Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wrap It Up

Today marks the end of the month and this seems like a good time to wrap up some brief odds and ends... sort of like the monthly housecleaning that you do whether it needs to be done or not.

  1. I'd like to mention my collection of short fiction. It's called Seven Moments in Time and it's available as an ebook at Amazon.com. If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think. Also, please know in advance that Ellen is not a real person and I'm not a middle-aged wife of a politician.
  2. Please feel free to leave comments about my blog posts. I'll try to respond to every comment because I believe it's good manners and besides, I'm obsessed with that sort of thing.
  3. You can "follow" my blog or "subscribe" to email updates that are sent to you whenever I post something new. Look for the appropriate links within this page.
  4. If you're into Facebook, you can find me there and "like" my page by clicking: Todd R. Tystad
  5. Finally, I would love to know how my readers in Canada, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Ireland, and Israel found this blog and what they think about it. Please let me know what's going on in your part of the world and maybe I can make Ellen more Canadian in the next book.
That's about it. Join me again tomorrow when we'll begin a new month with some new posts and I promise that I won't mention bug spray or Ellen for at least the month of June. But I'm watching you, Canada... I'm watching you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Looking for the Moments

So anyway, back to creativity breeds creativity and art fosters art... and then you couple that with the idea that we need to pay attention to the moments that come unexpectedly and allow us to look within ourselves and realize who we are in the world... (See? These blog posts really are connected in a thoughtful and coherent way after all.) I come to this salient point: We've got to pay attention, especially to the people around us and to the world we live in. If we don't, then we've become busy dying instead of becoming busy living.

I've heard from friends who mention moments on a farm, moments alone on a deck with a cup of coffee, and moments watching mammoth trees swaying in the breeze. These friends know exactly what I'm talking about and we've shared those moments through this blog. The shared theme in these moments is nature and, although I like to poke fun, nature connects us all - even though I prefer to experience it from the inside of a large picture window. Nature always presents itself, we just have to be paying attention.

Nature may be God's handiwork, but I really am partial to her young and hopeful apprentice, humanity. From the dawn of time, people have been creating art. I'd like to believe that art nourishes us with an unspoken message: "Here is some art. Enjoy it. Now, get out and create some more art of your own." And this, I believe, is just as important as enjoying and responding to the moments we experience in nature.

So make a point to enjoy some art. Listen to some music and later, watch a movie. Visit a museum or check in on a website that brings art directly to you. There are countless moments that are waiting and won't be discovered unless you make the effort to look for them. No one knows what you can create until a moment moves you to inspiration. Make art a part of your life, watch for those moments that speak just to you, and respond in kind by creating something that provides someone else a moment that they'll remember. It's all a matter of consciously looking for those moments and then making them relevant in your life. Just keep looking.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, written and directed by John Hughes, 1986)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Making the Most of Summer Vacation

Communing With Nature in the Tystad Backyard

Summer vacation has long at last arrived at the House of Tystad. With it has come all of the hopes and excitement of a season almost entirely unencumbered by schedules and deadlines, to-do lists and routines. Following the traditional school schedule allows both students and adults the pleasure of casting off the shackles of a long and demanding school year and joyfully transitioning to a well-deserved break from the ordinary. Every day of summer can and should be a new adventure, so long as the sunscreen is plentiful and the bug spray is DEET-free.

The creative mind runs wild with the possibilities of what a summer day can hold. Nature enthusiasts plot their paths through the forest, sporting types pump their bike tires and arrange backyard ball games, and homeowners from coast to coast dig and mow and till until nightfall. It's nothing short of breathtaking to think of an entire country's populace coming alive under the warmth of the summer sun.

And so, in keeping with the long-standing summer tradition of all proud citizens of Los Angeles - or, in this case, proud Los Angeles expatriates - we shall vacate the House of Tystad and go to the movies. Exercising our God-given right to spend time in a darkened and air-conditioned movie theater is one that must be cherished and practiced frequently, especially during this all-too-brief season of the summer blockbuster. Matinee prices are simply Hollywood's whispered message to come early and come often.

So, out of our way, joggers. Step aside, sightseers. Our showtime draws near. And we need to get this out of the way before it's time to light the bar-b-que and contemplate which Netflix movie we'll be watching tonight. There's only so much summer, you know. And you've got to make the most of it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Get Busy

Evergreen, Colorado

The Sunday Night Movie at the House of Tystad last weekend was The Shawshank Redemption (1994). We watched it on DVD and the video quality was amazing. Not all movies made 17 years ago hold up to the test of time, but this one really does. It's a beautiful film that anyone who loves movies really must see. Ask around and you'll be surprised at how many people count it among their favorite movies of all time. If you watch it for the first time or again for the 50th time, you'll be glad you did.

One of many reasons to love the film is its message to "Get busy living or get busy dying." That line of dialogue is taken verbatim from the Stephen King short story "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (upon which the screenplay is based), which was one of four stories in the 1982 King book "Different Seasons." "Different Seasons" also contains the stories "Apt Pupil" (also made into a film), "The Breathing Method," and "The Body," which was made into the film "Stand By Me" (an outstanding movie that warrants its own discussion).

As an aside, The Shawshank Redemption was adapted for the screen and directed by Frank Darabont, who has directed other films based on Stephen King's books. He also created the AMC television series "The Walking Dead" (2010-) and is reportedly a close friend of Stephen King.

The case can be made that Stephen King, who is known to be a huge fan of rock and roll, borrowed the idea for the line "Get busy living or get busy dying" from the Bob Dylan lyric "He not busy being born is busy dying" from the song "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," which appeared on the classic 1965 Dylan album "Bringing It All Back Home." The lines are strikingly similar and it would make sense that Stephen King would be appreciative of Dylan's genius with the English language.

In any case, the message we get from watching The Shawshank Redemption - probably from Dylan, through King, through Darabont - is that we each need to make a simple decision to either embrace life and live it to its fullest... or be satisfied with the status quo. I won't elaborate on that issue here, but I will say that one of the things that inspires me the most and motivates me to live my life to the fullest is art. Specifically, film as art. And that brings us full circle. Creativity breeds creativity and art fosters art.

Thank you, Bob Dylan. Now I'm busy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Finding Peace


I was looking for peace. I just took my dog Pablo the Chihuahua out for a walk around the neighborhood and, between the exercise and the near-death experience brought on by an angry Irish Setter on the loose, I think we both got a lot out of it. Pablo got some serious cardio and a newfound realization that he isn't nearly as intimidating as he thinks he is (a hard life lesson for a Chihuahua). I got to breathe in some fresh air and feel an important connection to nature and the value of life... my own and my dog's.

One of the most peaceful people I've ever known was a religious man, a man of the cloth. He was the leader of his congregation when I knew him and I count him among the most influential people I've ever known. He used to say that his most spiritual moments came not in a house of worship and not among other people, but late at night when he took his dog outside for a walk. He said that having that time alone with his dog, walking in the darkness, he was able to reach a point of having an honest and satisfying conversation with God. Those moments gave him peace.

I'll never forget that lesson, that we can sometimes be surprised where we can find our own peace. My friend clued me in to the idea that we need to pay attention to the moments that come unexpectedly and allow us to look deep within ourselves and realize who we are in the world. And that these moments can bring us true peace.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Speaking Freely

In case you haven't read the news, those anguished cries heard from every corner of the world yesterday weren't from the big Rapture No Show. They were, in fact, from the huddled throngs crying out after reading my first blog post and left wondering what, exactly, the stinking blog will be about. If it's not about cats, weight loss, bass fishing, home improvement, or the new rules of dating, then what else in the world is there left to write about? David Sedaris already called dibs on smoking and you would think there's nothing left to be said.

Well, I've come up with a few topics that should serve as a preview and a tantalizing appetizer for all that is yet to come. You can look forward to discussions focused (or at least haphazardly focused) on movies and music, the good and the bad that comes with that antique novelty known as radio, food that can be had both at home and in certain restaurants, and one of my favorite topics of all, Los Angeles, California.

If a blog post is made during the late hours of the night, it might be about a certain earworm or two with a plea for suggestions of an alternative that will flush them out. If prodded, I might even discuss Batesland, South Dakota. So rest assured, there really are topics that have been left entirely untouched by Perez Hilton and TMZ.

So join me when you can, read as often as you'd like, and feel free to post your own comments and suggestions. Also, please note that this is a non-smoking blog. That makes my task here all the more challenging. But if I can pull it off, I will have beaten David Sedaris at his own game.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Free Speech

There's an old axiom that says with free speech, you get exactly what you pay for - and that's the case with many of the blogs that I've read and things that I've said. Please be forewarned: This is not a blog about cats, it's not about weight loss, and it's not about bass fishing or home improvement or the new rules of dating.

This is my blog and I will make a promise to you right here and now that I will be dedicated to providing you with much, much more than you pay for. It's not outside the realm of possibilities that you may even encounter a moment of zen on rare occasions... or at least something new to tell your friends when prefaced with, "You will not believe what that guy said this time."

So join me, please, on a journey through time and space and the free speech that allows any crackpot with a computer and an Internet connection the opportunity to make a complete fool of himself.