Sunday, December 27, 2020

Book Report: A Thousand Splendid Suns

 I just finished a wonderful book.  A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini, is a novel about two Afghan women.  It covers a period from about 1974 to 2003.  This was the beginning of an incredibly turbulent period in Afghanistan, one that is still ongoing.  It's a period of conflict between traditional ways, changing times, warlords, Soviets, invasions, the Taliban, and Americans, as told through the lives of these two women.  It's not necessarily pretty, but it is inspiring.

Khaled Hosseini is the author of The Kite Runner.  He was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, but has lived in the United States since 1980 and is an American citizen now.  He knows his native country well.  And he  knows how to write.  The people in this story are very real.  I knew people like them during my time in Kandahar.  Actually, I knew people like them in Baghdad as well, and I know people like them right here in western North Carolina.  People are people; it's their situations that are different.  If you're at all interested in Afghanistan, or in people living under extremely tough conditions, read A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

K.T. Oslin Passing

 I was all set to make a post about goings-on in the studio until I heard that the singer K.T. Oslin passed away.  What a loss.  I discovered K.T. about the same time lots of other people did: around 1990.  At the time, I was in the early stages of an epic divorce and country music was THE music to listen to.  And K.T. was at the top of her game.

K.T. didn't write the usual first-love songs you hear from popular singers, or songs about her dog or pickup truck or other typical country things.  Her songs are for those of us who are a bit older, who've been around the block a few times, who've won some and lost some, been there and done that, and are still trying to figure it all out.  Songs like "80's Ladies", about three childhood friends growing up: "We've said "I do" and we signed "I don't" and we swore we'd never do that again".  (You really need to see the video on YouTube for this one.)  Or "Mary and Willie", two older single people whose unrealistically high expectations for possible mates ensures they never meet somebody that would be good for them.  And she could be funny: in "Hey Bobby", the protagonist is a young girl who's the one with a car and, with a sly knowing "trust me" purr, suggesting they go for a ride, completely turning the tables on the usual boy/girl storyline. 

Listening to a K.T. Oslin album, you'll hear stories of life's situations that we're all familiar with.  But nobody writes songs about them like her.  Few sing with the kind of personal feelings that she does.  You know she has lived every word of every song she ever wrote.  That's art.  

The paper said she had Parkinson's for the past few years and was in an assisted living facility.  Then she tested positive for COVID last week.  And now a great artist is gone.  So long, K.T., you're missed, but your music is still here, and I'm listening to it.

Thursday, December 10, 2020



It's been a bit of a journey, but one of the paintings I mentioned in my last post is finally done. Guardians is the second painting of a new series about a possible future. I'm very disturbed by the division, vitriol, and willful stupidity that is rampant in this country today. I've personally seen what divisions can do to a society: Bosnia's ethnic cleansing, Iraq's division between Shiite and Sunni, and Afghanistan's divisions between the Taliban insurgents and the corrupt government. And I'm imagining what those divisions would look like in this country if we keep going the way we're going. It's not a pretty sight. 

 A big focus for me with this painting, beyond the concept, as in the technical aspects of making the idea work.  I spent a lot of time on the composition, then on the execution in paint: colors, light/dark values, hard and soft edges, cool/warm balance, all with the goal of getting the viewer to see what I wanted them to see, in the order I wanted the different things to be seen.  I think it turned out pretty well.  The subject is certainly not one that people will find beautiful and want to hang over their couch, but that was never the point.  

The next couple of paintings to come out of the studio will be much more cheerful, I promise!