Monday, January 28, 2008

world's ugliest silk scarf contest *note below

It's winter grind time and a lot of things aren't looking so good if you look around outside the comfy home and friend parts of the world right now.

Taking a leaf from my generous friend Gary's playbook I thought I'd offer up a little contest of my own - if anyone's interested - which you may or may not be. It's not my greatest photograph of artwork ever (it's just too long to get in the frame)and it's also not the best thing I've ever made but it's pretty neat. I've worn it a couple of times and people notice especially since it's eight feet long. You can wear it or hang it on the wall or just wave it at people to scare them away.

So if you are interested the rule is: Tell a memorable winter story. The contest will end February 14th with a random draw - as is only fair in this chaotic world.

Gary, thanks so much. You do go to any lengths to satisfy your contestants, don't you? You really didn't have to go all the way to Mexico to find a suitable prize but I appreciate the effort.


Just to rule out any confusion your stories can be posted as comments right here. I'm not expecting long stories or very many of them either but I thought it would be a neat thing to do. If you want to post a winter story on your own blog (in order to kill both birds at once - not pc, I know, I know) please feel free to go ahead and let me know where to look. Does that seem fair?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

tattooed lady

Before it became popular for everyone, when only sailors and bikers wore tattooes, a friend suggested I send away for the equipment to set up as a tattoo artist. My answer was, 'Do you have any idea how much erasing I have to do before I'm satisfied with a drawing?' Anyway, I gave some thought to what would be a pretty tattoo design and this is the result.

Meanwhile, Groucho did the best summary of tattooed ladies with this song from 'At the Circus':

No, I never did get one although I've seen some very nice work and I'd have gone for a full Yakuza had I not been old enough to start considering wrinkle treatment by the time I first saw those.

la, la, laah
la, la, laah

Monday, January 21, 2008

results so far

When I got the scanner last week my first thought was to look at the old 35mm slides so I'd have a permanent computer record. Years ago there were no automatic photo systems that would adjust focus and light levels so what might look perfectly fine through the lens as you adjusted the setting could easily result in a fuzzy picture of your subject. This wasn't so bad with photos of people and places but ruinous to artwork. Maybe I needed new glasses. Anyway, I did get a few including this one which looks okay so long as its not enlarged. Painted in 1984, the girl in the grass appears to have rickets and I wonder why I didn't correct that thigh bone while I was drawing. Did I do it on purpose? If so, I can't remember the point and I hope the person who owns it now doesn't cringe at the thought of her standing up.

Another from the same time period is this one with, once again, the theme being running. Little do we usually know it but I've learned the faster we run from one thing the quicker we'll get to the next - ready or not. What I remember really being interested in was the idea of riding an ostrich and this was the only way I could envision anyone doing so.

I ran across an interesting analogy recently regarding atheism that simply asks you to imagine the kitchen appliances arguing about the existence of electricity. If the power goes off the discussion is over. I rarely buy the Shambala Sun magazine since there are too many reminders of how fashionable Buddhism has become in the west. The very idea of having my own perfect meditation supplies or altar with a plastic Buddha (or worse, one that was stolen from Tibet and sold by the Chinese) feels repugnant to me. Yet I do meditate and have been a long-time customer at the smorgasbord of spirituality.

Anyway, I bought the Jan issue and there was a very interesting discussion article called 'Mind, Matter and God' by Barry Boyce whose main point is that popular atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris have all fallen into a linguistic trap by taking on the fundamentalist elements of theistic religions and then allowing them to define the argument. Equating Pat Robertson with a Zen master is obviously going to result in a lot of confusion. Did Moses really part the Red Sea? Well, duh.. A more temperate approach is to have respect for and practice, if anyone so desires, the more contemplative aspects of whatever tradition suits us. I wanted to link to the article but since the magazine is still on the stands it's not available yet but I thought it interesting enough to mention.

Keep smiling and you'll look like :-) me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

american idle

Me and a couple of friends met up last weekend and really got our act together for the new season of American Idol. I mean we don't even care if the whole purpose of the show is to let couch potatoes feel superior. We played Guitar Hero all night long and we're ready to rock out. The neighbours moaned and banged on the ceiling but, hey, this is our chance to shine and we'll all be (ahem) 26 next year and too old to compete. We're goin for it!

After all, with Hillary and Barack starring in Fight Club Redux and nobody else allowed in the Democratic ring, why not just party down? Every four years they stage a huge bash where they pretend we'll decide who will be the next quasi-dictator. Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani? Save me. I'm going to focus on the important stuff - like getting my nails done and seeing if we can find a trendy designer who'll give us that really hot Hollywood look so we can be stars and be happy forever.

btw: They do allow trios, don't they?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

portrait of self

No, it's not a self portrait but a painting by one of my favorite artists - Rudi Hurzlmeier - who is German and not very well known in this country. Well, that doesn't come as a surprise in a place where most highschool students can't find Germany on a map. Anyway, he has a very wry vision and I thought I'd share my favorite of his paintings - which doesn't look exactly like me but it's close.

I took the plunge last night and ordered a flatbed scanner from Amazon after thinking about it for a couple of weeks. Like most everybody these days I have a lot of photographs so I thought with the devices allowing very high definition scans at much lower cost than professional places, why not get one and see what I can dig out of the albums and the old slide and photo suitcase? Some of them are pictures of paintings done more than ten years ago, and either sold or given away long ago, so it will be fun seeing what can be scavenged from the Kodachrome slides. It seems strange now remembering just how painstaking it was setting up the lights, the gray scale cards and balancing my 35mm camera on stacks of books because I couldn't afford a tripod.

The other thing I checked out was the Adobe Illustrator CS3. Well, you know Amazon.. If you like that, maybe you'd like this too. I actually wasted an hour thinking about it (truly, not for the first time) but it's just not for me since it's really all about advertising - cold and far too technical. I like hands-on art. I just do. I think sitting there with the piece of paper or canvas or whatever medium, is what artists are for. In fact, I believe art is sacred. It may not be quite as ancient as music but wasn't far behind. Cave paintings in Europe and Africa are understood to be 40,000 years old. Many more have been found in Australia and the Americas and all of them relate to our human tendency to celebrate the Divine Other - God, Life, Source, Infinity, Noumenon.. whatever the most fitting word seems to be. The essence is creative engagement with that which can't be described in words. Then again, it was really the churches that first got involved in art as advertising since midieval people couldn't read. Uh, oh.. that's the beginning of another very complex issue and one I'm not going get involved in at the moment.

Anyhow, maybe there'll be some scanned photos up here soon. Maybe I'll do a little cartooning and scan them. Who knows what will happen next? Goodness knows, I'll need to entertain myself during another loong election year and maybe I can be a bit entertaining up here too. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

swear to tell the truth

Take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say fuck the government.

Are there any niggers here tonight? Could you turn on the house lights, please, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving, just for a second? And turn off this spot. Now what did he say? "Are there any niggers here tonight?" I know there's one nigger, because I see him back there working. Let's see, there's two niggers. And between those two niggers sits a kike. And there's another kike— that's two kikes and three niggers. And there's a spic. Right? Hmm? There's another spic. Ooh, there's a wop; there's a polack; and, oh, a couple of greaseballs. And there's three lace-curtain Irish micks. And there's one, hip, thick, hunky, funky, boogie. Boogie boogie. Mm-hmm. I got three kikes here, do I hear five kikes? I got five kikes, do I hear six spics, I got six spics, do I hear seven niggers? I got seven niggers. Sold American. I pass with seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kikes, three guineas, and one wop. Well, I was just trying to make a point, and that is that it's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. Dig: if President Kennedy would just go on television, and say, "I would like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet," and if he'd just say "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" to every nigger he saw, "boogie boogie boogie boogie boogie," "nigger nigger nigger nigger nigger" 'til nigger didn't mean anything anymore, then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger at school.

Lenny Bruce: Swear to tell the truth 1998

That was 40 years ago and intolerance, injustice and just plain ignorance are still alive and well. Maybe it's just fear of the other and those who are awake taking on systems that have grown crass and cruel. At its best this is a country of great open mindedness and clarity. We need more laughing and free talking - not less.

Post dedicated to my friend Scarlet .

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Anything is art if it's framed well

This weekend I read an article by Clive Thompson in the NY Times Magazine about the reliability of electronic voting machines. Now that we're in the midst of another exciting (yawn) election year I guess it's a timely subject for the august newspaper that mostly serves the interests of the elite among us. I'm not one of them but luckily for me I do have a browser and some interest in the outcome of who will be #44.

The article is interesting enough but what really caught our attention was in how the issue was framed. He mentions computer errors not once but several times including the extraordinary remark: 'computers do not merely produce errors; they produce errors of unforseeable magnitude'. That isn't our normal experience as anyone who uses an ATM on a regular basis will attest. Can you imagine going to the machine for your $40. quick cash withdrawal and getting either $100. or nothing and saying 'Oh well, it's just another silly computer mistake - you win it or lose it - never mind'. No, you'd be on the phone to the bank in a flash. Computers run the stock market, advanced medical equipment, space exploration equipment, nuclear power plants, household items and your car. Flaws are not acceptable.

He also mentions that voting systems have always been subject to outside manipulation like ballot box stuffing which is true but was never so widespread and dangerous a practice as mandating electronic machines through the Help America Vote Act and then allowing private industry to develope and keep the programming of them secret. No open source code that can be validated by computer scientists at all. So, if they ever do feel like manipulating the national vote tally how would anyone know?

Someone he conveniently forgot to mention was Bev Harris at Black Box Voting who started investigating vote irregularities in 2000 and alerted computer professionals and activists nationwide. The term Mr. Thompson used is 'disgruntled citizens and scared senseless computer geeks'.

Another subject left out of the article was the practice of vote caging. Essentially, this is a trick used to deny large blocks of voters access to registration and is better explained by Greg Palast of the BBC.

Anyway, the article is there if you feel like reading it but my point here is that articles of this type allow those who feel superior to continue doing so. They have been informed by what they consider to be the most sophisticated news organization in the country so nothing the rest of us can say has any relevance to them. The issue has been framed and served on a silver platter and nothing needs to be added.

I did hear one funny thing about Huckabee when he was interviewed by Jay Leno the other night and asked why he thought he beat Mitt Romney in Ohio. He answered 'I guess they preferred to vote for someone like a guy they work with rather than the guy who laid them off'.

Okay, need more tea now. Back later.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

the lady or the tiger

I took a quick look at the major news outlets this morning and couldn't help but notice another of the odd anomalies our major media continues to propagate as something worth our continuing interest. Namely, while the assasination of a major world leader has dropped to the equivalent of the back pages on MSNBC, CNN and Fox, we are supposed to maintain concern and fascination with this:

How did the tiger get out of its cage? If I go to the zoo, will the tiger eat me? How tall should the bars be on a tiger cage? Why didn't the zookeepers take the surviving victims seriously?

Now I'm aware that all this is interesting enough but the fact remains that people are essentially being told that tigers are a much more serious topic than the facts that lead to the world's first female Muslim head of state being assasinated. The problem we all face is that Pakistan truly is a nuclear power and President Musharraf, who is supported in his every anti-democratic action by the US government, had even arranged to have the results of Ms. Bhutto's autopsy changed. Instead of having been shot three times as she stood up her car to wave to her supporters and falling inside, we were told later that she died in a suicide bombing and had no bullet wounds and then that she died from banging her head on the lip of the sunroof (!?). The fact that these statements were taken seriously even for a moment is a big concern. It reminds me of a phrase my Dad used to use, "Let's run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it".

One last thing to mention is the beauty and rarity of the females above. Were they both dangerous creatures? Undoubtedly. Is the world a better place without them? You tell me. Just saying..

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year Everyone

It's time to gird our loins and get back to the good fight. 2008 may be the year when we see things turn around - or maybe not but a paradigm shift is overdue and I'm looking forward to it.

Thanks to all who have come to visit. I wish you the very best for your hopes and dreams to come true