Friday, October 21, 2016

Now I Have Four Jobs

Five jobs, if you count making sculpture. And since I successfully completed a commission - albeit for a friend -  and have receive taxable remuneration, I think we have to include 'sculptor' as a job.

So, five jobs.

Here I was, worried about finding just one job, and now I have five. Although, one job I lose as of Dec.12th, the Bronze Casting Instructor job. But I may gain a new job in January as a Moldmaking Instructor.

I have the Welding Instructor job at Harper.
I have the Bronze Casting Instructor job at Harper*.
I am a sculptor's assistant on the weekends.
As of today, I am a part-time keyholder with Rockler Woodworking and Hardware.

Exciting times ahead. The Rockler and welding instructor jobs mesh well, as I have to learn CAD/CAM and CNC for both jobs. Rockler has CNC woodworking lathes and also has Shopbots which I must teach classes on and do demos. Harper CPT has CNC plasma cutters, CNC laser cutters, robot milling machines, robot punch machines and, well, all the cool late-20th-century automated machinery.

I'm a lucky guy.

I still make art, crafting small waxes and casting them in coffee can molds, and I will continue to do that. That all has to happen late at night. I considered joining a Hacker space called Pumping Station One (yeah, not a good name). Toured the place, plunked down $40 for a month's membership, came in a few times, and found that territories had already been carved out there, and I really didn't feel like stepping on toes or stealing thunder. It's basically summer camp for rich yuppies and geeks, with all these kinds of generally shallow and trivially crafty projects involving very expensive equipment. Plus, you had to get 'authorized' on the equipment, and the authorization sessions are at the end of the month. Pass. I cancelled my membership.

Thinking about the election season coming up, and I've decided we have entered the Uncanny Valley of American politics. I honestly can't shake the feeling that Trump is working for Hillary. She really needed a truly awful opponent to get elected, and, well, one hand washes the other. We'll see.

the village where I live is solidly Republican, and the affluent neighborhoods where I go running and hiking and biking are crystalline precipitate solid Republican. Walking around, I saw exactly one Trump and one Clinton yard sign. Compare this to 2012 where practically every house had a Romney sign, save for one Obama sign. Hmm. Maybe they are afraid of Halloween vandalism, or maybe the polls are spot on.

A friend of mine plans on writing in None Of The Above for President. I replied "No! Write in Me!" So expect at least one vote for "Me!"come Nov. 9.

I know people are worried about angry Trump supporters talking about armed revolt.

Yeah. Right. Relax.

As someone once said to me, American's lifestyle is their polity. And Americans are just a little too out-of-shape, a little too fuzzy minded, a little too soft and lazy, to engage in the sustained commitment that murdering their fellow Americans launching a revolution requires.

They all look a little too well fed and comfortable, and, frankly, stoned, to do much beyond attend a rally.

But it sure does seem like this political cycle seems a little unreal, a little to synthetic, a little too creepily-similar-but-just-not-quite to reality.

But,I guess I shouldn't be all the worried. Last night, I scanned the Coninuum, and can report that I found only the normal set of anomalies...  

Thursday, October 13, 2016


2016. Cast Bronze. approx. 5" x 10" x 3"

2016. Cast Bronze. approx. 5" x 10" x 3"

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hubris, Meet Nemesis

Because that's how it works. Wherever Hubris is, Nemesis is sure to follow.

After teaching class last night, I came home and watched The Big Short - the movie about the housing crisis and financial collapse. Actually, I worked on waxes first, until about midnight, then I watched the movie. I chose that order knowing that the movie would make me mad. It didn't. It made me sad. But I was right that I would be in no mood to work on waxes after watching it.

So, and the lesson of that movie is that almost all business is on Wall street is fraudulent and criminal, driven by greed and stupidity. The Scandinavian in me would just as soon slaughter all the those bankers (after slow torture), mount their heads on pikes throughout Manhattan, as an object lesson to other white collar criminals. The Scandinavian in me knows this would do no damn good at all, but it might make a few people feel better. I still maintain white collar crime should carry a mandatory death penalty.

In any case, the observation at the end of the movie, that the financial crisis would be blamed upon immigrants and poor people, was spot on. I look at the Crash of 2008 as not unlike WWI in Germany. The successful popular opinion - authored by the loathsome incompetent that lost the war for Germany, Erich Ludendorff - was that the military would have won the war if they had not been stabbed in the back by Jews and Commies.

This lie was successfully promulgated among the German people, and the result was WWII. So, Crash of 2008 Part Deux is coming up because the same creeps that gave us Part Un are still in charge, and have successfully promulgated the big lie that Wall street was stabbed in the back by guvmint, immigrants, and poor people. Interesting thing about that cat Ludendorff. He successfully fought a battle against Czarist Russia, Tannenberg, that probably cost Germany the war. Hubris. Followed by Nemesis.

So, given that the economy is destined to take a shit, and probably sooner rather than later means I'm in no hurry to go hide in a 40-hour-a-week, 9-to-5 stable job because it won't be there very soon. So, I work on waxes, cast them in bronze, and hustle to sell them. That's probably a different form of denial and delusion.

Hi ho.

I'm also planning on joining a open source hackerspace called Pumping Station: One. (Not thrilled about the name). I toured the facilities Sunday, saw a beautiful thing going on, noticed they lacked for a hot metal area and said I could probably get them going. The two people I talked to, one a blacksmith, the other a jeweller, practically fell over each other asking me to join. Why not? Volunteering my knowledge and skills may be just the right kind of karma I need right now. Networking and all that.

I also plan on touring Chicago Industrial Arts and Design Center during their open house. And I'm trying to get together with the foundry manager at the School of the Art Institute. Networking, don't you know.

In the meantime, I'm staying up late, making waxes. I've a fridge full of people and things right now.

Vacation Snaps

Vacation Snaps

Lost Little Guy (v.1)
Lost Little Guy (v.2)

Carbuncle Racer

And I made this.

Vigantopus and Friend
Vigantopus. Sitting there late Saturday morning at 3am with a beer, starting at the thing, the following drunken narrative entered my head.

She had somehow become friends with Vigantopus. Vigantopus noticed she had no home, and kindly invited her to stay within her. The woman had just enough room inside Vigantopus to sleep in a fetal position. Vigantopus did not eat her, though she could have. As the woman slept, Vigantopus roamed the countryside, sometimes travelling scores of miles in one night. With eight limbs to move upon, the woman never felt a lurch or a sway. She would wake up and tumble out into places she had never been, not knowing where she was.

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
Now, with wheels!

I Don't Know Why I'm Not Famous

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.

"World's Sexiest Welder"
"World's Sexiest Welder"

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.