"Alchimia Consilium"    [ 01 ]   
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Jan 2016
          Hawaiian Flag
 Surfboard mug
          'Surf Hawaii'
 Cap'n Usopp
My 'Captain Usopp' Mug!  
These are my favorite coffee mugs. I can pull one from the cupboard any morning and feel that quickening sense that I'M GONNA WRITE today!
All who receive emails from me are familiar with Coffee Days ...
Other mugs are just too plain, or too darn big. Pens and scissors go into those. Or TV remote controls .. or small cats. And since I'm already ~ ! WIRED ! ENOUGH ! ~ as it is, I certainly don't need to knock back an extra quart or two of coffee every time I approach the keyboard ... Normal-sized mugs will do just fine.  :-)

As this new EPIC year begins, I consider my own online efforts and wonder about economizing what I produce. Five years of blogging have wrought 300,000+ words of prose. This is equal to 60,000 carefully crafted words per year, or the equivalent of writing an original short novel annually. ~ And this does not account for the time expended in graphics development, layout work and programming, all of which constitute the lion's share of my online productivity. I sometimes turn a corner on the interwebs and discover an image or two that I just have to re-post and share through my site. Such will typically inform at least part of my narrative. And it's fun, sort of like treasure hunting.  :-)  But other times, no amount of clicking is able to drum up some sibylline imagery stuck in my mind's eye. It is not uncommon to lose an entire day over here trying to manufacture some graphical thing using my own devices (ie, lame camera and aged software). Such browsing time may yield an enviable collection of witty, funny, and/or inspiring images, but little is achieved in the way of Actual Writing. In a perfect world, one might write topically first, and then search out supporting graphics to sprinkle over it, formatting along the way... Ah, but Life so often refuses to color inside the lines we prescribe for it . . .

    'Tombo Studios' word count (2010-2015)
( 25 ) ( 9 ) Sabbatical ( 5 ) ( 9 ) ( 13 )
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
 * 303,150 words as of now (blog post 2010·25 may receive retro-edits)

   I can't not write!

   Though I have tried...

As a young man burning through pens and spiral notebooks, I dogmatically pounded this discipline into my psyche, and it has not diminished with age. It is only getting worse. No Official Published Books exist with my name on the by-line (yet), but this does nothing to dissuade my drive or passion for the art. Money aside, the value of this 'work' seems to yield genuine results in the world, astonishing me every time I hear of it. I have been approached by scores of people over the years who have read something or other I have written/distributed in this capacity or another, sharing how they were deeply moved or inspired by what I wrote, even to the point of seeking the Lord anew... [!!] I cannot express how humbling this is for me, and it is * NOT * because of some kind of Tom-has-it-all-together angle or any such ridiculous nonsense! ~ Hardly! ~ It is usually something that I passed along from minds more disciplined, studied, and generally greater than my own or, on the rare occasion, some conviction sparked within me that warranted sharing openly.

But isn't this precisely what every Writer hopes to achieve in his craft?

To touch, to inspire, to motivate our readers?

I know my place in the pecking order of the Authoring Universe. I am absolutely no Stephen King... no C.S. Lewis . .. . no Great Writer. I call myself "a solid B-class writer".. good enough for some, but it's understood I will never be the next Charles Dickens or Mark Twain. Nor am I prolific enough to truly make a living at it (provided I could even dream up enough original material to find success in the swamped world of publishing) ~ And you know what? That's OK. I'm just one voice of many out there, just me... as are each of us: 'just' an individual... but it is this very uniqueness that makes everyone's stories and perspective so compelling! I can structure a narrative and populate it with some nifty online photos. I code my own web pages and present it all to the wide world -(yay)- as do countless others . . . But this is not something I 'try' to do... this just happens as the normal course of my life unfolds anymore, and will continue in one form or another so long as I draw breath. This.. compulsion.. is just part of my hard-wiring, part of my DNA makeup. It's like that Geico commercial: If you're the band Europe, you love a final countdown; it's what you do. If you're Tombo, you're just going to write; it's what you do.

 green flask

The title of this first blog post of the year is "Alchimia Consilium" which is Latin for (roughly) "magical/mysterious changes in design". This is a theme I mean to explore in 2016 using my own ambition as the experiment subject. (Let's get * meta *) With the advent of FLR Day just a couple of months ago, certain new but long overdue Freedoms are now blooming all around us, opportunities which we, as a family, are quite eager to explore! Yet just as Location, Location, Location are the three most important elements in real estate, the preeminence of TIMING plays a paramount role as God orchestrates our lives. Consider the 'chance' meeting of the love of your life, or the 'chance' order of seemingly circumstantial steps leading up to just missing (or getting nailed in) some nasty auto accident, or any number of other real-world examples. Just a single tiny moment can make an eternity of difference as we navigate through each day. More often than not, the Biggest Events of all do not show up with declarative labels. You only realize they were critical and life-changing in the clarity of hindsight. Two of these course-altering life-defining 'moments' happened for me in just the last month or so . . .

