Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Haunting of Hillary House

I debated naming this essay "President Donald Trump" because right now that's where we are headed.  And this may be my only political essay of the year.

And I really don't have anything to say about Hillary other than she manages to make herself pretty scary without even trying.

Well, I could mention The Haunting, the 1963 film that scared the piss out of me when I was a kid. (Wow, who'd have thought that acting, music, and cinematic atmospherics could beat the living shit out of special effects, but it can). Hillary reminds of that house. She's got demons in her, and I hate to think what she does to Bill behind closed doors (not that he doesn't deserve it).

Okay, I'll tell you one alleged story I heard third-hand and so can only call apocryphal (hope this covers me legally, and if not, I'll say YOU wrote this). A friend of a friend was working for a hospital board that Hillary was on. He arrived early to the meeting, needed to arrange his notes, and so spread them out on the table to work. Hillary arrived, and told him that chairs at the table were for Board Members Only, and he would have to take a seat in one of the chairs up against the wall. No hello. No hi who are you, my name is Hillary, who are you? Just full-on immediate officious little bitch. The guy has hated her ever since.

But what we have to look forward to - so far - is President Donald Trump. If Republicans are upset about this, they have only themselves to blame. This is what happens when you scare white people too frequently. Matt Taibbi has an excellent article in Rolling Stone on Trump and our current sick reality show known as American politics. I recommend reading it at least for the laughs.
"(Cruz)'s against everything all at once. Welfare! Corporations! Special Interests! Government! The Establishment! He's that escort who'll be into whatever you want, for an hour".
Taibbi gets a lot right in this analysis. The American Empire is revealed to be just a big high school. Many view Trump as the senior class bully, or BMOC, pretty much the same. We have to be careful here, though. If you are going to be a bully and are humorless, then you're just a goon, and everyone is afraid of you. You have to be funny, and occasionally appear to be merciful, in order to be an effective popular bully. Trump is a funny guy. Trump knows reality TV. Trump understands that a TV Tard Nation deserves a TV Tard President, and he can deliver on that.

At this stage, now probably our 139th year of empire (our nation has always had aspirations, because we are England v2.0, or Rome v5.3, but I'm guessing the empire started with the end of Reconstruction, and the closing of the frontier around 1877), is it any surprise that we have the politics we have?

We had our Julius Caesar in Dallas 1963, so maybe it's time for Caligula.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Clunky Kluge-riddled Dreams

I had a dream last night that I had a contest of supremacy with a group of pirates. We battled on a hockey rink, with household objects as weapons. I prevailed with a pair of scissors. Others did not do so well with less dangerous objects, like measuring tape and ironing boards and coat hangers.

We were all on ice skates, and the hockey rink was surrounded by fog, so maybe this was all a race memory of good times on the North Sea a thousand years ago. Although I was never much of a skater. I have to concentrate to skate backwards.

So, when I won the top dog position, the prize was to confront an even bigger crowd of pirates of Tripoli on the Mediterranean Sea. I made a speech. I said "I go now as your chosen wolf. I have no doubt that I will die. I am not afraid to die, but I would more gladly die if you choose to join me, and together we win the Mediterranean!" I was greeted with a manly roar, and then I woke up.

Not exactly Henry V, but I felt pretty good about it. The idea of challenging the pirates of Tripoli with household items and prevailing made me feel pretty good about myself. Not sure why. Why the Tripoli pirates? Why a fog enshrouded hockey arena? Well, that, I think is a distant childhood memory of skating in the fog, which is just so fucking cool.

Really don't know what the heck goes on with dreams. For sure the brain processes events from the prior day, but what a weird and metaphorical way to do it. There are some who believe that dream realms are actually other realms. If the universe is infinite and unbounded, then I would say the existence of dream realms is a certainty. Because, you know, infinity.

Regardless, I had a friend who was checking out the waxes for the Smoketaker. He said my work was Thomas Hart Benton meets HR Giger. I think I got Hart's rubbery figures down, but not so much Giger's bodily transgressions and oral sexuality. I suppose he meant biomechanoid aspects, but even then, I don't really pursue that to any serious degree. My stuff is more about ordinary folks forced through circumstance or profession to awkwardly or clumsily deal with biomechanical prostheses.

Interesting, despite at least a solid million years of tool use, how maladroit we are sometimes with technology. You'd figure it would be seamless, and I suppose it is once you just quit thinking and start doing, but I'm amazed how even the most accomplished technologist can occasionally come across as if he or she has never seen a tool in their life.

You know, the all thumbs, the ham-handed, the butterfingered, the graceless and inept performances that we beach apes are occasionally prone to. And it happens not just with objects, but with ideas. We apprehend ideas that same as we do objects after all, with the exact same sensory and mental processes.

It's how we are equipped. We grasp a concept, we get a handle on things, we get a taste for meaning, we don't like the smell of it, we feel it's right, we see where you are going with it, we have a good ear for things.

So, I suppose, manipulating ideas, even though we've had at least a good solid million years doing it, can still display the same inept gracelessness that we occasionally display with objects.

Which, I suppose could explain these clunky dreams.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Defumigator -or- The Smoketaker

Another addition to the "Towards a Modern Arcanum" series.

So, here are the waxes for one piece I'm casting called "The Defumigator", although I also am considering "The Smoketaker". I'm casting them in three pieces and probably will not weld them together for ease of packaging and transport.

So, the Smokemakers I guess make smokes, and the Smoketaker follows them and takes up the excess smokes. That's the story.

Friday, February 19, 2016

War Baby

Guy at college had a creepy little baby doll mold in plaster. I made a few waxes for him, kept and modified one.

Played around with the plaster bandage mold of the balloons.

Slip cast porcelain into a mold, fired it and coated it with iron oxide.

Also, a wax.

I show you a wax figure when I am done with it. Part of the Modern Arcanum series.

This wax was supposed to be finished and cast in time to submit at the end of the month it for a show.

Ain't gonna happen.

That operation in August has me slow and retarded. I'm having a hard time getting things done. Hope my brain gets up to speed soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers paperback jacket art by Paul Lehr
Every three or four years, I'll pick up a book from the library on the Great Pacific War, that portion of WWII that involves Japan. I do it for a number of reasons, but I suppose one reason it is a way to live a part of my father's life vicariously. He served in the latter part of the war on a LST, or, in Navy parlance, Large Slow Target.

The book I'm reading now is The Conquering Tide by Ian W. Toll. It's a good book, and I find myself picking it up and reading it over all the many other things I really ought to be doing. I'm currently up to the amphibious invasion of Kwajalien in the Marshall Islands, so that would be January of 1944, which is 72 years ago. There is still a year and a half of unadulterated viscousness still to go through before we bomb the crap out of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (after we bomb the crap out of the rest of Nippon).

I'm constantly reminded throughout of how much Robert A Heinlein stole took the whole island-hopping-across-the-vast-Pacific campaign and turned it whole cloth into the novel Starship Troopers.

The Japs are bugs, vermin, aliens. Even the Korean slave labor are referred to by our Marines as 'termites'. Why, there is even an ultimate weapon at the end of the novel that fills in for the a-bomb: the Nova bomb, that "can crack planets like eggs".

The one thing that Heinlein doesn't have (and this is actually rather distinctive of the SF genre running well into the '70s at least) is the idea of modern warfare. It's all, well, basically, 17th century warfare. Ships and men. Ships and men. From Star Trek to Star Wars, its all sailing ships pummeling each other, and armies of men in formation pummeling each other. Classic cutting edge Napoleonic stuff, but not where our real wars have taken us. So why the reactionary romanticism? Well, it's an easier plot, with black and white characters.

What does Heinlein leave out from the Pacific War? Well, air power for sure. Radar, radio, and the inevitable command and control situation that appeared aboard carriers. And logistics. Holy shit. Logistics. You had more than just an immense baggage train of supplies behind the American Navy. Logistics went scientific. But who wants to watch the service machinations in Star Wars? Who wants to watch rooms full of women solving simultaneous linear equations, optimizing Markov chain decisions, with reams of paper at wooden desks? They barely made a tolerable historically inaccurate movie about just the code-breaking aspect in The Imitation Game, which was just an awful, manipulative ham-handed movie.

So, we got ships and mechanically enhanced men in the 22nd century, zooming around the galaxy, but it's still the 17th century at least. How would Heinlein include the arms race of air power (planes and their platforms, and their service and support ships), and air defense (anti-aircraft, radar, and command and control)? The only thing Heinlein could have done would have been highly unscientific.

He would have to include angels and demons, ghosts and angry spirits in his novel. That's what air power was back then. Avenging angels from on high, or demons harassing men below. Ghosts (as the Japs did with night attacks) invisible until they strike. There is no corresponding allegorical agent Heinlein could have used. Except one which he would found have unpalatable. Some kind of trans-human superhero.

Air power. One thing that struck me in the Conquering Tide was an account of a pilot who was shot up, forced to parachute into the water, resigned to being at sea for days or weeks, but instead picked up by a destroyer and returned to his carrier in time for lunch.

Let's walk through this. He's flying a Grumman F6F Hellcat, an incredible machine compared to the flimsy planes prior to WWII. It's armored, it's powerful, it's deadly.

It's a monster.

And he pilots this mechanical monster until he is shot down by another mechanical monster. And then he rescued by a still more enormous mechanical monster, and delivered back to his still even more enormous mechanical mother monster, to be fed like a pupa until his next monster hatches out of the bowels of his metal mom and he climbs in and pilots that some more.

And now I wonder, is the 17th century model when mechas got started? Or do we go all the way back to the 6th century BC, Art of War stuff? Or before? Mechas, of course, are giant anthropomorphic robots piloted by people. Usually one person pilots it, but there may be more servicing an even larger  mecha. It's the juggernaut. The Nautilus with Captain Nemo. A sailing ship, with a hierarchy of men crewing it as one, is a holistic monster. Ships predate nation states and city states, but that nautical first instance seems to be the model. Which, via the mecha, gets us to Heinlein's trooper in powered and armed exoskeleton suits.

But no real monsters. I wonder if this is part of the reason I make the art I make. I know I talk about monsters a lot, but we sure do seem determined to create them. Almost a compulsion.

Bees make honey.
Ants make roads.
Men make monsters.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cast Glass Panels based upon "The Stockmen"

So, the panels are done and I'm moving on. On to new panels. Going to submit these to a show, I think.

Here's the bronze the panels are based upon:

Here are the panels. "Stockmen Triptych"

"Stockmen Diptych"

"Stockmen Monotych"

I crack this one with a hammer while getting the investment off.

That was annoying.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bob the dog

People will tell you about the Great Leap Forward, the anthropological and archaeological supposition that human culture got much more sophisticated some 40,000 years ago. A lot of them will tell you it was the development of language that caused it.

Oh, bullshit.

It was our partnership with wolves that did it. The domestication of the wolf into dog, creating a coevolutionary symbiotic species partnership, is what created lots of leisure time. (Not to mention helping us domesticate herd animals). As a result, with more time on our hands, we could create art and music and dance and all the other stuff they figure was cultural sophistication.

But it was dogs. Hands down, best explanation for the Great Leap Forward.

My brother had to put his dog down. He's sad about it, but as one friend put it gently, "Bob had it coming".

That's true. Boston terriers live pretty long as dogs go, and Bob, despite problems, had pushed the envelop pretty seriously.

I drank a toast to Bob last night. I toasted him, then I roasted him.

He was an ugly dog, a bug-eyed little shrimp. Bob the dog had the worst farts that are humanly possible. Bob the dog stretched the definition of symbiosis to the breaking point. Never was there a more worthless dog. He snored like a freight train. He overheated easily, what with that short snout. So, you'd wind him up, get him chasing stuff, and within a minute he's in danger of brain damage from overheating. I'm pretty sure Bob was brain damaged.

Bob the dog  was also called Robert the canine. He knew he had two names. I called him Robert the canine. Whenever anyone else said Robert the canine, he would look around for Uncle John. "Uncle John's here?"

I would greet him and say "Hello my friend! Yes, yes! You are a fine fellow!", and he was a fine fellow.

Fare thee well, Bob. Hie thee to the Dog Star.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Some Different Stuff

My weekend boss, Newman, has been doing some really fantastic materials investigations using balloons and fiberglass resin. He constrains a balloon with various bands, like, rubber bands, cable ties, etc. He then fills the balloons with fiberglass resin or a two-part urethane plastic, rolls them to get the material filmed over the inside of the balloon, then they cure, and he removes the balloon.

His ultimate goal is 8 foot weather balloons squeezed and constrained into interesting shapes, but his first investigations are proof of concept. You end up with these rather amazing looking hollow amber surfaces, sometimes. Sometimes the balloon pops during curing, and then it is a mess.

Some of the forms he made, kind of boobs and butts, and bondage themes to them, are just too cool not to steal.

So, like Picasso, I stole.

I did these today. Balloons partially inflated and bound with rubber bands and cable ties. They were spray painted with primer, then red, then flat black. I photographed them before I put surgical bandage on them to see if I could get a mold of them.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Up To My Ass In Gators and Sawgrass

My student aide greeted me this morning with "Hello, loser".

That wasn't very nice. Inwardly though, I was quite pleased. It's always nice to take these timid little fragile baby birds and get them toughened up enough to leave the nest. When I get shit back from my students, I know I'm doing a good job. And that's just one of my jobs.

I got a twenty year plan. Not that I think I'm gonna die in 2036, just that I figure I've at least twenty years left of a semi-vigorous and productive old age. I'm assuming I've got probably at most 20 years to get shit done the way I want it done.

(I'm figuring 2038 is when I die, and that's sounds like a good year. Providing, of course the 2020s don't suck the way they sure look like they will, in which case there goes the twenty year plan).

Had this been one hundred years ago, the year 1916, I'd have been dead three years on. Death by "the stone". Kidneys all swolled up and failed in a months-long lingering horrible kind of death by internal poisoning and drowning. That puts a necessary perspective and focus on things, and thus the need for things like twenty year plans.

Not that I have a plan. I'm winging it as I go. It's more a realization that I need to quit dicking around and start to drill down on shit.  What is it I want to do? Because, here's the other thing, I don't have time for anything! I don't understand how people get the time to read all the books and articles, watch all the TV, movies, stage plays (like Hamilton) and such that they do.

I would love to do all stuff, but the next thing I know, it's the next day and I've accomplished only (n/2) - 1 of the n things I had to do.

I mean, part of the reason for having the plan is time management. And apparently, what I'm finding out is worrying about technique is not part of the plan.

I'm working on a semi-commission in cast glass. (Semi- because the client may choose to revoke the commission. He wanted a cast glass version of the Stockmen, and I said, no can do. I can make a bas relief of it, and then said, no I can't, but I can do separate glass panels that are kind of based upon the Stockmen theme. Which makes me think I should do a cast glass comic strip with cast glass panels... which I don't have the freaking time to explore. Or maybe I do).
The Stockmen
Now, there are techniques for casting glass. I've been told many times to wet pack an investment mold with glass. That's how it's done. I have neither the time nor the patience to do that, so I just dry pack 'em. As a result, I have trouble coloring within the lines. Well, actually, I am evolving techniques of dry packing for more precise borders, but the fact of the matter is the technique is not a real high priority.

So, have a look:

Kind of sloppy looking, but no one else seems to mind. I suppose other glass casters might shake their heads at this, but... I'm really more concerned with presentation. I like a certain amount of back lighting, but I think pieces work better without the back lighting.

An inconsistency, given that glass is supposed to be about color and light and translucency.

You know I'm just gonna keep on plugging at it.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Humans are nice by default?

There's an old joke about a viking whose buddies go to meet him at the local drinking lodge, or at somebody's long house or some such place where feasting and drinking is going on.

The friends walk into the place, and everyone in the place is dead. It's just blood and guts and severed limbs all over the floor and walls, and the viking is standing in the middle of it all holding his dripping broadsword.

And they go "What the hell happened here"?

The viking replies "This guy (holding up a severed head) insulted me, and I didn't want to embarrass him in front of all his friends".

I appreciate the joke, having been inculcated in a culture of quiet psychopathy. Norwegians are quiet peoples who are taught not to brag. This kind of limits responses when it comes to bluster and the whole threat escalation thing. It basically goes from zero to slaughter with nothing in between*. This is not to say that northrons are unique in basic savagery, just that other cultures have come up with ways  that don't automatically result in mass homicide as the only solution to life's little problems.

Take for example, Black Jesus:

(Yes, that's the venerable Keith David as Reverend Otis of the Church of Jesus Christ in Compton humiliating Black Jesus in front of the congregation. I love the talent that has been attracted to this series).  First off, Vic bullies Black Jesus with the funny "aboriginal conman" opening line, and then Reverend Otis commences to savage Black Jesus with funny insults. And Black Jesus just takes it and leaves.

Why doesn't the Son of God kick righteous ass?

Now, of course, Black Jesus has to be a little constrained and do the turn the other cheek bullshit, but I can't help but think that reason he doesn't respond to these threat displays is 1) he knows he's in the right and things are going to work out in the end, and 2) humans are fundamentally nice and would prefer, if at possible, to avoid conflict even in conflict situations.

I'm gonna submit, on the basis of watching lots of episodes of Nature, that actually, most animals would prefer to be nice. It's just the path of least resistance. Conflict requires a lot of time and energy, and if it can be avoided, or deflected through deceptive threat displays, so much the better.

It doesn't always work that way, but advantages can be gained by other means. There was an episode of Nature where an orphaned monkey was adopted by another species of capuchins. The head capuchin monkey would bully the orphan. The orphan, twice of the size of the head monkey, could easily have beat it down, but did not. Why? Well, the orphan lived with other monkeys too. They liked him, sympathized with him, and would undoubtedly fear him if he wiped the jungle floor with the head capuchin monkey.

Alright so maybe nice is wrong word. How about appearing nice? If we view social interactions as patterns of mutual abuse rather than of a shared utility, appearing nice has some decidedly distinct advantages.

Beat downs can be useful. I remember once in college, there was a boxing craze when the first Rocky movie came out. The study lounge on the dorm floor was turned into a boxing ring for awhile. I was in there one day, and two football players decided to do some practice sparring. After the one hulking bruiser had pummeled his buddy into submission, the buddy left and it was just me and the lineman in the lounge. He asked if I wanted to go a few rounds, and I said "Sure why not". It wasn't like the fight scene in Cool Hand Luke where George Kennedy demolishes Paul Newman, but I went along long enough to end up with a split lip and a slightly puffy face. (It was an interesting intellectual exercise as to how to go about dealing with someone who outclasses you in every department of physicality. I didn't come up with general solutions, but it did give me the insight that there are other options besides brute force and frontal assaults).

There was no animosity between us prior to this, but we got along a lot better afterwards, and hippy boy me got lot less shit from the other football players on the floor.

Some were actually nice to me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pussy Riot is back

Even conservative British economic journals like Pussy Riot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

We Deserve A Better Holiday

I'm sorry but Groundhog Day is just so lame. It's positioned in the lamest time of the year, the Blech Zone, the Meh Zone. It's just basic survival time. No fun. No sun. Weather sucks, and has sucked for awhile, and won't get better. And then they throw this lame fucking holiday in like... a dollop of beef lard to oatmeal porridge. Like a desiccated beet added to turnip stew. Yay!

You can't drink to Groundhog Day. There is no partying. The partying that passes for partying? Is early morning partying. I'm sorry, but who wants to get up early in the morning and not have any fun? Farmers maybe. Not people who want to get wild. People who need to get loose and some fun. People who need a little tropical vacation about this time.

So, here's my proposal, we reimagine Yule. Yeah, I know Yule traditionally happens around Christmas, but pagan Yule? They partied until mid-January. So, we reboot Yule to take place the last weekend of January. We get Monday off. Scratch that. We get Monday and Tuesday off. That way, you get to party on Monday night. Who parties on Monday night? Nobody! The Japs, maybe, people in French Polynesia or the Maldives, maybe, but honestly, realistically? Nobody except the unemployed get to party on Monday night.

So, look the whole idea of holiday partying goes probably back all the way to Ice Age. Here you are, shortest day of the year, longest night of the year, you got dire wolves and cave hyenas the size of grizzlies prowling at the edge of your fire. Maybe toss a pinhead Zika baby out into the dark to placate them, but otherwise, if you make it the next day, it's party city for as long as the booze lasts, or the shrooms, or the herbs or whatever it was they did. And generally that lasted well into the time where you started to notice the sun was out a lot longer and spring was on its way.

So that's what we need.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Last Businessman In Office was Carter. Before him, Hoover.

Bruce Rauner ran on a pledge to "Shake up Springfield". Anyone who has been there knows it is a shithole. Why would you want to shake up a shithole? Wouldn't it get splatter everywhere? Wouldn't people say, "Hey, hey! Careful shaking up that shithole there! At least put the cover on before you do that!!"

But no. Rauner didn't put a cover on it. Actually, if you look at the past year, Rauner hasn't shaken shim because he hasn't done shit, which is what was predicted to happen when "My way or the highway" type of braying ass business executive barges in to govern.

Another phrase would be "Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way!"... which ignores the 4th possibility of "Fuck you". Which, with his alternating drama queen and strong arm tactics, is the exactly the reaction Rauner got. Nothing been done about the execrable fiscal conditions in the state of Illinios. Sure, you can blame Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullterton as well (and honestly, I'd love to ship them, plus Rauner, plus the whole reptile state legislature that is responsible for this mess to the deepest lead-meltingest portion of the planet Venus).

It's true that Rauner didn't create the mess, but so far, with his insistence on passing anti-labor/pro-business laws that benefit no one but the rich, he's done nothing to help. (I called it. I said that things would suck under Rauner, and they do).

The state of Illinois has no budget. But they keep on spending, and  a year from now the incurred debt is going to be completely ridiculous. Which means they either raise taxes, or cut services.

Rauner has no problem with this. So far, the only people that are suffering are the poor. Rauner knows Republicans don't give a shit about the poor, and the poor, knowing that Republicans don't give a shit about them, have put pressure on the Democrats to do something about the gloom and doom budget woes: cuts to public funding, cuts to public services, cuts to basic survival needs in some cases.

Fuck 'em. Says Rauner. Fuck the poor. Fuck working families. Fuck anyone who is sucker enough to pay more than 4.6% of his income in state taxes. As governor, I represent the REAL people. Citizens United made clear who the real people are. If your not a corporate entity, you don't fucking count.