Sunday, August 30, 2009

a maniac in the house

There's a great deal to be said for the idea that communication technologies lead to enslavement. Once such far reaching media becomes electronically viral it's very difficult to maintain individual freedom. For the past 60 years just about every American family has been sharing their living space with a maniac known as television which has corrupted the language of common discourse. I mean how is a person supposed to react to a headline like the one I read a few weeks ago that said 'Organic Food is No Healthier Than Conventional'? When exactly did it happen that chemically produced factory food became the norm and organic food became unusual? We all know how much worse it's become when we're subjected daily to Orwellian concepts that leave our heads spinning. War is peace in Afganistan and Iraq, torture has been rationalized, national health care is dangerous, the super rich are benevolent and care about you, banks can't afford to lend money, the stock market gained 3000 points so what are you complaining about? It goes on and on.

The thing is you don't have to watch television to be affected by it because everywhere you go you're surrounded by people who've been accommodating this crazy uncle for several generations. They talk about characters they listen to more closely than they listened to their father or teachers and even if much of the time it's with disdain for celebrity gossip they still know all the dirt and are more interested in it than how it is that 3000 points on the Dow mentioned earlier was paid for out of our own taxes and those of future generations. A trillion is one thousand billion and so far the banking industry has been bailed out to the tune of three trillion and still counting. The idea of instituting national health care is a cruel joke being fought out in the media under the guise of rational argument with the brain washed, ignorant and hate addled downtrodden part of our society. I can't tell you how many former fiscal conservatives I've had to find public assistance for at my job. They had a career and health insurance, then got sick with a possibly terminal disease, lost both the job and the benefits accrued and now need public assistance they voted against all their working lives. Such things are beyond sad - they're criminal.

The novel 1984 presented a number of symbolic words, phrases and concepts that have become common parlance but the less well remembered novelist and social commentator from the last century was Aldous Huxley whose novel Brave New World described in satire a perfected humanity where everyone is fed their daily dose of Soma. 75 years later just how close have we come to the society of vapid consumers, idle pleasure-seekers, inner-space trippers and programmed conformists that it presents? Meaning has been eliminated and the populace has embraced its own intellectual dismemberment.

I have no doubt there are a few uplifting things to be watched on television but overall, it's like watching a giant lightbulb and you know what happens to insects who get seduced by a flame. Lastly, it's occurred to me that high intelligence is far from being a valued commodity in society at large. If you're very intelligent you're much less likely to follow the political strictures that make the larger culture amenable to control. Smart people are trouble makers.

Okay, that's the end rant from the August of my discontent. I promise to be more positive next month and will let Crow grumble now and again when he returns from his summer excursion.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

set your own limit

A funny thing happened on the way to paint a soft and gentle image of a dancer looking out a window on a summer's day. The dancer is here but what the heck is that outside the 'window'? I have a habit of drawing images and sylvan scenes but before I know it a rage for color comes tumbling in without my having intended such a thing. Then again, we may think we have good intentions but our deeper selves have plans and designs all their own. Art is all about freedom within the limiting context of whatever medium of expression is currently available and of course, reasonably understood. If you can't find the chords on a piano you may as well not try to play that sonata you heard in your dreams for your friends this afternoon.

I tend to take out my anger and frustration in bursts of unlikely color combinations - or at least that's the way I'll see them once they're underway. I get curious about what will happen next . This piece happened because I had a piece of heavy silk that was wide but only a bit more than a foot long and I wondered what I could do if I cut some of it into smaller chunks and started painting. It turned into a reversible pouch of about 6x6" or a lined twelve inch long silk painting. It has ties for wearing around the waist, or over the shoulder, or just to hang on the wall with something precious inside. It was a spontaneous project resulting in something I actually like.

I love making things I imagine seeing and that's what encourages me to get up every day. Intention is an important element in keeping ourselves healthy and emotionally sound. I prefer not talking to doctors unless they're paying me. I don't see a list of medications as a sign of maturity. The best doctor I ever knew was the one who liked hanging out with me in his office smoking cigarettes, drinking thick black coffee and discussing philosophy. I always felt better after seeing him but they don't make them like that anymore. Instead we get the vocabulary that shapes the medical world and the often defeatist ways we define our physical health. No wonder people get old and weak in a culture that worships the fleeting attributes of youth and beauty.

We're physical beings who sometimes need treatment beyond our own abilities but getting older is not a diagnosis for imminent demise. If you have a problem and I've had a few - chicken pox at 42, a stone in my salivary gland (damn thing looked like a tiny dog bone), the avm-aneurysm and more - I've never given in to becoming a 'patient' since I refuse to allow myself to be labeled. After sickness comes cure.

Whether it's bad temper or the need to see the humor in every situation I can hardly wait to get on with the next project. There's another window and another view in the works right now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

water works

It's been a week since there was a new post up here but I'll have you know I haven't been away sunning myself and drinking margaritas on some faraway beach - which would have been fun if I had the money. Instead, I've been painting more silk bits and turning them into little pouches and bags. These are two new ones I'm not especially delighted with but at least it's a new piece of artwork to show you while I work on something a bit more in depth (pun intended).

