Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We are The Business. Litigation is Futile!

"You know the score, pal. If you're not cop, you're little people". - Bryant, Blade Runner

So the current kerfuffle is the Hoosier RFRA. (Did you know that, in Russian, 'hoosier' sounds the same as 'worse'?) The claim is that this strictly for religious protection. The law is not for religious protection.  As pointed out in an Atlantic Monthly article:

The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.
What these words mean is, first, that the Indiana statute explicitly recognizes that a for-profit corporation has “free exercise” rights matching those of individuals or churches. A lot of legal thinkers thought that idea was outlandish until last year’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Storesin which the Court’s five conservatives interpreted the federal RFRA to give some corporate employers a religious veto over their employees’ statutory right to contraceptive coverage.
Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. WillockIn that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply "because the government is not a party."
Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision.  Democrats also offered the Republican legislative majority a chance to amend the new act to say that it did not permit businesses to discriminate; they voted that amendment down.
In other words, this is the continuing attempt, following Citizens United, to make sure that the United States of America is safe for business, and that corporations continue to be more equal than citizens.

This isn't about gay discrimination. An Indiana business can make up ANY horseshit religious excuse to keep from getting sued, for whatever reason (including, probably and more importantly, labor disputes).

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The End of Spring Break And I Need A Vacation

Warning: If you queasy at the sight of blood, don't read to the end.

So, while all the students and teachers at the college went down to Mexico or wherever for Spring Break, I went downtown to work in the studio with my weekend boss.

I'm taking the Sabbath off today. Not for religious reasons, but because my body hurts. My hands especially hurt. This week showed me the difference between working out and work - not that I needed a reminder. Working out in the gym gives you that good muscle ache the next day. Working just wears your body down.

We had an interesting conundrum. A sculpture - kind of a large outdoor semi-organic abstract - had to be ready to install this Monday, 3/30. We had a week to do it. Normally, something like this would be fashioned and fabricated from metal, but the time constriction didn't allow for that. We considered a fiberglass shell, but again, time was against us.

After playing around with various physical options and experimenting the weekend prior to this, we decided on utilizing parade float technology.

Normally, floral sheeting, festooning and fringes are the salient aspects of parade float technology, but that's not what we did. I recalled that to get any kind of irregular shape, one usually resorts to chicken wire, or if you prefer, poultry fencing. That's what we used.

We adapted our technique for making armatures for figurative sculptures. We* started with the structural bones of construction rebar, welded together, to make the skeleton of the objects (about seven feet in any dimension). Next we bent pencil rod (1/4" thick steel rod) into hooks, and welded them to the rebar as spacers to make an outline frame of the shape.

We covered this welded up internal frame with a skin of chicken wire, attached to the spacers with cable ties. Next, we covered the chicken wire with window screen. Window screen is remarkably flexible and form hugging and retains its shape nicely.

Duct tape works as well.

The resulting surface was, in my opinion, kind of sexy, with a fishnet stocking look to it not unlike the Leg Lamp from a Christmas Story.

The window screen then was covered with Bondo, ready for painting.

When we were done, it took three days to do what would normally have taken as many weeks. The sculptures are very lightweight and the technique could easily be scaled up to make objects tens of feet in size.

Interior of the structure

"I'm stealing this technique", I said at the end of the week.

Interior of the structure

Downside? Well, whenever you work with metal, you get pinched and crushed and cut up and burned. I got all. A lot.

Here you see the consequences of Old Skool #3D rendering. Not as bad as it looks, folks.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Nudniks On Rickety Old Ladders

I've spent most of my working life in one form of maintenance or another. As such, just as cops can get cynical from seeing only the worst behaviors, janitors typically think people are asshole monkeys that spread their shit on everything.

Oh, I'm not talking about being sloppy. That's a fundamental characteristic of Life Itself. You leave your waste products as you please, maybe hope for a strong current to sweep it away, but shitting in the kitchen is probably a universal constant in terms of behavior.

No, I'm talking about the monkey characteristic of clever monkey. Cleverness. Cleverness almost invariably results in fucking things up. Monkeys break shit with pride, in that they think, in order to exercise the old will to power, they come up with clever workarounds that they oh-so-pleased with themselves in figuring out, but almost invariably ends up with fucking things up even more than to begin with.

(Are you sensing a certain amount of anger and dismay, as in I found a number of fucked up things around the studio that clever people had done? You are right!)

All the more amazing then, when you look at so much of what we have, so much that is kluges cobbled together and jury-rigged to keep on working, that we aren't extinct! I mean, this cleverness really is a good example of a valid solution to the Fermi Paradox.

