Is This All You Got?

If you look closely enough, you can see grandpa.Not canvas, stone, but close enough.

Not really grandpa, but our distant cousins.  Very distant.

In fact, if every generation is good for 25 years, then we’re talking almost 3000 generations ago.  That’s a lot of cousins.

Turns out that we have found some of their earliest artworks.

This is important because, well, it was important to them.

You see, this art wasn’t something that was assigned as a class assignment.  It wasn’t even something that a few crazy teens decided to do in order to assert their independence.

This art took time in every aspect of the word, and of the work.  Time to make the materials.  Time to make fires in order to see the work.  Time to make torches that you took into the cave.  Time to find the cave.  And perhaps most important of all, time to figure out what they were going to represent, artistically.

Here’s the fun part.

Today, we see art everywhere.  It’s all around us.  There is so much art that our appreciation of it has gone pretty much down to zero.

Why should it have been different back then?  Why couldn’t they have scratched art into the sand, the trees, even into themselves?

Chances are that they did.  We can’t see it because of a couple of things.

The first, big thing is that all those other techniques they used are much less permanent than cave painting.

But there’s a second, almost-as-big a thing as the first.

Our minds aren’t quite open to the possibility that they did it.  “Scientists” are still arguing whether or not Neanderthals could have created artwork.  Well, now we know.  The answer is YES.  Only 5,000 years old.Getting them to admit that they made art in any other place than a cave?  They’ll never go for it.

It will be up to some young, up-and-coming young student of behavior to take that bull by the horns and prove it to all the old teachers that yes, Neanderthals liked to express themselves in many ways.

That’s why they need a good theory of behavior.  We do it.  Our ancestors did it.  Why not our distant cousins?

And if not, why not?

In the meantime, I’m going to go make some art that’ll last at least as long.

First, I need a cave.


Fat and Happy Artwork

There’s a new finding about some cave paintings in Spain.  Turns out that they were painted by Neanderthals.  Those are the hillbilly cousins of homo erectus that we don’t like to talk about.  We’re better than them.

Or so we thought.  Turns out they were just like us.  Mostly.

Done by the fat and happy.


We wonder why we don’t find more art of all types from early humans.  There’s a bunch of reasons of course.

Stuff gets lost.  Gets covered over.  Washes away.

But a lot of things don’t.

There’s a big reason in particular I want to harp on about.

Ancient people only made ancient art when they had the time and the inclination.

In other words, they were rich.  Relatively speaking.

If you are an ancient person, but young at heart, and you’re hungry or cold or tired or about to be eaten by a tiger, the last thing you’re going to think about is making some art.

But if you have some time, you’re full, you’re not worried about your next meal, and you’ve got some deep thoughts you’ve been thinking over for a while, then guess what?

Grab that torch, get some rocks and charcoal, and head for the caves.

Reminds me a bit of the guys who do all that graffiti along the roads in the cities.

So the reason we don’t see a whole lot of art from back then is because people weren’t fat or happy that often.  And that’s good to know.

So the next time you see some cave art, think about those fat and happy people.  And then try to figure out what they were thinking about.  After all, aren’t you also happy?



Riots and Revolutions

Our art museum is putting on this excellent display of pre-romantic paintings that were used to record historical events.  Journalism in painting.

Painting is a story told visually, and because the artist is mostly in control, a lot of what they are thinking can come through.

When it’s historical in nature, we also get a glimpse into the big behavioral picture.

There’s this one painting showing a citadel in the background, and a riot going on in front of the locked gates.  (I can’t find it! When I do, I’ll include a link here.)

The caption beside the painting notes that during the years of 1634-35 there was a great famine, and the ruler allowed bread to be sold outside the citadel gates at fixed prices.  The hungry population was so angry that a riot ensued.  Because of the famine, almost 5% of the population perished.  That’s one person out of every twenty.

That was enough to cause the ruler to change the laws regarding land ownership, basically giving more power to the people.

Here’s what we can learn.

