Thursday, September 29, 2016

Little Green Army Guys and Hoochie Koochie Girls

In an attempt to make my stuff more available (i.e. prices cheap enough to move and sell), I'm scaling down some. Still maintaining the same weird shit that I do, just smaller.

The one piece of art advice I hand out to students - and I generally don't give out advice - is "If it makes you uncomfortable, pursue it". Students often accuse me of copping out because I refuse to advise them re: a vision or aesthetic pursuit. I'm more than happy to instruct them in technical aspects. My rationalization for not offering further advice is "Well, it's YOUR fucking art. If you want to make MY fucking art, I'll tell you what to do".

I actually don't follow my advice all often. But, in class last week, I showed a technique to two of my younger female students, and they ran with it. Another student asked me "Aren't you afraid they are getting out of hand with that? Making a mess and all?" I replied, "Hey I just make monsters. I don't control them".

Lately, I've been staying up late to the wee hours of the morn making wax monsters and people. I'll sit there with an arrangement of pre-cast wax parts, mix and match, and when something makes me go "Huh" or "Ick", then I'll head down that path. Amazing how often that turns into a cul-de-sac. On some occasions, the result makes me laugh, and I'll keep it.

Work Table in My Kitchen
I've made molds of 1/6 scale figures from the Walking Dead TV show (never watched it) I got in the toy section at Walgreens. The figures are modified just enough to void any copyright issues. I don't know who the characters are. I got a guy, who ends up invariable being a green army guy. I got a girl, who is modified to be more of a Vargas style, hopefully 1950s kind of sexy thing.

And the idea is to combine them with little monsters. I'm casting them in coffee can block molds and doing pretty good getting them all to survive.


Mister Aitch
Mister Aitch

"I Think We Won"

"Ride 'em Bugboy!" 

No title yet
This next was just thrown together. Not a actual thing. The hoochie koochi girl goes witha mosnter I weld up tonight. I just liked the juxtaposition for a photo. Still, I'll call it "Zika Baby".

This last is strictly commercial. Sexy welder girl, and selling for $100.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Great Big Book Of Horrible Things: A Book Report

The Great Big Book Of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's Worst Atrocities by Matthew White. My brother has this book in his bathroom. I got it from the library. I suggest that you buy it.

White walks through, in chronological order, the recorded kilodeaths and megadeaths that humanity has inflicted upon itself. It would be very easy to be cynical about this, and the antidote for cynicism is a morbid sense of humor. White possesses this. Not quite as developed a sense of humor as James Mahaffey, but it will suffice.

I could sample and excerpt some of the more awful things (like, for example, the peculiar Chinese execution practice of death by slicing), but instead let us look at his criteria (explained at the end of the book), and then also some of his general observations.

Upon finishing this book, I observed to my brother "We're just ants aren't we?"

Fire ants or crazy ants, it really doesn't matter, but from the historical perspective of 10,000 feet up, yup, we're just ants. Bugs. Ape-shaped bugs. You would think, with big primate brains acting in the aggregate, that we'd be smarter, but nope. There seems to be a limit to, or a cyclical referent to, the sophistication collective behaviors, and as such it makes me hold no great hopes for the coming hyper-neural network collective of hyperintelligent computers and the great Global Hive Mind. Megadeaths? Gigadeaths, or given a colonizing push out into space, teradeaths.

But you have to have a sense of humor about it. Couple of things. Anyone who ends up with the title "the Great" murdered a lot of people to earn that title.  Oh, wait sorry, criteria.

In order to make it into the book:
1) there has to be an immediate or closely followed death toll above 300K
2) a result of a specific outbreak of coordinated human violence and coercion
3) deaths can be direct (war, murder, execution) and indirect (aggravated disease, famine, accidental or incidental killings of civilians).

That's it. Quibble if you want, or write your own book.

Worse guy in history? Hitler*, of course. Or sure, Stalin was a monster, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. Alexander the Great was an asshole, along with Napoleon, Timur, Qin Shi Huang Di, etc. But Hitler deliberately and calculatedly did what he did in a way no one else has come close to doing... yet.

Badasses of history? Hardly killed anyone. Vikings, Huns, Samurai, Sikhs, Spartans, all light weights. You know who tops the list in multicides? The French. Yes, those cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Followed by the Chinese, the British, Russians, Germans, Americans. America better get cracking.

Terrorism. A problem? Small potatoes. To really kill a lot of people apparently requires the appartus of the state. Want to see a lot of deaths? Declare war on terrorism.

Justice? Most asshole dictators die comfortably in bed.

Sieges kill more people than battles do.

In war, civilians die more often than military. Want to be safe in war? Surround yourself with an army.

Chaos kills more often than tyranny. Failed states and the breakdown of authority account for more mulitcides than abuse of authority.

Religion kills? I got news for you, people were being nasty to each other long before religion came along. Percent of total human suffering caused by religious wars and persecutions? 10%. Or about the same as atheists have done. Take that, Richard Dawkins.

Hereditary monarchs are usually too inbred stupid to cause much trouble. If you want to get truly talented murderers to do a proper job, set up a meritocracy.

Guerrilla war. No state has ever managed to come up with a solution of organized versus irregular militia. It seems the only solution to insurgents is to set up a competing guerrilla band and let them hunt each other. (Lesson that municipalities learned in dealing with gang violence, perhaps???)

Finally, if you want to look at the illusion of progress (*cough* Pinker! *cough*), keep in mind that the 20th century was the bloodiest ever. White goes so far as to come up with a neologism to describe it: The Hemoclysm, the blood flood. 150 million dead. Well, fear not, this century is early. Maybe we'll have a new term by the end: The Coproclysm.

Hi ho!  

Monday, September 19, 2016


So, looks like the West Supply job is a wash. I've had one trial working day two weeks ago and haven't been called back. Acquaintance of mine that works there said it took her tow months before she was hired on permanently. I can't wait two months.

So, bit of a rough patch so far, but I've been through worse. Besides, the weather has been gorgeous and I've got my health. I've been going for long bike rides to get my mind of a lack of employment, and they have been fantastic. Hey, why not go for long bike rides, as opposed to sitting and moping, or uselessly churning out resumes at the local library?

As for my health, why, it's been a year and two weeks since I had my nephrectomy, and I'm almost back to looking like Tarzan. I've not neglected exercise, my strength has improved, and I almost have a flat alligator belly... almost. Actually, I will never have a flat alligator belly again, but I've got the closest a near-sexagenarian can get without dangerous drugs and pills.

(Two meals a day helps with the slimming. Not that I lack for money, just don't find myself particularly hungry for lunch).

On the plus side, it looks like I will be adjunct faculty teaching welding for CTP division at Harper College for the last 8 week session of this semester. Speaking of which, I got a free pass through CPT to go to the IMTS2016 at McCormick Place.  IMTS (International Manufacturing Technology Show) is a biannual tech show with the latest innovations.

When I walked in to the east hall, I saw a sea of robot arms flailing and gesturing literally almost to the horizon. This was the CAD/CAM section of the show. I also looked at metal cutting and grinding machines (things that could cut through M1A1 Abrams tanks with little difficulty), CNC mills, and well, no I didn't make it to the tooling hall. I should have but I didn't have time.

Oh, I checked out all the additive tech. 3D printers, and such. I picked up a tantalum goblet that looked like Jesus used it, and it was a good 20 lbs.

I saw a giant robot arm made by FANUC that was flipping a Porsche like a burger. I saw the world's largest horizontal mill by Toyoda that was the size of of a locomotive. I saw CNC machines that ground out a two foot Statue of Liberty, a Leaning Tower of Pisa, and some of the ugliest chrome art you have ever seen. I handed out my card to anyone that would take it, and pitched the idea of me being their corporate artist-in-residence (politely and tactfully not pointing out that their CNC art pieces were very tacky and gaudy). A guy from a Beijing company seemed fairly enthusiastic, which means their gonna steal all my stuff.

The one thing I thought about is why robot arms? I mean, it is obvious why. We are apes with arms. If we were giant crabs or ants or octopuses, we'd have robot mandibles and tentacles. But still, there must be tasks where robot tentacles or mandibles would be functionally better, but you don't see them,

I figure it's a result of being cyborg apes. (Yes, honey-bunses, we are cyborgs, going back a long, long time. A monkey with a stick is a cyborg. True, a crude one, but a cyborg nonetheless).

I figure it's a problem similar to the one shamans experience. An (imaginary) animal familiar or spirit guide. Is it an extension of the personality, or an independent ally? I remember in Norse myth, Odin had two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (desire), that would fly around the world and come back  and whisper in his ear, and keep him up to date on current events. Odin always knew that Hugin would return, but sometimes worried that Munin would not. Was he worried that a part of himself would not return? Maybe.

Probably what I would worry about if I had a robot arm.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Art Foundry Job

Last Thursday, I got a - well I'm sure not what, I filled out tax documentation, so I suppose it's a real job, but I'm guessing more of a probationary - job at West Supply.

West Supply is the premier art foundry in Chicago, making high end quality stuff, mainly furnishings.

When I did the interview and got a tour two weeks ago, I walked through the factory with the foreman, and at every station I said to myself "I know that", "I can do that", I can do that", "I know how to do that better", but was smart not enough to express my opinions. I just observed and nodded and said "Cool!" a lot. I'm smart enough not to be know-it-all smart-ass in interviews.

I did get weird looks. I mean, I am the oldest guy by decades in that establishment. Most of them are kid artists right out of grad school. They also had to figure, from looking at my resume, why the hell do you want to start here at the ground floor.

Well, that's easy enough. I'm awesome, they're awesome, and I wish to add my awesomeness to the mix. Given the high turnover with the disenchanted millennials, I could be Uncle John before you know it. And I'm pretty sure they need an Uncle John. Not an authority figure Uncle John, but a step-in-to-any-position-and-get-the-job-done Uncle John. We'll see if their vision corresponds with mine.

So, Thursday, my first day, and I am assigned to bottom-feeder gate-cutting and rough grinding of pieces straight from the foundry. This is a dirty, sweaty job involving hammering off ceramic shell, heavy lifting, and lots of cutting through inches thick  bronze with a right angle grinder with a cutoff wheel. I have to admit, after an hour, I said maybe I'm not cut out for this. But then I got into the swing of things, and tried my best to kick major ass.

It was actually fun, and kind of relaxing. I worked smart, lifted and hammered smart, and only pinched my fingers and thumbs once or twice, I could tell this job would mean I don't need to go to the gym quite as often. Felt stronger and endorphin-pumped by the end of the day.

The only problem was the dust and metal fines. They gave me a respirator, and I brought my own grinding gear, but my neck was unprotected.  I suffered from the itchy prickly heat for a day afterwards. A little Benadryl spray took care of that, but I need to get better clothing. If they intend to keep me on in rough grinding, I need to go full gimp mode and get completely covered. I need to get some face hoods in the long run, and a long-sleeved cotton turtle neck for the short run.

I don't know what management thought about my performance, but hopefully I made a good impression.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Cannibalism - A Lot More Common Than We Are Comfortable In Admitting

Cannibalism is a time-honored tradition practiced by all animals. In times of famine, mothers eat their young. In times of plenty, mothers eat their young. Look at the archaeological record of our and related hominid species, and you will find lots of cut marks in bones, lots of carbonization from cooking fires.

We have been inculcated in the value system that cannibalism is morally repugnant, and yet, that really hasn't stopped the practice altogether.

In the West, with the arrival of the Enlightenment and the Protestant Reformation, we have divided the world into Christian and Cannibal: Civilization and Savagery. (Please ignore the fact that the fundamental sacred ritual of Christianity involves the consumption of  flesh and blood). The idea, you see, is that the liberal notions of individual dignity somehow preclude from sane or rational behavior the idea of eating each other.

Of course, we still practice cannibalism, but we do it in the marketplace. People, as useful commodities, are consumed. Labor and ingenuity are extracted from them as soon as is useful. People have value right up until they cease being productive. Children, of course, as future labor resources, are treated as valued objects. (Although, with the coming biotech revolution, newborns and fetuses will no doubt be put to work as well).

None of this, of course, is new, but I think the marketing strategy for modern denial of modern cannibalism is fairly modern (and by modern, I mean in the past 500 years? since the advent of globalization).

Monday, August 22, 2016


I'm thinking about cybernetics a lot lately, and more specifically about how so many systems I observe can be interpreted as neural networks, neural network simulations run on quantum computers, and even more specifically, about Ross Ashby's version of this form of cybernetics... which sounds suspiciously like the state equations of quantum mechanics.

Customer relations at the counter, traffic flow to and from work, just in time inventories at the temp jobs, the information arbitrage of contractors and in-house added value services, "I know a guy that knows a guy" type of stuff all look a lot like a neural network in continuous cycle.

W. Ross Ashby, creator of the homeostat, when talking about cybernetic systems, often made the point that the environment is an active participant in the feedback loop. Well, that's obvious.

A lumberjack chopping down a tree can't do much without the tree, But is the tree an active participant? Ross would say yes. The lumberjack observes:orients:decides:acts based upon the attributes of the tree. He modifies his axes swings based upon the chunks that fly out. The tree is not going to drop chunks exactly the same each time. There is contingency involved. He modifies his swings and positions when it looks like the tree is about to come down. Don't want to have the tree fall on you, so yes, the tree, the environment is an active participant, adding that fun little nonlinear enhancement to the feedback loop.

