Compensative Creativity?

Writing is a struggle when I must hunt and peck the keys. It’s physically challenging and mentally challenging. It took three or four moments longer than usual to tap out the first several words of this paragraph, today.

The reason for this temporary state of physical manipulation has to do with a 5-in-one painter’s tool and four stitches on the middle finger of my left hand. Lets just say the finger was in the wrong place when the tool skipped over a hardened blob of wood putty while I was shaping a repair of the weather-damaged window sill. I wasn’t fully present in the moment.

After the severe bleeding temporarily stopped, a trip across town to the “Urgent Care Clinic” and their skilled work, the finger is in healing mode. I was advised to limit use of my left hand.

I’ve gained a renewed sense of appreciation for having operational fingers–all of them. This is brought into clear focus as my index fingers hunt and peck the keyboard. The mental aspect comes into play when my thoughts vanish during the process of hitting the wrong keys and accidentally setting “Caps Lock” when reaching for “a”. Then an entire word or phrase must be retyped. It doesn’t help matters that a few keys of the old laptop are stubborn. Writing by hunt and peck is like eating with chopsticks for the first time. I don’t mean to complain; these are merely observations.

This temporary set-back brings to mind my late best-friend Jerry. He was born without thumbs and had abbreviated fingers on his hands. Jerry said he was one of those Thalidomide babies who were born in the late 1950s. He was the only person I recall ever using the term “compensative creativity”. Jerry once joked that he could get away with any crime because he wouldn’t leave any thumb-prints behind.

Jerry did a great job of compensating for his condition. He cued up records on turntables during his afternoon radio shows without missing a beat. Off duty, he loved to tinker with car engines and handyman projects around his home. All things considered, Jerry was a very creative guy. I learned a lot about life from him.

“Compensative creativity”, if that is an actual term, could be better described by medical professionals and their patients and clients. I’ll leave such articles to people who are knowledgeable regarding such cases. I’m just passing along a few casual observations as I struggle to complete today’s post.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes fast-food tycoon, Ray Kroc. “Creativity is a highfalutin word for the work I have to do between now and Tuesday.”

Posted in Contemplation, Friendship, Gadgets, Health, projects | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Base Red …Floral Friday

While wearing a medium red tee-shirt, I washed and polished three red vases. I like to work with red containers when the weather is hazy and overcast. Today, I have three variants of vases featuring various shades of the color red.

The first arrangement uses my red “O” vase from “Target”. It is the only container that is sufficiently heavy and quirky enough to display the dinner plate size faux Gerbera daisy. I bent the industrial strength wire stem into a “U” shape to anchor the flower. More elements were added to provide a sense of balance to the project.

The tall, dark red, enameled vase was manufactured in Vietnam. A collection of orchids and tall stems harmonizes with the rich shade of red.

Green chrysanthemums fill a brilliant red contemporary glass vase. The phosphorescent green dragon graces a vintage, lacquered Japanese box.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century, German-American abstract painter and designer Josef Albers. “If one says ‘red’ –the name of color–and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.”

Posted in Floral Arts, Hobbies, projects | Tagged , , | 4 Comments


Do you have days that are very slow but not frustratingly so? The slow pace feels governed by a pleasantly tired body which leads to an overly relaxed state of mind. This particular feeling is not induced by control substances or fatigue, per se. It’s similar to the satisfactory tiredness we feel following a day of intense physical labor. The main difference is that this type of sluggishness occurs after a satisfying night’s sleep. Caffeine doesn’t make it go away, yet that is OK.

I’m enjoying that state of mind right now, as I write these words. This feeling is luxurious and mellow, but not too mellow. It’s a sensation I haven’t felt since over a year or so ago. The feeling isn’t lethargy; that term is too clinical.

Perhaps you experience this positive type of sluggishness from time to time, too. It’s a deliciously indulgent sensation, but is not laziness nor depression. It’s like a biological switch has activated the slow-down mode of mind and body. You feel slow, yet quite alert. You might say that it’s nature’s way of inducing you to stop and smell the roses.

Ironically, this mind-body state is uplifting if you have been feeling lethargic or down and out. It’s mellowing if you have been feeling uptight or grumpy. Could it be a natural form of meditation? It might be a similar to the state of consciousness that requires secret techniques as practiced by Tibetan lamas in solitary retreats. One feels patient without forcing patience.

Analyzing this morning’s mellowness, at first I wondered if it was caused by a calorie deficit. Such a condition causes a reduction in metabolism and slowness. I nixed that idea, because calorie deficit is unpleasant and results in hunger and thirst. Today’s state of mind and body is pleasant. It might be optimal if I stop analyzing it.