book: "Animate to Harmony"

After years of hoping something like this might somehow, some way, show up in the real world, Adam Phillips (bless`im!) wrote and released "Animate To Harmony" a book written * specifically * for Flash animators wishing to level-up to ToonBoom's more robust animation program 'Harmony'. I ordered it and began reading as soon as it arrived in the mail, even though I did not yet own the animation program. I read the introduction, the first couple of chapters, all the appendices ~ everything I could manage before ordering the program and rolling up my sleeves and really diving into it! I could hardly wait, saving up because pricing options for 'Harmony' range from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $1,000 . . .

It was around then that I 'just happened' to stumble upon The Bible Project. I wrote about what happened then in blog post 2015·11, decrying how my own animations ambitions were positively USURPED by Tim Mackie and Jon Collins ~ who have created even better fun and engaging summary-animations of Biblical stories, principles, and themes than I ever could have managed on my own initiative . . . They are already producing what I had always hoped to create... They only started a year or so ago, so "The Bible Project" is a relatively recent operation, but I had to admit that they beat me to the punch. :-| My 10-to-15 years of (fledgling) animation efforts and hopes to learn/grow in this capacity have simply evaporated. So, I re-allocated those funds toward this year's Christmas and, with an appreciative hand, shelved this book along with the rest of my animation, code, and Flash instructional tomes. An exclusive sadness accompanies the moment you determine to let go of a dream. I take consolation in the fact that this torch is carried on by adept fellow warriors-in-the-faith who were blessed with the means and determination to produce it all in ways I could only imagine.  :-)  — God's timing —

I drove my daughters to a store one day shortly thereafter, still a bit sullen about all of this. Christmas music drifted through the air as I waited for them. Without warning, this ethereal version of "Carol of the Bells" drifted through the store. I have played this song before —( it is rather a nemesis of mine on the keyboard )— but I had never heard this particular jazz-chord harmonic interpretation. Eighty thousand versions of this, and most every Christmas song, exist out in the world, so it took a few days to track it down, by a duo who call themselves 'The Bird and the Bee'. OK, fine. Good to know. Got the song. All was well. But a funny thing happened during my Quest ~ I discovered David Hicken.

Another first-time encounter in my life with something (in this case, someone) who has been doing his thing for years and years, but I had simply never heard of him before now. ~· Timing! ·~ Type "Carol of the Bells" into YouTube and you'd better have a large coffee on hand because you'll be scrolling through hundreds of options. His rendition of this song showed up near the top, so I checked it out. I must admit that I'm not all that crazy about his particular spin on it, nor the bizarre windswept maiden-in-Hawaii video (for Christmas?), but his obvious and incredible keyboard technique blew me away! Such articulation with this level of precision is inspiring to behold! (Reminded me a bit of Rick Wakeman's stellar abilities, to be honest) A few clicks later, I discovered David's original compositions "Shaylee" and "Francesca". The former is just a really nice piece, while the latter strokes a quiet, reflective, and gorgeous tone in the soul.. quite evocative and dreamlike. My own compositions (click the treble clef in the upper right corner) were never so delicate, and certainly never played with such propriety and distinction. (Listening to my own sample pieces just now, I sound like nothing more than a tragic * HACK * in comparison) These songs may be simple in construct, but some of the most beautiful melodies are quite simple in nature. Consider "Missing" by Vangelis, for instance...

book: "Secrets to Better Piano Playing"

Anyway, the dude just wrote a book called "Secrets to Better Piano Playing". This photo is rather misleading as it is offered only as a downloadable PDF.  :-[  There isn't much written in the way of reviews out there, as it aims for such a niche market and requires printing and binding on one's own recognizance. I can't imagine they're flying off the shelf, as it were... And its table of contents (available as a preview) indicate single-page chapters throughout this large-print 110 page manual, so I suspected it contains no sheet music examples for exercises. ~ This might actually be a Good Thing, I considered. Perhaps this volume is written as a genuine collection of practical music and piano-playing advice from someone experienced in all manner of such professional efforts spanning years . . . like sitting down with the man himself for a straight one-to-one discussion of what a player like myself really ought to be focusing on in merit, practice, and performance. If it offers practical advice on learning his demonstrated technique, then risking $30 on a blind purchase might be worth it in the long run . . .

