Tuesday, September 23, 2014

a little turbulence

A year or so ago I posted some pencil sketches under the titles of storyboarding this and that. What I've been up to just recently has been a process of refining and actually turning some of those ideas into watercolor paintings. The funny thing is, other than a vague concept, I don't actually have much of a story to draw from. So what I'll do is paint the pictures and see where they lead. This is one.

Other than the fact these images are kind of compelling in themselves, the main reason I've decided to work on finishing some of them now is to allow myself to get comfortable with using full spectrum color again. Paintings done just well enough to provide something entertaining to look at before a blog post have made me lazy. Besides, some practice is essential before I begin work on that real story illustration project I mentioned earlier this month.

If you're in the mood to read something both interesting and relevant to the political, financial, and social turbulence we're currently exposed to every time we get out of bed - those of us who are lucky enough to have beds and roofs to cover them, that is - I highly recommend the recent articles on Golem XIV under the title, The Next Crisis. The articles are long but his points are valid for anyone who believes, or suspects, as I do, that partisan politics are simply another method used by the rich and powerful to divide and so conquer the rest of us. His premise is as follows:

1) The Over Class must retain and consolidate their control over the global system of debt.

2) The power to regulate must be taken from nations and effectively controlled by corporations.

3) Professionalize governance. Democracy can be and must be neutered, and an effective way of doing this is to insist that amateur, elected officials MUST take the advice of professional (read corporate) advisors. Expand current law to enforce this.

4) The financial system badly needs un-encumbered ‘assets’ to feed the debt issuing system. A new way must be found to prise sovereign assets from public ownership. Such a new way is suggested.

5) In order to facilitate the political changes necessary, the public mind-set must be changed. National Treasures such as the NHS in Britain must be re-branded as evil State Monopolies. Choose your own examples.

6) Effective ways must be found to convince people that democratic rule is no longer sufficient to protect them.

7) An alternative to Democracy must be introduced and praised. 

Okay, if you've read the above (or even have bookmarked the website for later), now it's time for the uplifting and entertaining part of the post - this time a short video piece about the great benefits of re-introducing carnivores to the US. In the past couple of weeks I read again two of Jack London's most famous stories: The Call of the Wild and White Fang. Who wouldn't prefer a real wolf to the one who wears a hand made suit and a $50k watch?

I hope you've excused George Monbiot for his somewhat overly excited presentation.

Monday, September 15, 2014

post modern irony with Crow

me: Anything interesting in the mail today?

Crow: Not really.
Here's a 'You're not covering the cost of all these mailings' charity request.
You got a 'You're not attractive enough' women's magazine with an article on swimsuits that minimize all your bodily flaws.
Here are some 'You're not stylish enough or ostentatious enough' catalogs - and coincidentally, an invitation to go deeper into debt from a credit card company.
And here's a news magazine to identify the trend of the week you're missing.

me: Yikes! Why do I get the feeling that society is trying to make us discontented with everything about who we are?

Crow: I suppose if people thought about real issues and needs instead of manufactured desires, the economy would collapse and we'd have total anarchy.

me: So pitching this junk would make me some kind of terrorist, eh?

Crow: Yes, it's your patriotic duty to buy distractions from a simple life. *

* Our conversation is a slightly revised version of one between Calvin's (of Calvin and Hobbes) beleaguered parents in 1994. It ends with this:

Calvin: Hey, Mom and Dad! I just saw a bunch of products on TV that I didn't know existed, but I desperately need!

It would appear things haven't changed much, but for the fact all this arrives online too :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

other thoughts - Alan Watts

Having recently rediscovered Alan Watts I'm wondering why he hasn't always been on my seriously Wise Person radar. The book itself is on my purchase list, but in the meanwhile I downloaded 'On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are'. Here is a story which he said was for children, but that doesn't really seem to be the case.

"There was never a time when the world began, because it goes round and round like a circle, and there is no place on a circle where it begins. Look at my watch, which tells the time; it goes round, and so the world repeats itself again and again. But just as the hour-hand of the watch goes up to twelve and down to six, so, too, there is day and night, waking and sleeping, living and dying, summer and winter. You can't have any one of these without the other, because you wouldn't be able to know what black is unless you had seen it side-by-side with white, or white unless side-by-side with black.

"In the same way, there are times when the world is, and times when it isn't, for if the world went on and on without rest for ever and ever, it would get horribly tired of itself. It comes and it goes. Now you see it; now you don't. So because it doesn't get tired of itself, it always comes back again after it disappears. It's like your breath: it goes in and out, in and out, and if you try to hold it in all the time you feel terrible. It's also like the game of hide-and-seek, because it's always fun to find new ways of hiding, and to seek for someone who doesn't always hide in the same place.

"God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

"Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that's the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do. He doesn't want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

"Of course, you must remember that God isn't shaped like a person. People have skins and there is always something outside our skins. If there weren't, we wouldn't know the difference between what is inside and outside our bodies. But God has no skin and no shape because there isn't any outside to him. The inside and the outside of God are the same. And though I have been talking about God as 'he' and not 'she,' God isn't a man or a woman. I didn't say 'it' because we usually say 'it' for things that aren't alive.

"God is the Self of the world, but you can't see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can't see your own eyes, and you certainly can't bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.

"You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn't really doing this to anyone but himself.
Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It's the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world." 

What the story contains is a description of the essence of Advaita.
What do you think?

Now for something different, or maybe it's not all that different - a man and his dog dancing:

I liked that :)

ps: The painting at the top is a quick watercolor sketch from a story (written by the daughter of a friend) that I'm in the process of attempting to illustrate.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

back to storyboarding

Okay, I'll admit I've been drawing again. I still have a story, hinted at in pencil sketches I posted a year ago, that seems to become clearer the more I draw. Life certainly would be simpler if the whole of it would just appear on paper or in text. I'm a terrible writer of children's stories because I hate imagining children in danger or distress. Goodness knows there's already enough of that in the news without me adding more. The problem, though, is that stories have to engage a reader's attention and that generally means conflict of some kind or other that needs to be remedied. So I continue to work on these pictures bit by bit  while the story, such as it is, unfolds. I'm thinking to paint them one after another once the line work's all done. Then again, they're interesting enough on their own that I may just start painting them and pass on the story altogether. Time will tell.

Besides, the competition for attention has become pretty intense. It’s amazing just how much we are bombarded by the media – or perhaps allow ourselves to be bombarded is the correct way of saying it. Until something like this animation by Cesar Cepeda is placed under our noses it is easy to imagine that it isn’t too much and that we control it.

The Control from cesar cepeda on Vimeo.

Anyone for a good book? 

Monday, August 25, 2014

candy colored park

While our favorite park in Halifax is Point Pleasant, the large multi-pathed and semi-wild woodland that overlooks the harbor, the city does have a very rare (in North America) formal Victorian public garden at its heart. Even though we walk through its seventeen acres fairly often, I hardly ever remember to carry my camera. This time I did.

Known now as The Public Gardens, the park was established back in the 1830s and officially opened to visitors in 1867. It's home to several ornate fountains, a bandstand, statues, urns, a lake and a magnificent wrought iron fence and entrance. Also among their treasures are over 140 different species of trees, including unusual or rare species, some of them very old. There's an oak tree planted by King George VI and a new one next to it planted by Charles earlier this summer. So far that one doesn't have a plaque as I expect they're waiting to see if it survives a Nova Scotian winter or two. I'll wait a while before I take a picture.

As the aim of the urban Victorian garden was to display a great variety of plants in a confined space - confined, that is, by the standards of aristocratic country estates or the great landscape gardens of the eighteenth century - this one is very successful as you can see. I promise I didn't enhance any of these pictures. In fact, it's almost too much if it weren't for being quite nice to actually see.

The bandstand, renovated two years ago with a new copper roof, hosts concerts every Sunday afternoon in summer. Summer is most definitely the Season here. Happily for us locals the park has stayed open until the first big snowfall these past few years and reopens in April once the white stuff has safely gone.

The beautiful Victoria Fountain, built in honor of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, was renovated just a year ago. Sorry, but I missed the proud seagull that was standing on her head just a second before.

The Soldier's Fountain was built in honor of WWI veterans. There's a bench just under those tree boughs on the right where it's nice to sit on hot summer days

There's also a lovely, if rather small, lake in mid-center of the park - another nice place to sit and visit with the ducks and other birds that happen by. Yep, it's pretty tranquil around here all right. I just wish I could say the same for everywhere else, each in its own special way.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

seaside dancers

Here she is, my whirling sea dancer in a painting that was finished a few days ago. It was fun to do, but I seem to have a better time these days doing illustrations for stories written and unwritten. There will be more of those as time goes by.

Meanwhile I was reminded a few days ago about an artist who lives near the sea in Holland. I am awed and inspired by the work of Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who creates "sand beasts," kinetic sculptures that roam on the coast near his house in the Netherlands. He has been creating wind-walking examples of artificial life since 1990.

Constructed as intricate assemblages of piping, wood, and wing-like sails, Jansen’s creatures are constantly evolving and have become excellently adapted to their sandy beach environment. They sport legs, which “prove to be more efficient on sand than wheels . . . they don’t need to touch every inch of the ground along the way, as a wheel has to”.

You can always read more about him here or here, but the neatest thing of all is to spend a little time watching Theo Jansen's Sandbeesten cross a flat windswept beach. They would be an amazing sight to see in real life.

Compilation from Strandbeest on Vimeo.

Some of them, sensing when they're too close to the sea, back away while others can fasten themselves to the sand when the winds grow too strong.
Tell me that didn't make you smile.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

bored of the future with Crow

During an idle hour this afternoon Crow and I got involved in a conversation about a 'soon to arrive in all our homes' innovation - namely, the Internet of Things. Since we share a generally ironic point of view, as well as a low opinion of high tech devices, our exchange naturally enough turned to the topic of what could go wrong? Now if you're not au fait about this particular modernism (as I was not until Crow explained), it's the idea that all of our modern devices can - and soon will if the corporations whose sole intent is to mine us of the last of our cash get their way - talk and interact with one another.

Imagine the day when the 'Internet of Things' is established, you come home with your new 'smart toaster' and plug it into a kitchen outlet. The toaster boots up, finds the home Wi-Fi network and sends out a message to all the other smart devices registered to you. Your alarm clock, smart toothbrush, TV, smartphones, tablets, PCs, smart glasses, smart smoke detector, smart doors, smart clothes, smart fridge, smart washer and dryer and smart kitty litter box introduce themselves to the toaster, telling it what they're capable of doing. The toaster responds in kind and arranges to send and receive instructions from other devices.

Then comes the morning when you need lots of toast for guests. There's a lot of heat and a little smoke, and your smart smoke detector suspects a fire. So it sends out a message to the other devices saying, in effect, 'is anyone creating heat and smoke?' The toaster can respond the equivalent of: 'Yeah, it's me. No fire here and nothing to be alarmed about'. So the smoke alarm doesn't sound. But what if somebody else just set the curtains on fire?

It's even more likely our toaster will display a bread ad before we're allowed to make toast, suggesting to us we should get out of our jammies quickly, run down to the local grocery store and buy a specific loaf. Then as we're pressing down the lever it'll read our finger print to identify us, report that to a number of data warehouses for a plethora of governmental security agencies so they'll know down to the square foot where we are at all times and just how much toast we're consuming. That being said, I still find that my dumb toaster perfectly suits my needs, and see no reason for it to talk to any of my appliances. In fact I'd prefer not having to suspect my toaster and vacuum cleaner of colluding in some nefarious scheme while I'm out.

How soon they forget: