Monthly Archives: November 2014

Descrete Tea

In most aspects of my life I rebel at the idea of analogue or digital values; the idea that things are good or bad, that blue is distinct from green or red; I rebel against the idea  that any delineation has reality.

So, sitting in the bath, I find it odd that it seems I have discrete areas of acceptable teaware, that I have an integer scale of acceptable attitudes in the sense of teaware. That there is somehow some set of emotive or apparent intent that is acceptable, good, powerful and that the in-between pots fall flat. Rather than in-between two ideas, they seen to have mixed messages. Beyond surprise there is a level of revulsion I seem to have attached to the acceptance of dualist or descreteist values. It is not just putting things in a box or on a scale but giving them near numeric symbols. They violate ideas I hold dear. The ideas are of course self denying. They too are dualistic, digital, on/off, idealistic.

Tomorrow I will start trying to figure out if these values exist at desecrate levels or if this is like all others an analogue scale. Tonight it looks like integers. I know that ideas like this grow legs so I am putting them to paper unfinished unrefined raw and probably embarrassing.

There is the Victor Babu tightness of pots,,so clean that the wind going by does not feel them, they are aerodynamic, effortless to move.

There is a looseness that is not yet loose, it imbibes power and security, a fullness that comes from energy and surety. Maybe Cardew is the modern potter that carries this idea. The forms are clean but not fretted over. Folk pots thrown again and again often get this power.

There is the looseness that comes from acceptance, not like jazz or improvisation, not from over-rehearsal, but from treating every performance like something new, knowing that to tie it down too tight is to deny the ability to take advantage of the emotion of the moment. It is not the attainment of perfection that is the product but the looking for it.

There is the looseness that comes from knowing that the real art may lie in the viewing, that the shelf does not spin, that we really do not think in three dimensions well and that perhaps the mild undulation adds interest, expresses humility (as only G-d can be perfect) that the attempt at perfection is vain.

Then there is the first big step, where even the casual viewer will see the asymmetry, where they may view a coarse, rough hewn, perhaps unfinished seeming, appearance. None of the attributes must look contrived, they must appear as if they just happen and were accepted. The acceptance must be apparent, acceptance like other parts of an object must have intendedness.

The next step is hard to understand. Even the lack of contrivedness looks attempted, it is clear that there was intent, yet every aspect of the pot has this appearance. It wants to be seen as if it just happened but the hand is apparent, It requires skill, clearness of mind and intent to show the failed attempt to hide this. It is hard to explain. To me it seems to be Goro Suzuki’s gift. There needs to be a wildness to the attempt. It is the clear intent to fail at making it look uncontrived that makes it succeed.

There are a few other works or qualities of them that seem not quite to sit on the scale. One, perhaps the most important, is the visual manifestation of intuition rather than planning. All great pots of this type at least look connected to intuition, not plodding analytic processes.

Another is energy. It is perhaps manifest in the intuitive, but is also manifest in surety in the lack of self doubt. It is the trust in intuition that allowed Voulkos the ability to punch holes and tear away sections of his pieces….. trust, a security in the process more than fearlessness.


I walk to work frequently. I talk with local and Thai friends over ham radio on the walk into work. On the walk home I usually try to talk with my brother.

A few years ago, “Michael, you’ll never guess what I just found.” It was a cello in a soft case, about as fragile as a baby in a onesie. I checked the case for ID, there was none. I picked it up and started carrying it in to work. You cannot just leave a cello on the side of the road.

I work in the same building as the music department and I figure they would be able to figure out whose it was. By the time I got to campus my brain had started to work and I wondered if carrying what might be stolen property to work was dumbest thing I ever did. I stopped at the guard booth on the way into campus.” Can I use your phone to call the police?”. They said “no”. “O.K. , says I, “can you call em for me?”. Shirt stuffing says, “no”. Louis, a bit miffed says, “What kind of guard booth is this? Do you just stand there and get paid for it?”. He says, “OK you can use the phone.” I call the campus cops, and they send some one over. “We can’t take possession of it, it was not found on campus”. I say, “OK, I am just letting you know I have it so you don’t think I stole it. I am going to take it to the music department to try and find out whose it is.” Just as I finish this I hear my ham radio call letters on my handi talkie. Its a local ham who is also a police lieutenant. He heard my earlier conversation. “Louis we found the owner of the cello. It was stolen this morning. Can I send my officer over to pick it up?” The officer and I missed each other and the pickup took way too much time. I saw the lieutenant the next month and apologized for wasting the officer’s time. The lieutenant said, “Anytime we can return stolen property with half a day from when it was stolen, don’t quibble about wasting a few minutes”.

Steel cut

A friend posts something about how to cook and freeze portions of steel cut oats so that cooking them would not be a chore. I answered with this:
“OK, I’ll admit it. When you look at me a lot of what you see is oatmeal. I have been eating it once to twice a day since 1980 or so. I have never eaten it three times in a day. After 34 years of this I am a little tired of it but I keep eating it anyways. It lasts the whole morning and all throught the night. I have cooked steel cut oats a few times but as many of you know, I am just an old fashioned flake.”



Dys Graphia
June 14, 2014

Dysgraphia, It seems like a new word. It is a relatively knew concept but I do not know how new. The condition that it describes has been around for a long time.

I am not a psychologist, but having this condition or symptoms of it, I feel like I know it intimately. Dysgraphia according the sources I read is a transcription disorder. Thoughts and ideas in transcription disorders have a hard time making it from the brain into another media like writing or speaking. Dysgraphia is particular to print/typed/or written media, some kinds of stuttering seem very similar.

Students with dysgraphia often have a hard time printing or handwriting legibly. The real problem seems to lie in the fact that printing or handwriting, or even typing takes up or takes over so much processing power that other thinking cannot happen at the same time. Now 58 years of age, I still can have to fill out a simple forms sometimes 5 times in order to get simple questions answered without spelling errors or putting them into the wrong spaces. In order to succeed, I need a quiet space, a lot of motivation, and a clear head. Any distractions will get my address on the “city” line or my signature in the ” print name here” space. I frequently misspell my first name.

Clearly, not being able to compose a paper well is not the same as not being able to print well, but if you have dysgraphia and are 8 years old unless someone knows what troubles this condition can cause they are likely to conflate the two problems. I now can write some, but only because I have taught my fingers to type as I speak. They run nearly on auto pilot. I speak quietly to myself and let my fingers mimic with the keys. It is what I am doing right now as I write this. On occasion, I can dictate something I really have prepared well in my head to my fingers to print. I have gotten good enough at this now that I can read my own writing.

More accurately, what I do is compose a sentence and store it as sound, as speech, and then repeat audibly as my fingers try to keep up with my mouth.

As a child, rewriting was painful. My hands hurt from writing, from trying to force them into neatness. Often I ended up with many more errors on a simple “copy without the spelling errors rewrite” than I started with. I am still fearful of forms that require filling in. Typewriters helped with this but the same transcription problems exist with me and typing. Either I am concentrating on what I am saying or I am concentrating on the typing. It is nearly impossible for me to do both. Spelling correctly as I work on a sentence can be near impossible. I never even try to write something significant when I am the least bit tired. Forms, yes these exist, that need to be printed out and filled in by hand, are my nemesis.

Consequently, even the typing class I took in 8th grade was a failure. Trying to type without error kept my speed way down. It still would be at less than 20 words per minute now if I needed it to be near error free. I don’t know how many words I can get through in a minute if I am not worried about errors but it is way faster. The speed allows the ideas to flow, and more importantly my fingers to flow without effort, but I suspect that training my brain to compose slower also has had an impact. My ability to record my thoughts grows steadily.

Nobody today that knows me well would think that I am not smart. But I still have a hard time finding vocabulary as I speak. Many of my ideas often seem to difficult to put into speech. It can take me years to figure out how to say them. Until then it can the exist in my head in something I think of as “blob state”. The large disconnect between my knowledge and ability to express it has existed since I was a child. Often the ideas associated with these troubles are very abstract, and it is no wonder that it is hard. But I should be able to do this more easily. I am still bitter about being laughed at and discounted for not being understood. Now I quickly figure out when this is happening. It has not made life happier.

My earliest experience with the inability to verbalize was in my ability to make complex decisions based on probability and chance. A childhood friend was awed by some of this ability and asked me how I was doing it. I answered him about a half of a year after he asked when I could verbalize it. It took that long to develop the verbal ability to express it.

I am convinced that the continual harping about spelling, grammar, and neatness prevents many people from ever discovering that they could learn to write well and that they do have significant things to say. It is not that spelling or grammar are not important, but even I find myself correcting them early in students papers. It is easy to do, so you do it first. Content commentary and criticism is harder.

Many things have helped get me to overcome my problems. The computer, spell check, and recognizing that the grammar and spelling police conflate content with BS. I do recognize that these things do make things easier to read, but they have nothing to do with content and worry about them while composing displaces content. In those with dysgraphia the displacement the writing police inflict can be complete, and what you get is well spelled nothingness.

There are lots of people who say that if you cannot express yourself well, you have nothing to say. At best this is sloppy thinking. It is often deliberate sloppy thinking. Ideas often exist without the ability to express them. Expression is a skill and ability. Expression is separate from ideation. One would never think that Helen Keller had “nothing to say” until she learned to sign, yet we say things like this in our society all the time. I am fed up with this mistaken idea.

What I find in helping students with artist statements is that some of the people who have the hardest time getting things out on paper often have the most profound things to say. And at least some of this makes sense. If you have to think long and hard before you speak it seems more likely that what you say will be new and original and well thought out. Also as these sometimes already exist in some organized structure in someones head, that once the idea is tripped or allowed to emerge in another medium like speech, it sometimes properly it flows out in paragraphs, outlined as thesis, argument and discussion, conclusion. I try to type it into my computer as students talk about their work. It helps.

All in all, I think that this condition and its nonrecognition does us great harm. We loose meaningful input of people often of high intelligence. And if you have read this far, think about the idea that my ability to write it down may have never developed. Dysgraphia is real. It has a big impact on people’s lives. It is often very easy to accommodate a dysgraphic persons needs and to help them overcome. Don’t rely on me as an expert. Look it up.

Bai Krapow

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