It took a great toll among the people before the ruling class decided they needed to shift the distribution of wealth.  Lots of people had to die miserable deaths before those in power would change the system.

Today, we also have increasing wealth inequalities.  How far will the current levels of pain go before our governments address the pain of the people?  History, at least this little oil-painted piece, suggests that about 5% of the population will have to perish first.

Is this the best way to figure this out?  Absolutely not.  But it’s a start.

And as far as wealth distribution is concerned, isn’t it better we start now?

Aren’t art museums fun?

Thanks for reading.


Pride and Prejudice: Copycat

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Every now and then I feel a pang of guilt because I’m studying P&P so closely in order to improve my own story.

It’s not like I’m stealing anything from Jane.  Hardly.  A lot of times I’m paying homage to her genius.

Why should I feel guilty?

Because it’s the first time I’m doing this.

The greatest artists always copied great art before them.  When they became great, they usually start copying themselves.  Check out Rodin, one of the greatest sculptors of all time.  His early works and his later works are very much derived from each other.

We watched a silly monster movie the other night.  It featured “marines” fighting “artificially intelligent robots” that had broken their programming.  I put all those things in quotes because those characters didn’t act anything like what the words are saying.  They were simply misleading labels to substitute for “teenagers” and “magic monsters.”

How many movies are there where some unknown monster preys upon unsuspecting souls?  Even Stanley Kubrick, the greatest of the great directors, made a monster movie using basically the same formula.

So, copycat?  Heck yes.  In fact, I urge all of us to go out and copy something.

Only, please make it something good.  Copying something poor is only going to give me a headache.  And that’s something you don’t want to copy.




You have X-ray vision

Did you know that you have X-ray vision?  Yes!  You really do!

Please don’t shake your head, Gentle Reader.  I know we’ve been brought up to think that only supermen (or Superman) can have such wonder powers, but it’s not true!  You have it.  I have it.  We all have this power.  The only difference is that some people use it, while others let it stagnate.  And any of our abilities, left untried and forgotten, will wither and die.

If you’re a writer, or painter, or an artist of any kind then you have a better chance of already knowing how to use your X-ray vision.  Perhaps you call it by a different name, like the “inner eye.”

Our society is so beset with outward beauty that we’ve lost our balance between outward and inward beauty. I realized this as I admired my water faucet today.  Yes, the lowly water faucet.  Chances are you have one, and that faucet is more than likely beautiful.  It may be chrome or gold, have glass bits and all sorts of wonderful shapes going on.  If you selected it personally then you know that its outward form brings you pleasure.

But on the inside your faucet may be ugly, a nightmare waiting to happen.  If it gets a drip will the entire faucet have to be replaced?  Will it require a professional who has to sell you an entire new set?  Or can you easily take it apart and, by replacing a rubber ring costing less than a dollar, fix it as good as new?

Chances are that you can’t fix it yourself.  And there’s a good chance that, on the inside, your faucet is U-G-L-Y.  Why?  Because the manufacturer knows you buy faucets based on how they look outside, not inside.  Because they want to save money.  And because they want to sell you a new faucet when that little part goes bad.

Our faucets don’t have to look pretty on the outside; but they can.  They can also be beautiful on the inside, but we don’t demand that of our manufacturers.  And this is where X-ray vision comes in.  The artist knows that our eyes deceive our minds, what lies beneath our senses is what the artist tries to convey.  Look underneath the faucet, and can you see simplicity of design?  Ease of maintenance?  A lifetime of service?

And what of X-ray vision when it comes to behavior?  The same thing applies.  Maybe you meet someone new.  Your first instinct is to assess their attractiveness.  That’s what everyone does.  Now you can go the next step, and test your X-ray vision.  What lies beneath?  They may be ugly, but underneath, is this a beautiful person?  They may be beautiful on the outside, but underneath is there an ugly person?  I have known many people who fit both of these molds.

So, test out your vision today.  Look beneath the surface – whether it’s your favorite faucet or a Farrah Fawcett.  Don’t worry, not even lead can stop you.

And don’t dwell on the underwear!  It’s not polite.