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    >My new video "A HARD DAY'S KNIGHT," in which I don chain mail to find glory, donuts and spare change for my quest. BIGGER SCREEN ON YOU TUBE

    CLASSIC BOOK trailer! [bigger screen on YouTube]

    more videos here

    Entries in art (4)


    See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-Earth

    Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings but he also drew it:

    The many maps and sketches he made while drafting The Lord of the Rings informed his storytelling, allowing him to test narrative ideas and illustrate scenes he needed to capture in words. For Tolkien, the art of writing and the art of drawing were inextricably intertwined.

    In the book The Art of The Lord of the Rings, we see how, and why.

    My sneak peek of his sketches for



    Let's Put on a Show!

    Henry hams it up.I was hanging out with my nephews over the weekend.

    Jack and Henry are aged 8 and 4 respectively. A couple years back, Jack took tap dancing lessons.

    When he outgrew his shoes, and became a wee bit self-conscious about being only boy in the dance class, he hung up his vaudeville dreams. But now the shoes fit Henry. And before I knew it, while we were all eating dinner, the tap shoes had been produced and Jack was giving Henry a crash course in everything tap.

    “You go like this,” Jack instructed, kicking his lower leg back and forth while the rest of us tried to finish our pizza. “Click and click and click.”

    Meal over, the boys disappeared. To treat Uncle Ethan, they had secretly decided to put on a show.

    This was DIY at its best. They went over their routine somewhere upstairs. Total rehearsal time: about 15 minutes. They selected their costumes: a dress shirt, their Dad’s tie and silly hat and sunglasses for Henry; and just a shirt for Jack. Total time allotted for costume change: probably 5 minutes.

    Then Jack returned to announce that the show would commence in the living room.

    “Would you please, you know, shut off your phones and other noisy things,” Jack announced to his audience of three. The kid is 8, going on stage manager.

    As for the spectacle itself, there was dancing, and hamming it up, and Jack whispering instructions to Henry as he clicked and clacked his way to tap dancing glory. “Now Henry will do something he’s been working on himself,” Jack announced as third act began: Henry pretended to pour tea, then blew out a candelabra of three lit candles.

    Fred Astaire and Gregory Hines they were not, but the show was unbelievable in its own way.

    The Uncle shouted “Encore!”

    The parents shouted, “Bedtime!”

     The impromptu performance reminded me of my summer days as a kid. I was always putting on a play, or a puppet show, or making a Super 8 claymation movie, or writing a new Dungeons & Dragons adventure, or painting a mural, or building a tree fort — or planning a D&D adventure/performance/movie in a tree fort. I would make grand pronouncements about some new creative direction I had decided to devoted my life to. Summer vacation was always a time for projects, a chance to try out new material. Even if my audience was three: my sister, brother and mother.

    My nephew’s nutty, goofy, fearless example recalled those days, but also imparted a key lesson. Namely: be brave. Risk embarrassment. Put yourself out there. Try out that new material. Test it in front of real people (not just the real people in your mind.) Gussy up the barn, sew a curtain from that old bolt of gingham, reunite the jug band and put on a show!

    Some writers crave limelight but sit back and wait for the light to find them. “I’ll just wait till someone calls me” is a common myth about building your literary career. It doesn’t work that way. You have to make your own calls.

    Putting on your own event is also a good antidote to that grumpy feeling creative people can get. You know the one I’m talking about: that everyone else seems to be getting recognition except you. Miffed that you’re not being invited to read your poems for that new hot reading series? Bummed that the such-and-such bookstore or library or nightclub won’t host you? Find a non-conventional venue like a bar or church basement or backyard, write up a press release, make a Facebook event and invite your friends. (My pal Jane Roper hosted a great book launch for her novel about summer camp, Eden Lake. The event took place at a VFW hall and featured a sing-a-long and Sterno cookers for DIY s’mores.)

    Put on your own show. It’s a great way to get experience performing your work, and to test out new material. One piece of advice: I do recommend writing and rehearsing for a bit longer than my nephews did.

    [If you'd like to see my efforts in this gingham-and-jug-band arena, four performing pals and I are putting on a performance of writing, comedy and music called "Funny As a Crutch" on Monday June 13 in Cambridge, Mass. The show includes dirty limericks, educational raps, recipes for cooking raccoon, Dungeons & Dragons-inspired poetry, children's stories that shouldn't be read to children, and fiction about the miracle of motherhood as seen from the bottom of a martini. More information here. Hope to see you there.]



    The Uncle in Carbonite

    I was drawing pictures with my nephew Jack.

    “What shall we draw?” I asked.

    “Let’s draw Star Wars,” Jack said, innocently enough.

    We began to draw Star Wars. Jack drew a guy, then a box. Next he drew a face and feet in the box. Then he made a line so the guy next to the box had an arm that touched the guy in the box.

    “What the heck is that?” I asked.

    “That’s me,” Jack said, adding his name to the figure on the left.

    “So what is that?”

    “How do you spell ‘carbonite’?” Jack asked, a big smile beaming across his face. He started to giggle.

    “C-A-R …” I began. He began to write. The kid was seven. “B-O-N … I-T-E.”  Then he added another word: “E-T-H-A-N-[space]-I-N.”

    The giggling commenced.

    “Wait. Is that me?”

    More giggling from Jack.

    I was incredulous. “You little … So, that makes you … Boba Fett?”

    Uncontrollable giggling. “Uncle Ethan! You’re trapped in carbonite!”

    Read the rest on's Geek Dad


    How do you have a day without creativity, imagination, and thought?

    Taking the time to stop

    Drake Patten



    Drake Patten knows what looms if arts and culture disappear. A lifelong arts advocate and former director of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, Patten is now the executive director of The Steel Yard, a Providence-based center that uses the industrial arts to foster community revitalization and workforce development. She recently co-founded Culture Stops!, a volunteer-run nationwide day of action (or rather, inaction) on Thursday, March 10, to draw attention to the impact of proposed federal budget cuts on the creative sector.

    Q. Your website asks people “to witness a world devoid of creativity, imagination and thought: America after culture stops.’’ How do you have a day without creativity, imagination, and thought?

    A. This is a day about absence. This Culture Stops! movement is about what is there when it’s not there. We want people to stop and mark the day.

    Q. How would it work?

    A. People who are performing, for example music, could stop their performance and try to educate the audience, or leave the stage and join the audience and look at the blank stage. We have talked to people who have said they would cover their works of art with a black cloth. Or simply put up the Culture Stops! logo on their website or Facebook page.

    Q. So you don’t necessarily want to shut down culture for the day.

    A. In the Culture Stops! call to action, we say “stop work for eight minutes to a full eight hours.’’ You choose. Keep your store open that sells local art but put something in the bag that says, “You just bought something on Culture Stops! day.’’ To say you should just stop working that day and alienate your clients, that’s not realistic. But the education of clients is necessary.

    Q. How widespread is participation so far?

    A. We just launched [last week]. We are hearing from every state but I think five. What is great is that people are saying that they are prepared to take on what is immediately local.

    Q. How did this idea originate?

    A. Culture Stops! began around a kitchen table in Cranston, R.I., with five people, one dog, and $87. I was speaking to my colleagues about our fears. It’s the fear about not being able to do our work, and living in a nation where arts and culture is not valued. In a human way this translates to darkness. It’s like a black stage.

    Q. How do you answer those who claim that, in a down economy, arts and culture are luxuries, that we all have to tighten our belts?

    A. When you set a budget, you are setting the program. You are saying publicly that arts and culture have value or they don’t. We have increasingly seen over the years the cultural budget line being embattled. While we’re very clear this budget will demand sacrifice across the board, we feel this is disproportionate.

    Q. It seems that what you call “the creative sector’’ could do a better job explaining itself.

    A. The cultural sector is a critical part of the national economy with big impact nationwide. The non-profit arts sector represents the equivalent of 5.7 million full-time jobs, including many in a range of related industries traditionally not thought of as part of the arts world. That’s $166.2 billion annually in economic activity and more than $12.5 billion in federal income taxes. This isn’t a niche market developed around earmarks. These are mainstream American jobs. It’s not that it’s just artists. It’s the skills that go into every sector. IBM recently put out a report that asked what does the business world really value in leadership? Creativity, innovation, imagination.

    Q. Let’s say you’ve paid $20 to go to a concert or play on March 10. Are you worried some people might get upset if that experience is interrupted?

    A. I’m sure it could make some people angry. But I do think it’s very important to be exposed to the idea that art goes away. We in this culture, we have a lot. But we don’t have the experience of taking away. If people are upset about it, that might be the best thing. I was inspired by what came out of Egypt. America knew at one point how to take to the streets. Perhaps we are at that point again.


    Interview was condensed and edited. Ethan Gilsdorf can be reached at dingbat_story_end_icon.gif