Saturday, April 25, 2015

Snark Hunting in a World of Sharks

I grew up listening to stories by Lewis Carroll. My favorite poem was “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from “Alice in Wonderland.” My aunt, who was only six years older, read it to me so many times that she ran from me whenever I had "the book." Finally I was able to read the poem myself.

Alice’s weird meanderings after she fell down the rabbit hole have enlivened my own imagination. When Disney’s version came out, I took my children to see it. The Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire cat seemed even more frightening on the big screen.

Carroll not only had a vivid imagination, but he knew how to entertain children. I remember being terribly disappointed when I finished reading the book and discovered that Alice’s wild ride through Wonderland was only a dream. In fact, the scenes seemed so real to me that I refused to believe they didn’t happen.
Another of Carroll’s creations is a poem called “The Hunting of the Snark.”  It’s like sending someone on a wild goose chase just to get them out of the way. A Snark was an imaginary animal at fault when a goal was illusive, hard or impossible to achieve. When things went wrong, you could always blame the Snark.
At the turn of the century the term “snarky” had been coined to describe someone who was sharply critical and who found fault at every turn. Today, we might describe that kind of person as paranoid and always hunting down imaginary enemies or creating made-up obstacles (so they have an excuse for failure). What does paranoia look like?

We all have a bit of the Paranoia in us:  fear, suspicion, mistrust, obsession (with our own weaknesses or others’ greatness). If we’re not careful our Paranoia can turn into hysteria: panicky, overworked, nervous, frenzied, and finally madness. Not a place anyone wants to end up.

Enjoy part of Lewis Carroll’s poem:
The Hunting of the Snark
Fit the First
            The Landing

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
   As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
   By a finger entwined in his hair.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
   That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
   What I tell you three times is true."

The crew was complete: it included a Boots—
   A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—
   And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
   Might perhaps have won more than his share—
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
   Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
   Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
   Though none of the sailors knew how.

There was one who was famed for the number of things
   He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
   And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
   With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
   They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
   He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pair of boots—but the worst of it was,
   He had wholly forgotten his name.

If you’d like to see how the poem ends, find Carroll’s poem and go Snark hunting!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Days of Long Ago and Far Away Come Back to the Present

(A Stereoptican card dated 1899; tinted in color) Anfinsen Arts on Etsy
I’ve always been a history buff. I'd like to go back in time and see what it was really like. How would I have reacted? Would I have been a lowly peasant or part of the aristocracy? Would my choices have affected generations to come or would I have silently “gone into that good night” unrecorded, unknown; “ashes to ashes, dust to dust?”

When my paternal grandfather left me his Stereopticon and cards, I had intentions of passing them on to my own children, but there seemed to be little interest. At a certain point, I decided to sell them to those who would prize them and use them.

I had no idea if the cards were valuable or not. I went on EBay to test the waters. This is always a good idea to see what the competition is doing. I had one card that I almost threw away. It was of an African American couple sitting on the grass eating watermelon. I was ashamed that it was even part of the collection. Then I discovered that people are paying quite a bit for “Black Americana” of any kind. A similar card has a missing corner, and will be given away with the sale of the first.

(I'm not endorsing this by any means!  Apparently "Black Americana" is a collectible item
copyright 1897)
Humorous pairs and trios, and the early tinted cards are more valuable than others. Military cards, war ships, and major cities showing how they have changed are also in demand. I’m amused at what people were interested in viewing in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

People collected cards the way we download apps. The dual photos on each card gives a three-dimensional appearance when viewed through the stereopticon. Unfortunately, those that were enjoyed the most are more worn which decreases the value.

(copyright 1906)

These and other Stereopticon cards and collectibles are in my shop:  Anfinsen Arts on Etsy
I started collecting Popeye memorabilia for almost the same reasons. My grandson, Dane, did a pretty good imitation of Popeye when he was about six and that sparked my interest. I noticed that Popeye was still reasonably priced so I started building my collection. Many pieces have been sold on my Etsy site.

Antiques tell a story. They also seem to hold traces of the people who owned them. Sometimes you can feel their warmth and spirit radiate. At other times, an ominous cold feeling of dread emanates from the wood or the living material an object is made from.
(Bridget copyright 1906) A second card shows her on the table, afraid of a mouse!
Vintage shops draw me in compelling ways. I like to browse and stay, waiting for that certain something that urges me to buy. Sensing another time, another era and the hovering spirits of those who may have used each item gives me pause. The smell of old relics mingled with today’s dust hangs heavy in the air. I want to take it all in. I sit down in an old wooden rocker and listen for the whisperings of the past. A pendulum swings in cadence with a fly buzz-bombing in the window. A ticking clock reeks of old wax; its tinny bellow announces the hour.

I bask in old-fashioned comfort and linger for one last look around. A pair of tea spoons catches my eye. Small screened containers in the bowls are for holding loose leaves. I’ll take them home and reminisce about the long-ago teas I have missed and the friends I never knew.

(These are two different spoons. One opens from the side,
the other has a small lever that snaps open)

Check out my shop for artwork, Popeye collectibles and Vintage items:  Anfinsen Arts on Etsy

Monday, April 13, 2015

Reality Brings us Back to Square One

"Namesake" acrylic on canvas
I just read something that flipped me out: “Want to be happy? Don’t build a career based on something you love doing.” from the book “Transform” by Jeff Haden.
Isn’t this what most of us want and desire? Haden continues: “Where business success is concerned passion is almost always the result of time and effort. It’s not a prerequisite. Passion is the side effect of mastery.”
And from Cal Newport, a professor at Georgetown University: “Skills trump passion. Too many people confuse a hobby with a career.” For that reason, Newport suggests that we apply the test: “Will people pay you for it? Will they pay you a lot?
“Potential customers don’t care about your passion or your potential,” Newport says. “Customers care about giving up money.”
As my readers know, I’m an avid watcher of Shark Tank on CNBC. Robert Herjevac pulled this gem out of his hat and used it on a wanna-be entrepreneur: “A goal without a timeline is simply a dream.”
How many times have you put in the “time” expecting results because you were passionate about what you were doing and then wondered “where’s the success?”
"Raccoons at Sunrise" (getting a drink before they go back to sleep) acrylic on 16x20 canvas/framed
Sorry to burst your bubble, but passion is not enough. Practice and hard work is not enough. Unless you take the necessary steps to set goals and complete them, you are simply spinning your wheels. Unless people are willing to pay you money for your skills, you simply have a nice hobby.
Haden’s contention is that once your skills are improved and you become confident, the passion follows automatically. If your career or business takes off, you will fall in love with the process.
You may agree or disagree, but it certainly made me rethink my goals and aspirations. Still, I believe it is much easier to work hard when you’re doing what you love. The feeling of “anticipation” is much more welcome than that of “dread.” Being eager to go to work is much better than hating the thought of it.
It’s like arguing about the adage “which came first the chicken or the egg.” And does it really matter in the end? Probably not; but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that it’s much easier to get up in the morning if you’re looking forward to your job.  Yes, we’ve all worked for peanuts at some point in our lives. We all must take a dead-end job just to pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean it has to last forever.
I admire those who have the courage to quit doing what they dislike and start doing what they love. People who quit the “rat race” in order to raise goats or llamas; and why not if they love the farm life and the freedom to do what they enjoy? 
I’m not the barnyard type, but I admire their macho! Sometimes you just have to see if you can. Why not follow your dreams to the end and find out if you have what it takes to make and grow a business? If you don’t try, you’ll come to the end of your life and wonder why? If others can build a business, why not you? If others can make their dreams come true, why not you?
"Brown Thrasher" 16x20 acrylic on canvas

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Salt-N-Pepa sings "Push It" but Make sure you Won't Regret it!

"Parasailing Spoonbill" original drawing, matted and ready for framing on Etsy
There’s an old saying: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Simply put, it means if you have no faults or failings, you’d better not hurl insults at someone else. Your words or the people you hurt just might come back to bite you.
Twitter is alive and well with infighting and outfighting.  It’s not just for advertising. Now it’s interactive. Tweeters throw barbs at one another and side with different causes often before the truth is known. It’s the mob mentality except that the virtual sparring is anonymous. But people still get hurt. Sometimes reputations are ruined in the process as everyone else slinks back into the dark recesses of cyberspace.
It’s easy to hide behind the screen of an alias or a wall of protected conduits. Backstabbers flee. Name callers slither away. Untruths multiply and hearsay is repeated. The media often glorifies the gore that is left behind and encourages more for the sake of news. The truly innocent fall through the cracks and the bullies continue to bedevil those who disagree with them.

It was just a matter of time before this kind of behavior became the "norm." Today news travels faster than fact. People form an opinion before both sides can be heard. Some use a false narrative purposely to promote their own agenda adding more fuel to the fire.
By the time cool heads prevail the damage has already been done. I don’t know if there is a “fix” for this kind of problem. I caution everyone to weigh and evaluate before you make a judgment. Instead of getting caught up in the moment, try to get more information before you blast someone you don’t know just because you can.
Professionalism should govern most of our lives especially those of you who are in business. Employers not only examine your behavior at work when they do your review. Many of them are going online to see what you’re like when you’re not at work. Is this an invasion of privacy? Perhaps; but more importantly, they want to know if you are honest and forthright; a well-rounded person with no secrets to hide or to be ashamed of.

"Dregs of Winter" matted and ready to frame
That’s the reality we live in today. We live and work in a global web of interconnectedness.  We also leave a trail of crumbs behind us that almost anyone can find. If you leave a series of dishonest acts, sexual misconduct, illegal or bad behavior in your wake your clients and customers, your boss or a future employer will find you out. Think before you act. Do not PUSH, send or post unless you’re 100% certain you won’t regret it later.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ever been called a Hard Head or a Chip off the Old Block?

"Moonlight Magic" 14x11 acrylic on canvas. (remember the weird undercoating? See what I wiped out?)
As unflattering as those terms are, being called a block head or worse simply indicates that you’re stubborn, unbending, and immovable; something an entrepreneur should never be. If you can’t negotiate, if you’re unwilling to give the customer the benefit of the doubt, your sales are likely to plummet.
Give and take is what it’s all about and sometimes you learn the hard way. A few weeks ago I failed to consider the dimensions of an object and focused only on weight. The omission cost me over half of my profits. It was my mistake. I owned it. The customer’s cost was the same regardless.
By failing to do a “test run” before setting price, I was the one who got shortchanged. UPS suggested I call the customer and see if they would meet me half way. To me that sounded dishonest and weak. It was like changing the price of a bargain in midstream. So I kept my word and my customer was satisfied.
If that decision means he will be a repeat customer, then I’ll be happy. If that means he will refer my shop to someone else, then I’ll have two happy customers. That’s the name of the game. Chalk it up to the cost of advertising, part of the learning curve in business or stupidity. The outcome is the same.
Sometimes people complain even when you bend over backwards to please them. Their bark is often worse than their bite. If you make them feel they are getting a good deal, their bluster may turn into satisfaction. Rub people “against the grain” and you’re likely to lose a loyal buyer.
Wood is not only utilitarian, it is rich and beautiful. Circular grain may tell us how long a tree has lived and what it has weathered. Identifying the differences in the bark can help us determine what kind of tree we’re dealing with.
"Window on Pine Island" 16x20 oil on canvas

Even though wood wears away in time, it stays the same even when it becomes thin and overused. I’d take a wooden bowl and cutting board any day over a plastic or fabricated one. I’d rather scrub them after use with antimicrobial soap than trade them in on new models. I treasure the dark sheen that comes from use and the way wood absorbs oil and water like a living breathing thing.
My youngest son made me a small piggy cutting board when he took shop in high school. I have used it for over 25 years. One day after listening to those hyper-germaphobics, I placed it in my dishwasher, without the heat, to sanitize it. When I opened the washer, the pig had split along every grain line. The heat of the water had weakened the wood and simply dried out its life. I miss that pig!
I still have a wooden bowl made of myrtle wood that came from Seattle, Washington. It was given to me by my first husband. Today we use it to serve hot popcorn. The oil in the corn keeps it dark and lovely. I will never (are you listening?) never put it in my dishwasher.

This woodcarving of a little girl came from an antique store in Ellicott, Maryland. I love that place! My daughter lived nearby and I was visiting her that summer. The wooden figure drew my heart, all the more for its primitiveness. I suspect a beginning carver crafted this piece for the very first time.
The carved inscription says ©Somerville. I did some research and traced it to Somerville, MA; there seems to be a lot of woodcarving action going on up there. I suspect one of the many students that come and go carved this at some time and the sculpture ended up in Ellicott, Maryland.

If you haven’t tried painting wood grain, give it a try. Watch it come alive under your brush. Its exquisite sheen and grain are unique to each piece, so you don’t need to worry about mistakes. 

Even wood piling on the seashore or faded wood fences may turn an ordinary scene into a masterpiece.

(SOLD) Prints available at