My lifestyle is rather healthy. I rarely eat pasta or pizza anymore. I’ve been getting better quality sleep. I take better care of myself in other ways, too. Mentally, I feel naturally upbeat as usual, my attitude is balanced progressively. That is, I feel good about the present and the future. I feel pretty good for a man of my age.

I’m reticent to analyze it any longer. This mind-body state seems to be another way of being fully alive and functioning but at a naturally slow pace. There is no spiritual or intellectual laziness. There is no need to be awakened from lethargy. It’s just another passing state of being. Thankfulness is the best response.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the Ancient Roman poet, Ovid. “Thou seest how sloth wastes the sluggish body, as water is corrupted unless it moves.”

Posted in Health, Meanderings | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments


Living life on “auto-pilot” can result in a gradual misalignment of our actions from our personal values. A person may realize that she is not being true to herself because she has been allowing others or society to determine what defines happiness and success. As a result a person may question whether or not she believes in what she is doing. When this happens, it’s time for her to bring focus back to what authentically makes her happy, regardless of what others expect.

Another common way misalignment creeps into life is when we cultivate unrealistic expectations from ourselves and others. Perhaps a person believed he would find himself in a beautiful, fairytale-like relationship. However, he feels disconnected from his significant other. Quality time together has diminished or vanished, communication has become less honest and open. He realizes that relationships aren’t constantly rainbows and unicorns. There are ups and downs with the downs predominating. The person dithers between whether or not to stay in his relationship.

We prefer the presence of happiness and good will in our interactions with other people and society as a whole. We strive towards contentment, happiness, and agreeableness in life. We envision ourselves in jobs that reflect these wishes. We want friends who are on similar paths as ours. We want healthy familial relationships. When we drift out of sync with our deep positive values, our lives become disharmonious.

Getting back on track is easier said than done, so setbacks and frustrations appear. It could be time to reassess life and do some soul-searching. Each person has her or his own concept of what a life lived in harmony is like. This fact often causes discord. This is an important reason why communication is vitally important. Calm, sober, ongoing discussion with one another helps bridge differences of opinion. We’ve been repeatedly told this, but we don’t always follow through when we’ve been living on auto-pilot.

We can pause and seek out ways to find common ground in our working lives and our personal lives. We share our concerns and listen to the concerns of others as we work to reinforce or rebuild our career path and interpersonal relationships. We continue to keep lines of communication open and are ready to reserve space for each other to relate on a deeper, more authentic level.

Unfortunately, a person may sincerely strive to create harmonious work environments and interpersonal relationships but the disharmony remains or worsens. After more soul-searching and honest effort it’s time to examine how these situations align or don’t align with one’s values and desires. Can the conundrum be reconciled?  Perhaps it’s time to seek out new, more meaningful work opportunities. It might be time to let go of certain relationships that no longer bring fulfillment and satisfaction. Doing so leaves more room for work and relationships that are aligned with your ideals.

To be happy and fulfilled, we think, say, and act harmoniously. Each person is different. There are no one size fits all solutions. If we are not living by our own values, we’re not being true to ourselves. It might be time to engage in some honest communication with oneself and contemplate ways to bring about more harmonious living. As we live more harmoniously in our personal lives, we begin to enable harmony in the Universe.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes author, journalist, and philosopher, Albert Camus. “But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads.?”

Posted in Contemplation, Health, philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Fell In Love With Electronica

An email about an early electronic music pioneer inspired a longer than usual response from me. John, who lives in San Jose, alerted me to some information about Delia Derbyshire. She was employed by the BBC and performed many early experiments with reel to reel tape loops, sampling, and oscilloscopes. This information triggered a few memories as to how my love of electronic music matured throughout my life. This type of nostalgia brings me joy.

My obsession with electronically produced music began when I was still a pre-teen in 1962. I heard the record “Telstar” by the British group the Tornados. I instantly fell in love with the piece. Its futuristic, space-age sound snippets were fascinating. I saved my pennies and eventually purchased a 45 rpm copy. In fact, “Telstar” was the very first record of any variety I ever bought. I played the record at every opportunity until the grooves wore thin and scratchy.

I credit “Telstar” with planting the seed that grew into my love of instrumental music and electronica in particular. One of the biggest frustrations I encountered was the dire scarcity of then current popular instrumental Top-40 hits. If and when one popped up, I’d buy a copy as soon as possible. Of course that meant that my record collection was still quite small.  After “Telstar” my interest in record collecting went into hibernation.

