Tuesday, June 21, 2011

kabuki Crow

Crow here. Favorable trade winds have carried me home from places further away than you'd easily believe. Before returning to susan's castle in the sky (and chasing some grungy pigeons off her balcony on the way in) I made a stopover in Japan for a visit with some old friends.

In Japan dragons have always been associated with the power of the sea. In March we witnessed the awesome destruction caused by a tsunami after a major earthquake. The results of that were bad enough but before any of us could really comprehend the destruction, the events at Fukushima took the spotlight position. Some may have wondered why the nuclear reactors were placed right next to the sea but in reality that's not unusual at all.

During normal operations older nuclear power plants require approximately 15,000 gallons of water per minute to keep the radioactive cores cool. Once the chain reaction begins it never really stops - not in anything close to the possible lifetime of any species currently living on Earth. It would have been nice if the scientists who first developed nuclear power had decided to look for a way to neutralize radioactivity (something that defies the laws of physics) before countries actually started using them as a means of cheap power. Did you know there are more than 440 nuclear plants currently in use and most of them have more than one reactor? The largest percentage of them are also more than 25 years old which makes it extra worrisome when you think of nuclear facilities as old tech. susan's electric toothbrush is probably smarter than the systems installed several decades ago ('You missed a spot', it cheerfully informs her.) Should I even mention that nuclear power plants produce tons of radioactive waste that would require safe and secure storage guaranteed to last at least 10,000 years? Nobody anywhere wants the stuff buried nearby.

Since people are often short sighted and greedy, it seems quite likely that when nuclear power plant operators have to decide between profit and maintenance it doesn't take much guessing to know which one they'll generally choose. Human beings tend to believe only in dangers they can see. If nuclear power plants spawned real dragons instead of particles that kill either fast or slow then everyone would demand they be shut down immediately.

Nuclear power is deadly to children and all living beings. Remember that the sun will always shine and the wind will always blow somewhere.

Now I'm off to have a snifter of brandy and a taste of the fine fruitcake susan just carried in on my favorite antique silver salver.


This is the painting I finished just as Crow arrived home. Please don't give me too much credit for the dragon since much is owed to the famous Japanese print artists Hokusai and Hiroshige. The mistakes, including weird color combinations, are all mine.

ps: The sign over the gate is the best copy I could make of the 'three non-nuclear principles' kanji which promised that Japan would not possess, manufacture, or introduce nuclear weapons. If only they'd passed on the rest.


jams o donnell said...

Great painting Susan. It is always a wonder that Crow gets to travel so far and wide!

Fission power comes with an awful price as we see. I shudder to think what will come to pass down the years.

Ol'Buzzard said...

Nuclear plants are only profitable to run with government subsidy - without the subsidy they can not pay for themselves - and the price for maintenance continues for eons.

Love all art Japanese
The Ol'Buzzard

Seraphine said...

you always amaze and delight with your art, susan. i love th dragon, the crow and the girl with the fans. the girl looks like she is guiding an airship into a landing. the fans also remind me of crow's wings. or maybe cow and the girl are tying to wave away the draon's sulphery breath...

and crow, you are wise beyond your ears. i was persuaded that nuclear energy was "safe" in the sense it was better than petroleum-based fuels but the events in japan have shown this is not true. when something goes wrong (inevitably something seems to always go wrong, doesn't it?), the destructive value is just too great. Gemany is 100% correct to close down their entire nuclear power system because of te risk.
here too in california, we have nuclear plants built next to the ocean--and we too share the risk of eartquakes and tsunamis. add in cyber hacking, terrorism and "unexpected event" risk, the cost of allowing these plants to continue is unacceptable.
if germany can prosper without nuclear enery, so can california. i wish we had the same political will to make the tough decisions to secure our future.
welcome home crow.

marja-leena said...

Gorgeous painting, Susan, love the Japanese influences! You and Crow are right on the mark with this nuclear situation we humans have gotten ourselves into, that is not you and I, but governments and corporations. Seraphine speaks for me re Germany. I'm shocked that Finland continues to build more nuclear power plants, but they are building huge concrete underground storage for the waste, yet I still don't trust it. They are very worried by Russia's aging plants near their borders.

Randal Graves said...

The sun will always shine and the wind will always blow? Yeah, until malicious, terraforming reptiloids from the planet Xeuchtbatygh invade. Now who's the shortsighted one!

Nancy said...

I just love this painting! Wow, as usual you talent is clear. I have to agree with the power plants. The one in Kansas is worrisome with the river flooding...

linda said...

you lament your not being a 'quick' painter but you should not worry as this is brilliant and tells the story very poignantly, if it is studied well...the kanji painted over the bridge is an extraordinary touch.

i 'think' i see the look of worry on the little girl's face and it broke my heart... you have conveyed the emotion of the terrible events in Japan so perfectly....even old dragon is looking exhausted to my eyes...and crow is quite exasperated with the world after all he's seen, methinks.

i will be interested to read your comments... of all the countries, one would think that Japan would be the placard carrier for anti-nuclear energy... it's sad karma, one i will never understand, earthquake, tsunami and then the plants melting before the world's ADD'd eyes, that too quickly moved onto a happier story. now one has to really search to find out what IS going on over there and i hear that the entire tea crop of Japan is tainted...no tea in Japan from Japanese soils.. almost wrote souls there but then again, maybe that is more appropriate.

so sad, i am depressed so pay me no mind, my dear...love the fans she is holding-hell, i love everything about this work of art. xxxxxxxooooooo

susan said...

jams - Crow has some magical abilities not always available to the rest of us.

Never in human history has a government or system lasted long enough to deal with something of this nature. It is very scary.

ol'buzzard - You're absolutely right and no insurance company will cover the losses either.

The Japanese have a very elegant and minimal style.

sera - I'm delighted you like it so much and that you look so closely.

Just before the events at Fukushima we'd watched a documentary about Chernobyl. The danger is so extreme they really should all be shut down. Not only do accidents always happen, never mind the other risks you mentioned, but things wear out. Wires rust, pipes break, containment leaks, and cement cracks. People in Germany spent a lot of time and energy opposing nuclear power and then the events in Japan kicked the movement into high gear. I wish that could happen here, there, and everywhere.

marja-leena - There were lots of anti-nuclear protests for decades in the US and no new power plants have been built there since 1974. To think the 100+ that are already there are that old is very creepy. If I lived in Finland I'd be worried too but it's got to the point it doesn't matter where we live if a few of them fail.

I'm happy you liked the painting :-)

randal - There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. …

nancy - Yes, a lot of the news has been blocked but the plant in Nebraska is now on an island. There was a fire in an electrical system that knocked out power to the water pumps last Tuesday. It's madness.

linda - Well, it would be nice if I could do more faster but sometimes (as you well know) they take a lot of thought and planning. I was going to put a Hiroshige wave in the background but it seemed in terrible taste. The gate was better and gave me the chance to find some anti-nuc kanji.

I think the whole painting got somewhat darker than I'd originally intended it to be and I came very close to tearing it up the day before I went ahead and finished it. From what I've read TEPCO and the Japanese government have tended to conspire to get poor fishing communities to agree to nuclear plants by offering new schools, hospitals, and general social improvements. Many people there have been against it since WWII but things like that don't come up for a general vote. If the Japanese can't run them safely and efficiently, what hope for the rest?

Don't be depressed. I didn't write it to be depressing but to add my small voice to the issue. Sometimes that's all we can do. I'm so glad you love the painting.

Steve Emery said...

I love this painting - the dragon, the kabuki outfit, the girl and fans, the gate and message... I particularly like the way the dragon's scales are handled, and the lovely claws.

As for nuclear power... I will never understand why we did it. Of course the benefits go beyond power, to medical uses of radiation and radioactive isotopes, etc. - but the cost is so outrageously high, and so much of that cost is still in our future. A LONG future...

Liberality said...

very nice artwork susan. your sense of humor shines through.

crow is right about the dangers of nuclear power. he is a wise old bird for sure :)

okjimm said...

//The mistakes, including weird color combinations, are all mine.//

Boy&Howdy... I wish I could make mistakes like that!

See.... you should be rich and famous, in my opinion... and when you are... you will have to buy me a beer. I doan hand out compliments just to be a swell guy...!!

susan said...

steve - I'm happy you've been to visit and enjoyed seeing this one too. I got a bit irritated with some elements near the end but I'm glad I kept it.

Damn nukes are what could be referred to as a Pyhrric victory.

liberality - I'm glad you noticed that. You're right we're a very silly species compared to corvids.

okjimm - Oh, I make other mistakes too.. quite a lot of them sometimes.

It would be nice to be just rich enough to stop by Oshkosh to buy you a beer. Otherwise, can I interest you in a couple of loonies once the mail strike ends?

thatgirl said...

these are wonderful. Having little in the way of evocative drawing ability and all, I love seeing how amazing other people's work is!

Spadoman said...

It's a wonderful painting, and no amount of humility or criticism on your part will make me think otherwise!
As for the nukes, well, it's here. it happened. Chernobyl, Three mile island. I have an Elder friend that just died of three kinds of cancer. He lived within eyesight of the Prarie Island Nuclear Facility near Red Wing, MN, (On the Prairie Island Indian Reservation). We'd go there for Sweat Lodge ceremony on Saturday evenings. Imagine, praying in the traditional lodge under the watchful eye of the cooling towers of modern day technology!
Good to hear from you Crow. We'll have to share a remy one of these days. Maybe you could give susan a few ideas about a selkie mermaid for my tattoo.


gfid said...

i know there's something important about how many toes a dragon has.... but can't recall.... i've given up on the useless wireless stick and now have a landline for internet / wireless access @ home. so i'm cruisin' this morning.... procrastinating really as, now that i have the connection, i have to set up my home office for real. got a backlog of bookkeeping to do. the home office ALSO will contain my art supplies, and a flat surface to doodle on. don't give up on me; you inspire me to greater things. stay warm and dry.

i'm not even going to comment on the whole nuclear thing. i'm too tired and grumpy to be anything but nasty about it. the picture of Crow and friends makes me think of the ancient tradition of Japanese theatre, or twirling round a dance floor with Crow as partner. love his topknot.

gfid said...

how many toes does a dragon have.... borrowed from an online 'expert' who i've already forgotten how to connect with......

China vs Japan

The Chinese tradition states that dragons originated in China with five toes. As they travelled abroad they lost more toes the further they went from home. This is why Oriental dragons never reached the West - they would have run out of toes.

The Japanese tradition has a similar story that differs in one important respect: dragons originated in Japan. In this version of the legend, dragons grew more toes as they travelled further from home. Onve they reached five toes they found it difficult to walk which is why they never reached the West.

Although this is the generally accepted toe count, some sources claim that in China only the Imperial Dragon actually had the full five toes and other Chinese dragons had just four.

susan said...

thatgirl - Thanks for returning the visit. Glad you like the picture. You're both funny and a very talented photographer so I'll definitely put you on my list for more visits.

spadoman - That's so sad about your friend. One thing that really annoys me about the nuclear regulatory agencies worldwide is the only cancer they count as being caused by radiation is the thyroid kind immediately after an 'event'. They always show pictures of those damn towers next to pristine fields of flowers.

Thanks for your nice comments about the painting. I'm still thinking about the Selkie.

gfid - That's great news you finally have full connection at home. I know it was a big decision to make but I think internet connection is the main one for getting any kind of real news as well as fun and enjoyment. Not that I facebook or anything or I'd never get anything done at all.

So my three toed dragon must be on his way from China or returning to Japan. I'll have to ask Crow what language he spoke :-)

Lisa said...

I love this! The expressions, the colors, the costumes, the forms.

When I'm done screaming about how wonderful this painting is, I'll come back and comment on what you had to say.

Anonymous said...

Like the new piece very much. Essay is quite thought provoking. I find it difficult to adjust to the evidence that a good portion of my fellow species aren't "long-term" thinkers.

Gina said...

I was here and I love the painting! We have one decomissioned nuke a few miles west and one even closer in Vernon, VT. It's one of the oldest in the U.S. and we are downwind from it, about 20 miles. I would write more but I need to attend to Mother.


Gina said...

P.S. Please call me Gina, now! :-)

susan said...

lisa - I guess that means you like it. Cool.

noodleepoodlee - Many thanks. It's a mindset that's been advocated by people who's main interest is short term profit.

gina - Hah! That's much easier than typing out your blog name. The closest one to us built in Canada is on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick but when you look at all of them on a world map nobody is safely far enough away.

Happy day with your Mother :-)