C.G. Masi Weblog

The Art of Policy

19 May 2017 - This is my second blog posting in a row about Pres. Trump's efforts to rid the world of Obamacare. It deals with the essential error the creators of Obamacare committed, which the currently constituted version of the U.S. Federal Government seems bent on repeating.

Before and After
The last stages of finishing an artwork consist of making tiny corrections that make a world of difference.

It has to do with a critical element of the creative process that my mother first tried to teach me as a child, which I relearned decades later as an engineer, then relearned again as a magazine editor, and practiced, practiced, practiced as an artist. It's illustrated by the before/after image above.

The image on the left is a photograph of a charcoal drawing I made roughly five years ago as an exercise. At the time I thought it was a pretty decent rendition of what I was practicing drawing at the time: the hair. Since it was just an exercise, I shoved it into a portfolio and ignored it.

Recently, I decided to resurrect it as the cover illustration for a new edition of the first novel in my Red McKenna series, Red in Wonderland. The idea of the new edition is to optimize the work for presentation on a mobile device. Adding a cover illustration is just part of the whole milieu.

The Cuddly Redhead, however, had never liked that original drawing because she said the woman was "not beautiful." I took her comments to heart and went to work modifying it for the book cover.

The problem, I quickly realized, was that, more than anything else, the drawing was unfinished: The face was not well shaped; the jaw was too strong; the facial muscles were poorly defined; and it looked too flat because the shadows weren't right. It had served its purpose, but it was not, as the old saying goes, "Ready for Prime Time" -- or a book-cover illustration.

So, I added appropriate shadows to correct the errors. First, I reduced the width of the jaw. Then, I smoothed the transitions from light to shadow, carefully bringing out the shapes of the facial muscles. Finally, I worked on details around the eyes, nose and lips.

Altogether, I added microscopic quantities of carbon atoms to make very tiny changes.

Placing photographs taken before and after these subtle changes shows how dramatically tiny variations affect the result.

Is it finished? Absolutely not! Since I shot the "after" photo, I've made several more changes and still have the thing on my easel waiting for even more.

"What," you ask, "has all this to do with Obamacare and the U.S. Federal Government?"

Like the original version of this drawing, Obamacare was cobbled together quickly to reach a goal that wasn't well thought out. It was a massive project that proved to be harder to complete than its creators imagined. When first presented to the world, it was obviously unfinished.

As an engineer, I learned that the first versions of everything are always unfinished. We call them "prototypes" and recognize that their real purpose is to discover flaws in our design and execution.

The creative process is a matter of trial and error. First you try, then you discover your errors, then you fix your errors and try again. The process goes on ad nauseam.

This creative process is the same for writing. First, you make a rough draft, then you edit it. Then, you edit it again. Eventually, you get the manuscript to the point where differences from one draft to the next are infinitessimal, and finally you decide to quit.

In art, as the before/after illustration demonstrates, even very subtle changes can make a world of difference. They can make the difference between something acceptable and a disaster.

Obamacare sought to throw out the health insurance system we had before, and create something completely different from whole cloth, like Aphrodite emerging wholly formed from the sea.

Beautiful women do not emerge wholly formed from the sea. They grow over decades from little girls via a lot of work and struggle by their own efforts, as well as those of nurturing parents.

Now, the folks running the U.S. Federal Government (President and Legislature) are talking about throwing the whole Obamacare thing out again, and coming up with another thing made from whole cloth. It's guaranteed to be the same kind of kluge Obamacare was from the outset.

They're planning another prototype.

It would be far better to, as I did with my cover illustration, look at what exists now, determine it's greatest failing, and fix that. Then, find the next greatest failing, and work on that, and so forth.

It's not glamorous. It's not how things are done in reality TV shows. It's the way real creative people produce real results.