(This is what butthole social Darwinists ignore that their peril: innate virtues involved in fitness are less than half the equation, Only the fittest survive for that environment. As the environment acts upon the actions of the individuals, so one can, in a fitness seascape, make the right choice at the right time from position of the right circumstance, and end up at the bottom of the trough from the crest of the wave. WIPE OUT!)

Which makes me think (and I've said this many times before) that intelligence as a property isn't really real; any more than cold is real, or dark is real. Intelligence is the absence of stupidity, just as cold is the absence of heat.

As such, there is no such thing as a competely stupid person. Actually, there is, but under the demands of our particular universe, completely stupid is completely dead.

On the obverse, no one is completely smart. We are, of course, compartmentally smart, or rather, compartmentally stupid.

Some people have a whole houseful of smart, and just a closet of stupid, while others... the opposite.

We obviously utilize that. One can have only a closet full of smart and a house full of stupid, but by interacting with others, using the ultrasocial network we ape-shaped bugs have developed, take advantage of others who are not so stupid.

I do it both ways all the time. I, in fact, know given my current circumstances, that there are some not so stupids out there looking out for me, which is why I landed this temp job,and also why I have an interview with an art foundry.

If it wasn't so nice, I'd probably be paranoid.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Temp Job

I got a temp job working behind the counter at a retail metal outlet. It's a franchise where you can buy metal. I haven't done counter work since college.

I've been working there for three weeks, and so far, out of the hundreds of customers I've dealt with, I've only had to deal with two assholes.

That's pretty good.

The guys I work with are all good guys, and the boss has asked me to fill in when needed, as he considers me "a good fit".  Well, I try to be patient, polite, considerate and helpful, and I guess that's what you have to be if you are a counter guy. Everyone is in a hurry, needs instant gratification, but I've been told to just relax and not let them rush you. That advice came from Phil, the other counter guy.  Phil pretty much runs the day to day operations, so classify him as non-com, staff sergeant. Phi's a good guy, funny guy; therefore, smart guy. Interesting character, like most people I've dealt with since working there.

The one most recent asshole customer I would classify as a pufferfish, an angry pissy little empty shitbag.

He likes to threaten. Threats are illogical.

If this were a samurai movie, he's the scared little shopkeeper constantly worried that he will lose his small piece of capital. He threatens and bullies the underlings, but if anyone stands up to him he collapses. And he toadies to superiors. It doesn't help he has that whiny nasal south side of Chicago dialect that makes me want to punch him in the face.

I'm of an age now where I really don't have the time and patience to put up with people's shit. So when it got to the point where he was just too much of a whiny little bitch, and I knew I was going to tell him to fuck off, I turned him over to Phil.

Phil is a pro, and had the guy settled down in about fifteen seconds. After Phil got off the phone, he laughs and say "I could see the smoke coming out of your ears".

He was right about that.

We have also had a ton of people who are just really good, really colorful characters.

I had one middle-aged black woman come in wanting to buy an 8" x 10" plate of inch thick steel, because she had to go do business on the south side. I discouraged her from buying it. It would have weighed, like, 40 lbs. Actually, I pretty much treated her like she was my mom, as gently and compassionately as I could. She was from Evanston, which, like progressive Oak Park, is pretty well integrated. (Chicago, third after Milwaukee and New York City, is a severely segregated, physically walled off racist city). Rather than try to assuage her fears, I googled a bunch of places where she could buy a protective vest.

A lot of the white guy customers are bigots. I was uncomfortable with some of the things I heard.

Well, this is America, and you are allowed to express your opinions.

I just figure these bigot types are limited, because by limiting their behavior according to stereotypes, they cut way down on their options and opportunities in dealing with people. I also have to assume they feel they are in a private space where they can vent, and perhaps outside of this cracker barrel venue, they treat others differently than how they express themselves.

The vast majority of the customers are skilled laborers, machinists, fabricators, etc. What those gentleman snobs the Founding Fathers would have considered "lowly mechanicks". Possessors of only mere skills, labor, and ingenuity, and not proper men of property.

The Founding Fathers were assholes.

It's amazing how, despite the enfranchisement of so many into our supposed democracy, there is stilla stigma attached to working with your hands. These people, of course, have my utmost respect. They know so many things about bending material instrumentality to their will I am quite frankly in awe. The stories they tell sound braggadocious and triumphal, but they are really problem:action: result stories. I know that, should civilization as we know it end tomorrow, these guys are guys you want to hang out with.

That's about it. I have two interviews next week. One at a art foundry, the other at a furniture fabrication place. I'll let you know how it goes.