Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bisqueware Economy

It has been a very strange week.

Writing has gone well and we’re finally catching up in the studio. We still have a few things to throw and some more to glaze to fill orders received so far, but it won’t be long and then we can finally get on to experimenting on new patterns and new kinds of pots, mixing new glazes and getting ready for spring. But I’ve had a weird sort of attitude, mostly because of the jury selection, but also because of changing the setting for my novel, which was a setting I had been creating for several years. I miss the old setting, but the novel itself is more important than the setting, and I do also love  the new setting.


Now, about that Bisqueware Economy:

In the pottery process of creating stoneware, we first throw pieces – wetware—and then dry them – greenware – then we fire them the first time, the bisque fire – bisqueware – to a fairly low temperature, as far as ceramic firing goes, and finally we glaze and fire them a few hundred degrees hotter, the glaze fire – glazed ware.

At the bisqueware stage, the pots have sintered enough that they are not so fragile to handle for applying glaze. They’re not stoneware yet  because they haven’t been fired hot enough; and, so, they’re  not as strong as the glazed ware, but they’re absorbent, which helps an adequate amount of the glaze slurry to adhere to the pots.

At this stage of bisqueware if you put water into the pot, it will slowly seep through the walls and bottom of the pot. This process of seepage is what “the trickle-down theory” of our economy is actually like. If you put a bisqueware pot filled with water on a newspaper it will slowly begin to saturate the paper, but will never create a puddle, it doesn’t seep that quickly. If you hang the bisqueware pot filled with water for a long time, you may get an occasional drip from it, and if you lick the bottom of the pot you may soothe the heat of thirst from your tongue, but not really the thirst and certainly not even the heat in your throat.

“The trickle-down theory” has repeatedly been proven not to work as a method of spreading wealth any better than a bisqueware pot filled with water trickles water to the thirsty, but we continually insist that it does work. I guess I shouldn’t say “we” because so many of “we” already know, from extensive experience, that it doesn’t work, but it’s those who benefit financially from “the trickle-down theory” who insist it works. They are the people who accumulate vast amounts of wealth that stays in bank accounts and investments that increase that wealth and doesn’t, for very obvious reasons that create the very foundation of wealth accumulation, spread around.

In reality, our greatest source of wealth, which is also our greatest resource, is human capacity, but unless we dramatically change a wide swath of our entire economic system, we will continue to under-utilize and discard that wealth, and all those people who cannot scramble their way to the top of the heap. I don’t see that happening any time soon on a grand scale.

But if I were, for whatever reason, able to accumulate adequate wealth, I would start up an employee-owned company that would give the profit to the people who work for it, rather than the people who already have vast amounts of wealth and can afford to invest in stocks. I would also use that company as an example of what we can truly achieve in fully utilizing our most valuable resource.

I’ve been reading about employee-owned companies lately and I cannot imagine any better system. These companies invest not only in their own workers, but in their local economy as well. The profit doesn’t go to the already-wealthy, and it also doesn’t go to corporations far, far away; it isn’t sent away from the community wherein that wealth was generated and, so, doesn’t deplete the local cash-flow, doesn’t increase financial drought or make locals more and more dependent on those far, far away corporations for their livelihoods.

In short, an employee-owned company helps create a local economy rather than siphon away its life blood.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

With Purpose I Write

On a more open and cheerful note (cheerful? not cheerful, actually much more sober and healthy) I am making good progress again with my novel. After deciding to write in  a setting much less science-fictiony, I had some lost time working out the details of the change. I have transcribed the first draft of the first chapter onto the computer; since it had to be redrafted, I decided to type it in. I’m working on the second chapter now, which is a bit more difficult to make the change, but today – as I was contemplating my personal place in life and my purpose for writing – I made a dramatic mental leap into my new setting. It was very exciting and is leading me to take a bolder stance on my message.

Christmas is just around the corner of next week and I’m a bit blown away that the year is so nearly over. I never seem to get as much done as I would like to, but this year was worse. Partly because we worked much later for Ursula than we imagined we would (which was really good for the bank account and getting through this month with all of our extra expenses), and then we had a flood of pottery orders that has kept us busy well beyond what we normally work in the studio catching up for the year.

So, I haven’t started on working with our new glazes, haven’t started new projects and designs and forms, and haven’t started on the pottery articles I want to write this winter. But how can I complain when it works well for our bank account? Well, because I’m ready to move on into the future I keep seeing at a distance no matter how much deeper I get into the calendar.

My number one goal, though is the novel; and since I am making good progress on that, I feel soothed and filled with holiday joy.

Outside the snow is glistening on the ground, stars are glittering in the sky, a coyote is singing, and in a few days we’ll be celebrating the solstice, when the earth will once again turn it’s course to bring us an increase in light each day.

Beauty, peacefulness, and joy all available in abundance if we just strive for it. And if we don’t do it, who will?

Politics on Trial

After sleeping on and not sleeping on the jury selection experience I had yesterday and then mulling further all day today, I have figured out part of my cynicism of the whole process has, at least somewhat, the whole atmosphere of cynicism I’ve gained about our whole political and governmental system. I believe there is still potential in our form of government; but, at least in our present era, that potential has been nullified in favor of personal agendas funded by the extremely wealthy and corporations.

One of the questions the prosecuting attorney asked yesterday was whether we had ever been lied to and whether or not we ever knew we had been lied to. An almost ridiculous question in light of what the position on truth at which our entire world has come: truth is not nearly as important as ones agenda, whether it be political, religious or for personal gain. We have, as we all experienced so well this year, been lied to and deceived about every aspect of our lives.

It was, therefore,  difficult for me yesterday to even listen to two lawyers trying to fill our heads with their own agendas. Like so many Americans, I’m angry, bereft over the loss of a life of trustworthiness, at arms over the lies and deceit, and isolated even further into my own safe, little world of how life could be.

So, yesterday when I got home, I was grasping at the beauty available in the world and already fantasizing about camping and hiking next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jury Selection

I was called in for jury selection today. Had to be there at 8:30 and was there twelve minutes early, my mistake. They didn’t even open the doors until 8:37 and didn’t get started until well after 9:00.


So impressive that I was in a bad attitude state of mind before they even started asking questions. What I was thinking of while I was waiting was that the first time Ben and I went to the city/county building – I cannot recall what for exactly, but we had to go for some county business reason – we went into the office we had to report to and there were five or six people in there. Three were reading books, one was knitting or doing needlework or something and the other one was talking with the needlework person. They ignored us until we practically shouted out a question.

I guess we were a bother in their busy schedules.

So, as you can deduce, I was actually already quite impressed with our county workers before today. Then, albeit quite late, the show began. The case was an attempted murder being prosecuted by the state and we were warned early on in the prosecuting attorney’s period for questioning the potential jurors that there were pictures of the victims having been stabbed depicting various knife wounds and intestines hanging out. The victims, obviously, survived and were in the courtroom, sitting at the very back. I was thinking of those grisly pictures when the attorney asked us to raise our hands if we felt the defendant deserved an impartial jury. I couldn’t raise my hand. It became more and more apparent as the morning slogged on into the defense attorney’s questioning that the question was not whether or not the defendant stabbed the victims, and no one seemed willing to even say he might not have done it. The question was whether or not the defendant was guilty of attempted murder. Semantics? Anyway, the defense attorney asked me a few questions because I hadn’t raised my hand and I evidently failed the test, because in the end they didn’t select me to be on the jury.

The case was a bit intriguing to me, not because I believed, from what they “told us” that the defendant could be ‘innocent,’ but because I wondered how he could be considered ‘not guilty.’

I honestly do believe everyone deserves a fair trial and though I intend never to do anything that would land me in a court as a defendant (my conscience would be far worse on me than the jury ever could), I deeply appreciate that our system was not based on the old systems of the old countries which took not the attitude of the defendant being innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, but that their defendants were guilty until proven innocent.

However, I do find it rather dismaying that our court cases seem to have turned into a game between the lawyers: may the best lawyer win. I saw that game played in part today as they were ‘questioning’ potential jurors by asking questions that actually told us what they hoped we would not only say, but believe throughout the trial. While questioning me about not raising my hand, the defense attorney asked me if I believed it was possible that ‘a defendant’ could be found innocent even though he or she may have wielded a weapon better than the other person or people involved, who may have come out worse; that it could be self-defense. While most of the other jurors agreed that, “of course” it was possible, I could only say that it would depend upon whatever other evidence came out about other weapons and so forth.  Maybe I’m cynical, but most of the potential jurors fell for the game and played their positions as pawns quite well. They proudly repeated what each other said about being impartial and non-judgmental with phrases the attorneys planted in our minds. Perhaps, then, I’m a heretic, not believing some concept simply because it was presented to me as Truth and is the popular concept to believe.

I think it would have been very interesting being a part of this trial, but I guess I don’t play this game well enough with others – and maybe not any game, since so many of the personal questions they asked us were evidently posed for them to discern how well we do play with others.

But, then, on the other hand, since this is our busiest time of year in the studio, I am a little relieved I wasn’t chosen this time. Perhaps some day I will get the chance to witness firsthand how the rest of that game is played out. This is, though, the first time I have been requested to attend a jury selection, even though this year is the fifth time I have been selected for jury service; maybe they know something about me not being the kind of game-player they want and they’re not telling me. S’pose?


Sunset a few hours after I got home today.



Hungarian Partridges in our front yard a couple of days ago.



And the evidence is in: life can be so beautiful if we just let it be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

On Reading Ben Hur

What a week! Last Saturday our water heater spouted a leak just a few hours before Ben got home. Then, with the new snow, we finally figured out that the truck needed new tires; Ben’s winter boots went the way of the water heater; and the starter went awry in the Subaru.

Merry Christmas to us: we have a new water heater, new tires on the truck, Ben’s new boots, and a new starter in the Subaru. So this week we contributed heavily to some sort of economic stimulus plan.

Amidst all this chaos and between writing sessions I am reading Ben Hur. Or, rather, I should say I’m wading my way through it. It was written over a hundred years ago and  the author decided to us a lot of less-than-perfect antiquated language even for his time. I’m reading it because one of the publications on writing that I subscribe to published an article wherein that author told of how nearly perfect the plot was formulated. Yes, I see that already and I’m only a third of the way through it. Other than the difficult language that forces me to fully focus on the writing, the story is a very good one and I would recommend it in spite of the author’s prejudices and liberties with reality. (Near the beginning, which was when Jesus was born, he describes Mary, the mother of Jesus, {keep in mind we’re discussing a Jewish woman long before they were so widespread throughout Europe and marrying into European families and bloodlines} as a stunningly beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed girl of about sixteen.

I nearly slammed the book down, but quickly passed by those early passages as though someone had passed a cloud of highly fermented flatulence. A lot of older literature I can read with a grain of antiquated discretion, but Mary as a blue-eyed blonde? That has nothing to do with cultural differences, other than  northwestern Europeans making Jesus look northwestern European because it makes them more comfortable being in his ‘presence.’

Right, then, I’ll stop shouting and climb down now.

From a different angle, the book has helped me re-think the setting of my own novel. I’ve been a bit . . . what’s the right word . . . hesitant about the setting I had chosen: a foreign planet far, far away. Part of the plot was even how humans ended up there. My problem with that distant planet is that it ostracizes a lot of people who just don’t, won’t, or can’t connect with something so foreign and exotic – rather like Jesus being a Jew with black hair and olive skin, rather than being a blue-eyed blond European – and my underlying message, which is rather important to me, won’t make it very far out of the chute before I’m bucked off.

So, out with the planet Haedeortha, the nearby planetary system of Pevliad, and the older, home planet Elysion. Out with all the purely exotic, dangerous and foreign native animals with varying levels of intelligence. Out with the continents mapped out with deserts, forests, mountains, jungles, and secrets held by the more intelligent native animals. It was a lot of fun creating it all, but it’s time to let them go. Swoosh! Gone with the wave of an eraser.

I  had toyed a few weeks ago with changing the setting to Earth, but hadn’t considered an ancient era, so I nixed it. A current or near-future era on Earth would not have worked; the plot would have been too controversial for too many people.

My new setting will be in a fairly early pre-Christian era of eastern Europe; I haven’t quite decided how long before our current calendar system started, but probably at least a thousand years or so. And I have some research to do; the challenge before me is that research for this particular setting is purely based on archeology, since it’s in an area that had no written language at the time, so there’s no recorded history. To be truthful, doing research is much easier than creating a planet, the animals, plants,  terrain and the results of interactions between them all. So I’ll be writing about someplace midway between a wholly new, self-created world attached to some distant star and someplace already created for me. It will be here at home, and the terrain will be very close to what it is now and most of the animals won’t be too foreign, but the people, the actual architecture they created, and the way they viewed the world will all be true fiction.

It’s time to get back to work, so I’m off and running . . .

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Landscape of this Writer’s Mind.

I woke this morning to a vivid, fluid landscape of my mind, a place I rarely visit and such visitations always correlate to Ben being gone from our homestead.

Ben went down to his childhood hometown in Wyoming to take care of his sister’s two children while she was off on a business trip. And it’s not like we have extensive chores that need a lot of care, but somehow it seems everything takes me a lot longer to accomplish alone than when Ben and I are working together. Actually, I’m not much of a morning person; I don’t have too much of a problem getting out of bed, but to get the fire started and breakfast cooked is a bit much for me. Long ago I didn’t really eat breakfast, I just had coffee and showered and left for work. Ben has me spoiled now, though, I have to eat a good breakfast or I’m starving by the time my workday starts. So, by the time I get up, start a fire, have my coffee, cook and eat breakfast and do chores it sees like the morning is half over.

And this morning I woke to that strange landscape. My mine took off on philosophical tangents that led me off in directions and lands so foreign that I felt I was living in one of the fantasy places I write about. Within that landscape, of course, I had all the world’s problems figured out and knew how to deal with all the negative people who would have a problem with a viewpoint different than their own. Gradually I woke up and realized I was on planet Earth with people who fervently believe in things that are not just improbable, but impossible beyond the wildest fantasies I could imagine, filled with magic and miracles so fantastic I wouldn’t even dare to write them in my novels.

That reminds me, the preliminary writing on my novel is going well. I’ve written out the characterizations for all the major characters and a rough outline of the first five chapters;the plot is moving along really well with a fluid and rapid flow. I want to do as much writing as I can this week with Ben gone – I’m not sure what Ben being gone has to do with anything, but it’s a good diversion for me to have such a plan. The deeper I get into the story, the more I realize how much work it really is, but I’m enjoying it immensely. The rough outline is the easiest and most fun part of the process, but now I have to get down to the nitty gritty of the actual work of fleshing out the characters and making the plot not just feasible, but realistic, plausible and naturalistic; which, for fantasy/science fiction, can be tough, but also critical.

This isn’t my first attempt at writing a novel. I wrote another one a few years ago that taught me a lot – mostly about all the things a writer shouldn’t try to do with a novel – and helped me move on to work on something that would be reader friendly.