Then, in 1968 dad purchased an 8-Track tape copy of “Switched On Bach”. The collection of musical pieces composed by Johann Sebastian Bach were realized by Walter Carlos (now known as Wendy Carlos). The tracks were painstakingly produced and mixed on a Moog synthesizer. The album and sequels were reasonably popular among niche buyers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I purchased vinyl LP copies of them as they were released. By today’s standards, “Switched On Bach” sounds somewhat primitive and harsh, but I still occasionally play those early Walter Carlos albums.

In 1971, I bought an Allied-Radio Shack reel to reel recorder in order to assemble documentaries for the news department of the college radio station. The machine enabled more timely personal contributions to the broadcast schedule. During downtime, I began experimenting with reverberation, overdubbing, and feedback loops on that primitive tape recorder. Eventually, friends and family became interested in my experiments. I frequently staged impromptu mini-concerts, by request. These are some of my happiest memories of the 1970s. Looking back, I wish I would have pursued electronic music as a career or a supplemental career.

Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” was released in 1971 and played in smaller movie theaters later that year. I love Kubrick’s films, so “A Clockwork Orange” was a must-see. The movie was brilliant, but my favorite part was the musical soundtrack realized by Walter Carlos. The movie only featured bits and pieces of the music, but there was enough of it to whet my appetite for the soundtrack record album. I bought a copy as soon as it was available in 1972. I still love every track on the recording, especially the Beethoven “Ninth Symphony” excerpts. The depth and richness of the tracks are still satisfying to us electronica aficionados.

From the 1970s onward, more electronic music was being produced and sold to wider audiences. Aside from Walter (Wendy) Carlos, Tangerine Dream and their proto-ambient variety of space music began showing up in my record collection.

In 1974, the German electronic group “Kraftwerk” released their fourth LP, “Autobahn”. The abridged title track was played on Top 40 radio for a short while; that’s where I first heard it. There are two copies of “Autobahn” in my collection, LP and CD. Kraftwerk’s other albums became staples in my daily listening habits.

January 1976 became special when I stumbled upon a copy of Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Oxygène”. The album was first released the prior month in France and copies of it began showing up in the United States. That’s when I encountered my copy. Meantime, Jarre has released sequel “Oxygène” albums and videos. He has become one of the most popular electronic, instrumentalist  musicians in the world.

In addition to his music, Jarre is famous outside of America for his massive, extravagant outdoor concerts. The attendance figures for his concerts have entered the Guinness Book of Records four times. The last one was his September 1997 concert commemorating the 850th birthday of Moscow, Russia. Over 3,500,000 people witnessed Jarre’s concert. Jarre has produced a few huge concerts in the U.S. but  his music has not caught on with general audiences in America.

Needless to say, electronica is my go-to, default musical genre. The format is crowded with many contemporary artists and experimenters. On the other hand, my favorites are still Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, and Kraftwerk in that order. If you enjoy any or all of them, we could develop a good friendship.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Wendy Carlos. “As human beings, we do change, grow, adapt, perhaps even learn and become wiser.”

Posted in cultural highlights, Entertainment, music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Pondering Peace

“Peace is liberty in tranquility.”–Marcus Tullius Cicero

I stumbled across the Cicero statement by accident yesterday and it stopped me dead in my tracks. His definition of peace felt like a cup of refreshing cool water that is offered to quench the thirst. There is a lot of beauty in his sentence to enjoy.

When we ponder the nature of liberty, we visualize freedom from external control. Liberty is a form of independence. One is free from restrictions, obligations, and confinement. Liberty is the absence of dictatorship and control-freaks.

We can combine liberty with the mental state that includes serenity, quiet, and calmness. It’s a state of being when we are not harassed while not menacing others. Peace is a manifestation of love. Peace is living our authentic selves while accepting the authenticity of others.

It’s helpful to consider the state of peace from such a viewpoint. There is no coercion nor strife in such peace. Peace does not come about through forcing or manipulating others to submit to our beliefs and desires. Violence and dishonesty are the enemies of peace.

“Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

It has been said that to enable peace at large, we must be at peace with ourselves. If we have inner conflicts, we manifest them through our interpersonal activities. So if we desire peace in the world, it helps to first be at peace with ourselves.

There are many ways to personal peace. We discover our path freely. It cannot be wisely imposed by fear of damnation or suffering. For some it is a straight and narrow path. For others it is a meandering trail through the mountains. For still others it is a wide, inclusive freeway through a bustling, metropolitan cityscape. The path is filled with opportunities for discovery and delight. Such a path is paved with reverence and love.

“Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”–Marcus Aurelius

One of the most wise emperors of Ancient Rome, Aurelius, put a fine point on personal peace. He understood that peace is not just some idealistic notion that we chase, but is the means by which we achieve a fulfilling life. Being in charge of an ancient empire was a tough job. In order to be an effective emperor, Aurelius understood that he had to maintain a peaceful personal foundation. He busied himself with purposeful introspection.

Aurelius understood that to keep relative peace across the Empire was to reflect upon objective observations of his citizens and himself. He was that rare head of state who was also a philosopher. His future biographers agree that Marcus Aurelius detested cruelty, loved justice, was sympathetic and kind-hearted.

It’s interesting to note that Aurelius did not intend to propagate nor proselytize his philosophical points of view. He did not intend for his meditation diaries to be released to the public. This private aspect makes his writings all the more special. When we think of important world literature, most of it has been composed for an audience of readers and listeners. Literature by definition is a type of performance. However, the Emperor’s writings can be seen as an ancient form of journaling. Almost every night he wrote as a form of philosophical exercise as a way of perfecting himself.

Certainly, everlasting peace was never achieved during the rule of Marcus Aurelius. However, he did manage to continually work towards personal, internal peace and his personal efforts influenced his enhancement of  Ancient Rome to a great extent. He has been remembered as the last of the “Good Emperors” of the Roman Empire.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders another proverb from Marcus Aurelius. “Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able, be good.”

Posted in Contemplation, History, philosophy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Mark was the youngest member of my family of origin. He was my brother and consistent friend. Mark and I were inseparable. Whenever our family changed addresses, Mark, my sister Deb, and I were a clique.

Because my sister was “daddy’s girl” she had a major parental ally. Meantime, Mark and I were equally loved by both parents. I know it’s not “politically correct” to make such statements, but in the real world of families, there are favorites. Dad and mom frequently told me, “You are your brother’s keeper”, so I ended up becoming my brother’s advocate. It was a role, I gladly accepted. At the same time, Mark and I were each other’s best friends.

I’m thinking about Mark today on Brother’s Day. I wish he was here to celebrate the unofficial holiday with Deb and me. He died on January 3, 2011 after a seven-hours-long surgery. His official death certificate said the cause of death was a “postoperative Multiorgan Failure”. He died “as a consequence of: Ascending Thoracic Aneurysm dissection.”

When the surgeon telephoned me to inform me of my brother’s death, he affirmed that a major factor of Mark’s condition was due to cigarette smoking. My brother was a moderately heavy smoker. Whenever I saw him, he had a cigarette between his lips. Because of these factors, I am very much in favor of smoking cessation programs. As a former smoker, myself, I hoped Mark would follow my lead. The inability to quit smoking was my brother’s tragic flaw.

Due in part that Mark was the youngest member of the family, he was the most adventurous and rebellious member of us three kids. I sometimes wished I wasn’t the oldest, semi-parental sibling who was assigned to keep watch over my sister and brother. I would like to have let go of convention as often as Mark did.

Fortunately, as we grew older, our relationship became much more egalitarian. There was considerable give and take between us. When Mark was a fifth and sixth grader and I was attending junior high, our mutual friendship bonds became stronger. He came into his own as a more autonomous individual. Mark began to stand up for his own rights when he was a tween. These developments even enabled him to sometimes advocate for me when he saw parental injustice that overstepped my rights. You might say we had each other’s backs.

There were two main things in life that defined my brother: applied commercial arts, and automobiles. He was fanatical about both. He studied commercial arts at Metro Tech Community College near Omaha. He graduated with honors.

Mark’s love of cars edged out his love of commercial art by a long-shot. His car fetish was centered around 1957 Chevrolets. I could write a small book about Mark’s love of ’57 Chevies. His first project car was a 1957 BelAir four door hardtop. He purchased the car from our paternal grandmother. He painstakingly restored the vehicle to working order, then had it painted bright yellow and outfitted it with chrome plated “Crager” five spoke mag wheels and white letter Goodyear tires. The finished car was a real head-turner.

Mark’s most successful restoration was a 1957 “Nomad” two-door station wagon. It was a “factory spec” rebuilding project that was correct in every detail. He displayed it at a car show in Omaha where it earned a prestigious trophy. A prominent vintage automobile collector from Southern California purchased the “Nomad” for his personal collection and had the car shipped to his home shortly after the car show ended. No, the collector was not Jay Leno.

Mark tinkered around with other 1950s Chevrolets and had a small hoard of them stored on a patch of rented rural farmland. His last project was a 1957 “panel delivery” that he never finished. He eventually sold it in order to pay off some financial debts. From that time onward, he drove pickup trucks–ironically, two of them were Fords.

Although Mark passed away nine years ago, I still think about him every day. He was a mighty fine brother.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Charles Dickens. “The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother.”

Posted in cultural highlights, Friendship, Hometown, Meanderings, Youth | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments