. It’s an old problem. Unlike real life, fiction must make sense. Which is probably why so many of us prefer it to reality.

Unfortunately, other than recommending patience, Ms. Collins offers no cure for our mutual ailment. Well, of course, she doesn’t; if she had the cure, she wouldn’t be wasting good writing time complaining of the disease, would she?

Well, good luck, Ms. Collins. Hang in there. All us writer rather-be’s are counting on you.

But no stress.

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