Case in point. I'm watching a TV show about Chicago, and they show the control room for the locks of the Chicago River in Lockport. The lock master has a lap top wirelessly connected to a control panel from the 1950s, with chunky buttons and radio dials and analog meters. That 1950s control panel in turn is connected to a wall of knife switches and painted hydrant wheels from the 1920s, that in turn connected via fraying gutta percha insulated thick copper wires to a steam motor connected to cast iron cogs and levers and wood chock blocks. I could imagine this series of kluges extending all the way back to an arrangement of stone knives and bear skins that actually operate the doors of the lock.

And of course, at each interface is whatever passed for clever quick fixes, workarounds and patches, so that at the very bottom of the tech barrel one might find a large ball of cords and thongs made from strips of mammoth hide and a stone pot of glue from rendered wooly rhinoceros: the lower paleolithic equivalent of Duct Tape.

And, fortunately for the state of Illinois, some old monkey codger who knows through rote learning and how to nurse the damn thing. He might even occasionally possess enough simian self-awareness to extrapolate a clever solution that is outside his learned stimulus-reponse programming.

I'm not the only one that's noticed this. I've heard tell that one guy found a stuck control valve in a nuke plant wedged open with precariously positioned flathead screwdriver.

Clever. And we save monies. Monies that we don't have to spend on inconvenient maintenance of critical systems, when we can spend it on our greedy, narcissistic little monkey desires.

So, working forward, I anticipate a day when Sol system goes supernova because our hideously advanced material instrumentality (with, apparently every engineer's hard-on - no moving parts) when that screwdriver or that mammoth sinew falls out or come undone.

(Anyone care to bet there is on some holographic control image either a Blue Screen Of Death, or a Pinwheel Of Death, that shows up right before everything goes kablooey)?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Israel Problem

Israel, until recently, did not exist for 2800 years. One would think that Netanyahu would, at least as a student of history, wonder why this is so?

Biblical scholars know the story. King Solomon the Wise, to pay for his conquests, had for years imposed a foolishly heavy taxation upon the ten northern tribes, known collectively as Israel. Those tribes felt they could no longer bear the heavy burden of Solomon's taxation, and gathered about one of Solomon's generals, Jeroboam, who led them in revolt.

The revolt failed and Jeroboam fled to Egypt.

After King Solomon the Wise died, his son Rehoboam, backed by the two loyal southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, traveled north to Shechem to obtain Israel's allegiance to him. Jeroboam, hearing of Solomon's death, returned to be present at Shechem.

Rehoboam sought counsel, first from the elders, then from his court companions who had grown up with him as to what to do about the Israel Problem.

The elders advised Rehoboam to accede to the people's demand for relief, for a more liberal and just policy towards the ten northern tribes. If he acted graciously, and "speak good words to them they will be thy servants forever".

The youngsters suggested that his would be viewed as weakness, that he should make no concessions, and in fact should double down on the heavy-handedness of Solomon.

"And thus shalt thou say to them: 'Whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. Whereas my father chastised you with whips, so I shall chastise you with scorpions".

I can imagine Rehoboam turning backwards to his compatriots, winking and grinning, and they all smiling and nodding and giving him the thumbs up.

The response was not the one he anticipated.

Livid with rage, the men of Israel seceded from the House of David. Israel appointed Jeroboam their king, and Rehoboam and Jeroboam waged a constant war. All the territories David and Solomon had conquered, Moab, Edom, Ammon, and others to the east and north to Syria, were lost.

Eventually the Assyrians conquered Israel, and the ten tribes were scattered from their lands forcibly dispersed.

Later, the kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon, and they too were exiled.

I wonder if Netanyahu, with his double-down policy towards the Palestinians can see a pattern there?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wax On, Wax Off

Harper Small Works had their reception last week, and the juror, Allison Peters Quinn of the Hyde Park Art Center, gave a really splendid talk about being a curator. So much so, that I was briefly enthused about actually curating a show. I mean, it's one thing to be a musician, and quite another to be the conductor of the orchestra.

And maybe I will curate a show someday, but not right now.

She really liked my piece and asked me a bunch of questions about it. Finally, she asked, "Do have a lot of these?"

"Yes!" I lied.

"Well, I think you should contact the X Museum as they might be interested in these as they do a lot of scientific art exhibits."

"Fantastic!" I replied, "I will!"

So guess what I'm doing? I'm trying to crank out a bunch of cast glass pieces.

This one you've seen:

Here are waxes for the next, which has already been cast.

The wax on the right didn't make it, as I apparently forgot to mix together the dry mix of plaster and silica flour. I checked on the mold when I was steaming it out, and it was a big pile of mush. So I quickly made another wax and made a mold of that.

Here are the cast glass pieces.

Here is the next set of waxes.

I don't have the patience to mix up the frit and glass powder with gum arabic solution and pack the mold with wet frit. I mean I really just don't have the patience.

So... I load the mold up with dry powder and frit. This kind of has an advantage as I get to push the powder around like paint with a brush, and I'm a lot more free and cavalier about throwing the powders and frit around in them. I also use a Tibetan chak-pur that they use to create sand mandalas to distribute the powder in small places. And a rolled up cone of copper sheet for the frit. And a balding paint brush with hardly any hairs to push the powder around. (A nice full brush picks up too much powder).

I don't worry about trying to fill to the border of critters (meaning you overfill and mound up glass to get it to melt down and fill up to the border during firing). I found that I get a nice sharp border for the critters and the background glass flows in behind them a little, but it is only sometimes noticeable. I'll accept this for a sharp border.

I really should be taking notes as to how I apply the color, and I kind of do, but sometimes I forget to write what I did. I can still kind of recreate what I've done. and write it down later if I remember.

I'll eventually figure all this out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hitler's Meth Recipe

(I just liked that phrase and threw it in as a title. maybe it could be death metal band).

Briefly randomized:

If it isn't already, education will soon be put on a war footing. Why?

1) It's already monetized and commodified, how hard is it to weaponize?
2) Governments are noticing who goes where for higher education. They would prefer they not go to places where they don't come back from.
3) The most weaponizable system is the human brain. Easy to turn, hard to change.
4) Until they come up with HAL9000 and worker robots, those food-powered robots is from where they are going to get all the labor and ingenuity.

So what about drones?  Drones are the new dogs. Actually, once they get slightly more sophisticated, drones are the new domesticated animals.

I notice they are gearing up for the next long range bomber. When the aerospace companies talk about it? It's not just one bomber, or a suite of planes, but a 'system', or an 'ecosystem' that allows for flexible missions. (This also applies to naval weapons).

As such, fleets of these craft, whether they are manned or unmanned or a mix, will be a menagerie of craft. Did I say menagerie? Try a flying circus, literally a flying circus. And when things get bad? Send in the clowns. They expendable, and they distract folks. 

Medicine suggests a new class of drugs called senolytics are around the corner, which will allow people to live long and prosper. You know what will happen? The rich become immortal and fuck the poor. And once the rich are immortal, we will live in a world of gods and brain-dead zombies

Or maybe all this stuff just applies to mice and we have nothing to worry about. But if not, then that's a nightmare world. Fuck that. I'd sooner drop the Bomb than live in that world.

California is in the midst of a 1,000 year drought. The American West better get ready for that 100,000 year drought. It's on its way.

On a happier note, anyone interested in the show I got in at Harper College and look at harpercollege.edu/smallworks. The pictures are in a window over to the right of the screen.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Boohoo. You had me, then you lost me.

I got accepted into the Texas National 2015 again.
From John Handley.  
John Kurman:
Dear Texas National 2015 Participant:
Congratulations! Your artwork has been accepted into the 2015 exhibition. This year’s competition had almost 1000 entries, and our juror, Zhi Lin, selected 102 artworks for the exhibition. The dates for the exhibition are April 11 – June 13, 2015, therefore we must receive your piece on or before March 27, 2015. 
And then I got disqualified.
From SFAartgalleries Whoops!
Mr. Kurman,
After our Texas National juror made his selections and our Director sent out the acceptance letter, it was brought to our attention that your piece LOGISTICS is over the age limit as stated in the rules. 
Unfortunately, to be fair to other entrants, we must disqualify this piece from the exhibition. 
We apologize for any confusion.
Best regards,
SFA Art Galleries

Oh well. No hard feelings, as, technically I did get in to the Texas National two years running. 

The piece was "Logistics". You can see it here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chuang Tse Redux

"Is it me that has become more stupid? Or are there others who have not become so stupid?"

This is how I feel lately. Actually, for quite awhile now. At least since the summer of last year, I feel much, much more stupid than I can ever recall. Not just logy or sluggish, but actually diminished in intellectual capacity and metabolism.

I went back and read essays from 2012. I'm glad I wrote these essays, as they serve as both benchmark and memory palace. A lot of the essays are embarrassing to read, in a is-that-really-what-I-sound-like? type of embarrassment. But a lot of the essays also made me think, Jesus, I've become a lot more stupid than I used to be.

I kind of suspect, with not just writing and composition, but working on pretty much anything, that this increased stupidity is real, distressingly real, and I am able to determine a root cause.

(Actually, I don't believe that much in root causes, being a philosophical epigenesist. Stupidity does not unfold from the implicate order, but rather blossoms under contingency. The Red X, that Dorian Shainin proposed, is in my view, usually a whole shitload of little pink x's. And in my view? Pink x's usually mean there are way too many solutions and not enough problems to go around, and so the solutions become problems. Am I making sense? I don't know anymore.)

Well, if I'm right, and I think I am, the "root causes", the things that has got me stuck endlessly time-looping 2012, is the general anesthesia I received from the two surgical operations in 2013. I think those prescription drugs they done give me fucked up my haid.

And this is bad too, because, at this stage of the game, moving into silverback territory, brains is about the only asset I bring to the table.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

Batteries, baby. Everybody and their uncle, since, what? 2009 or before? Everybody is squirting a stain about being left behind in the coming giant trillion dollar electric vehicle and alternative energy industries of the 2020-2030's. Which is why just a huge tsunami of monies is blasting materials science governmental and corporate research labs.

Ah-ha-ha, no.

True, there is ongoing research, and there is always gonna be that out-of-left-field shit that I so dearly love, but we aren't seeing any Moore's Law sexiness going on.

But think of this way. And let me use a water metaphor. So, for the longest time in hominid history, we humanoids, because we can't last more than 5 days without water, have been constrained to fresh potable water sources. Which means, you can only hunt and gather so far without convenient storage containers or potable water to lug around.

That all changed, well, we don't know when, maybe say two hundred thousand years ago, somebody came up with the water bag of skin, or maybe the gourd, and then later - for sure 40 thousand years ago - pottery.

So you get the idea. Water = energy, battery = skin bag of energy metaphor, and so what? Well, this goes back to my idea that we don't really don't have an energy crisis, we have an energy density crisis. We got a shitload of energy, we just don't have to good way to store and transport energy.

(That, of course, will all change with near room temperature superconductors, which is gonna happen fellow babies. It will. Not sure when, but it will).

Well, my suspicion is it really isn't about electric vehicles, or even alternative energies, or even global warming or any of that shit. It's really about getting those electrically powered robots to be more efficient and better than the food powered ones. Those food powered robots are just a pain in the ass, and if we can eliminate them as a middle-man, then fucking Solar System is ours for the taking.

What's this "we" shit?

I don't know, and that's why I'm wondering if I'm not becoming stupid by accident.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Amygdalic Frisson

A week or two ago, I had a dream where I took off in a small boat, possibly a sailboat, from the shores of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, heading north into Lake Michigan. Almost immediately, a dense fog formed, and I quickly lost my bearings.

I was suddenly lost, hopelessly suddenly lost, and the frisson of fear, the shiver, the thrill, that I experienced? ... was delicious.

It wasn't orgasm-delicious, but still better than a punch in the head. More of a testicles attempting to pull up into the body, but at the same time, getting a serious tingle going kind of delicious.

This dream actually had a real life counterpart from the late 80s. Eldest brother had become addicted to wind surfing. One summer, he and a friend came into town loaded down with their gear and boards, and we headed up to Lake Michigan to the national lakeshore to go windsurfing. They talked me into trying it out. After a few spills and tumbles, I caught the strong wind out o' the west, and shot north into the big lake.

I was, as they said back then, booking. The excitement was the same for any experience of fast motion, the scenery fantastic, the early afternoon sun beating down from the west, the dark blue and white frills of the lake and waves, the infinite pale blue of the cloudless sky. And I just kept on going, feeding on the ride, and then looked behind, and...

No lake shore to the south. No shore at all in any direction. And I had that frisson of fear, that shiver, that thrill, and it was delicious. Not surprising I was pretty damn horny afterwards.

I thank my two little almond-shaped amygdalae for that. We have two, you know, on either side of the brain. I suspect, like almost everyone, since we are not entirely bilaterally symmetric, that one or the other does slightly different things, processes data in slightly different ways. Popular science literature tells us that the amygdala is the fear center, but clearly it is more than that. I wonder how old the amygdala are? Half a billion years? A billion? I don't know.

It was only a matter of time before the sensory pathways got to the forebrain, which informed me that the sun was in the west, me heading north, turn around. (And also, to the west, were the silhouettes of the skyscrapers of Chicago, descending down into the lake like a freshwater Atlantis).

So, a few spills and tumbles, I got turned around, and in a surprisingly short amount of time, I was back on land.

But that feeling? I never get tired of that feeling.