──      Best Music Book I have ever read!      ──

Not the most "entertaining" necessarily, but by leaps and bounds the most practical. It is ALL I had hoped it could be, and so MUCH more, as if written specifically for me and where I am as a piano-playing student of Music! I took copious notes and plan to re-read it again while adopting a new regimen of practicing twice daily! Given his obvious talent and decades of drive and practice, I harbor no secret delusions of someday matching his level of expertise, but I did compose some years ago.. perhaps I may again..? If nothing more, I will certainly be able to play WHATEVER I want, and play it well, even possibly within the year, given my own 30 years of 'practice' already realized with ensemble groups... This is * so * very * exciting * as I feel I just got a TRUCKLOAD of personalized instruction, weeks and weeks worth (perhaps months), for the embarrassingly low cost of a paltry $30!  * SO * glad I took the chance to order it!

I know, not every keyboardist is in a place where this book will answer their operative inquiries like it did for me, but again, I am elaborating all of this not to endorse Mr. Hicken's candid prose, but to point out GOD's TIMING! ◄ He just freed up new opportunities for some drastic and wonderful real-life changes for me and my family, summarily pruned my animation ambitions, then granted me a musical boost and granted me some new ideas for (and about) Writing . . .

GOD is the only true Master Alchemist. He can [literally] turn lead into gold. What He says is. What He declares becomes Reality. He can forge and craft a life into something amazing, something marvelous to behold. In fact, He excels at doing precisely that. All the ingredients are in place for my little family and I like never before . . and we eagerly watch for the stir of His hand say we may observe what new mosaic He will bring to life among us ~ ~ ~

 Tombo Studios development tabs
•  Philip & Jessi's wedding!
•  Six Flags w/Ann (16th Bday)
•  Prep resume & job search (targeting NASA)
•  Prep house for sale (lotza work..)
•  Actually SELL the house . . .
•  Go to HAWAII this summer
•  Grandbaby #2!
•  Actually MOVE
•  Start a new job
•  Start Ann @ new high school
•  Learn more piano (level up!)
•  Write a new novel
•  25 blog posts this year
•  Missions Trip to Mexico (maybe even Africa?)

With that steaming mug of hazelnut coffee at the ready, these are the tabs I typically open up in a browser when I mean to blog. (Just thought I'd share) I hope to achieve in 2016 my oft-planned-but-never-(yet)-realized goal of posting 25 blog entries, titled A-Z (with one deduction, obviously; probably 'X' or 'Z'). But this kind of alchemy will require smaller blog doses this year. Also, these large-scale ambitions we look forward to this year ► will naturally preclude me from tackling massive topics like I did in 2015. (You're welcome, Ant) I just won't have the time explore deeper topix like I did last year . . .

With this in mind, I also need to overcome a duality of sorts which cripples my best efforts to communicate. I can sit down with no provision whatsoever and knock out an entertaining, thought-provoking, well-researched email weighing in well over 5,000 words, all in the space of an hour or two, sometimes even with a few pix or images attached. This is achieved through the use of my "email voice". My blogging voice, however, my [quote] "Writing voice" [close quote] is a different animal, heftier, weightier, and moderated in a sense by necessary research and topical verification. Perhaps it is unavoidable, as emails are easy and conversational in nature, with an off-the-cuff feeling that comes naturally to anyone who has spent decades journaling about everything under the sun. Unlike emails, which are drafted off the top of one's head, blogging requires time to process and package Factual Information into a coherent whole. And again, this does not even count the preparation and layout concerns of any supporting graphics.

Aiming to Write (capital 'W') this year then will require .. not a resolution as such, but more like a goal: I mean to practice blogging like I knock out emails. For five years now, most every topic I have committed to blog required some degree of fact-finding and analysis. It sometimes has felt like homework. FUN and engaging homework, investigative quests that I enjoy pursuing, but time-consuming in a way that busting out emails never seems to be... Rather than targeting topics that demand some deep research, I think I will aim a little shallower this year, that I may write more in volume. In a way, it's like practicing piano: I have been doing it all rather slowly, but methodically and with a dedication to form, for years — now it's time to really concentrate on speed!

 blue flask
 red flask
All this self-prescribed "wax on / wax off" training has prepared me to finally shift gears now, changing the way I approach blog topics, outlining them like an email with points sketched upon a lunch napkin.  :-D  If I can achieve this, developing it as a habit of form when writing anything, I may be able to approach the production levels required by card-carrying members of the exclusive Published Authors club at long last. Perhaps now I can pursue that [new] book I have been meaning to write for some time and it won't take years to bring it to market. A change in alchemy is coming . . .

*     My KUNG FU is strong!    *

"I'll Follow the Sun" © 1964 (Beatles)


One day you'll look to see I've gone
For tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun
Some day you'll know I was the one
But tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun

  And now the time has come
  And so my love I must go
  And though I lose a friend
  In the end you will know, oooh...

One day you'll find that I have gone
But tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun

Yea, tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun
And now the time has come
And so my love I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you'll know, oooh

One day you'll find that I have gone
But tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun

 Golden Sun
"Here Comes the Sun" © 1969 (Beatles)


Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun . . .
And I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes . . .

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right,
          It's all right

(2016)  02