(duck not to scale - or surprised fish either)

I've also been indulging in reading and thinking again even though I understand that's not necessarily the modern American way. I realized that not all big ideas are are bad ones if they're logical and relatively inexpensive solutions to local problems. As we move toward a general awareness of how our actions now affect the future well-being of the planet we'll see more innovative solutions like this one the Japanese have come up with for fighting pollution in some of their canals and small waterways. Floating solar powered water processing plants deployed in Osaka's Dotonbori canal remove pollutants from 2,400 gallons of water a day, sucking in the bad water through the bottom and shooting the clean water out the top like a fountain. Not only is the fountain pretty in it's own bizarre UFOish way but the water spray cools down the solar panels, increasing efficiency.

The Japanese have already provided us with robots that cook dinner, rice cakes, fuel efficient cars, Samurai warriors and Godzilla so perhaps their solution to the problem of inefficient toilets isn't so farfetched as you might first think. Low flush toilets are still part of the technological dark ages and we all want to stay up to date, don't we? Besides, it could get awfully messy in the woods if we return to the natural way. Might even put us off our evening stroll.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

big plans, no clue

Crow here. susan used to tell people she didn't like wearing glasses so had the windshield of her car ground to her current prescription. A few of them believed it too. It's funny what you can get folks to take seriously, isn't it? Imagine convincing a good part of the population that Medicare for everybody is a bad idea but it's a really good idea to have their tax money go directly to the richest 1% of the citizenry.

The picture above is an artist's rendering of one of the big geo-engineering ideas for cooling off our overheated planet. Just imagine what could happen if the big optometrist grinding that thing got the specs wrong and corrected for far sighted rather than near. Ooops. You think we've got global warming now?

Then there's this one - ships spraying sea water to create clouds that shield much of the Earth from sunlight and so would lower global temperatures. How about the fact Bill Gates has patented the idea to halt hurricanes by decreasing the surface temperature of the ocean? Does that make you a bit nervous? The patent calls for a large fleet of specially equipped ships which would mix warm water from the ocean surface with colder water down below which could then reduce the heat-driven condensation hurricanes feed upon. The scheme is reminiscent of something Mr. Burns might have concocted in 'The Simpsons' - if he hadn't already blown his master plan on blocking out the sun.

I don't know. It just seems to me people have to change their way of thinking but I've been around long enough to not be entirely hopeful for the intelligence of your species at large. Global warming has so many separate causes and accelerating factors that it's already beyond political control. Every piece of metal sticking out of the ground is a heat coil. The crisis needs an unconscious shift at the same level as the primordial production of oxygen by bacteria at the dawn of life. Long ago a sudden fluctuation triggered a burst of molecular intelligence and a world that began under a canopy of volcanic ash exhaled into a blue sky.

Lizards crawled. Crows flew. Eventually, people dreamed and maybe it's enough to dream of a better world. The Golden Rule has always been a good place to start. Now it's time for me to climb on my perch and put my head where it belongs - under my right wing. Good night and sweet dreams.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

home is an alien world

Why do I choose to paint pictures of people and animals? I guess it's because I like to imagine that I remember another time and place, perhaps even this place in a slightly different realm of being.

Have you ever thought that there were other 'human beings' before our pack race of homo sapiens came along to fill every nook and cranny of the the world? We have strange names for them that I doubt they called themselves: Georgian Man, Peking Man, Heidelberg Man, Neanderthal, Homo rudolfensis, Homo habilis, Homo ergaster and Homo floresiensis. They were here long before us and some of their species lasted 100,000 years or more before our forebears climbed down from the trees and headed out across the savannahs of ancient Africa. Not just anonymous relations to gorillas, they were peoples with family bands, histories and cultures of their own. I imagine their elders sat around fires and told stories and philosophized about the stars in the sky. I'll bet they made music, danced and even told jokes but we'll never know for sure. Any instruments or forms of written language would have crumbled to dust long ago and all that's left of the oldest of them now is a few petrified bones.

Since we don't know exactly how they looked, other than the fact they looked nothing like us, they might not have needed shamanic masks for their rituals. Perhaps their intelligent faces had the look of howler monkeys, lynxes, martens, bears and wolves. What we do know is that they are the eldest of our elders, their thoughts and aspirations lost to time but they were here on earth at the cusp of sentience when people and animals had not yet separated into us and other. They were the people of the Dreamtime whose voices whispered through Vedanta and early Greek philosophers to remind us of a civilization we missed in an alien world of extraordinary beauty.

We are the last 'human beings' on the planet.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

dangers of happinomics

Susan seems to think that I might not pay much attention to politics and problems like our economy and health care, at least she suggested that in her response to a comment I made on the post previous to this one, but it just ain't so.

Dear Spadoman,

No, no, no - I meant that you'd been away doing better things with your time but please accept my apology for a hasty answer to the well written comment you left last week. It was flippant and didn't take into account what you'd actually said, nor what I know about your life and the truly gallant way you have of dealing with life in a country we were always told was the greatest on earth. You spent a good part of the summer showing your children and young grandchildren how truly magnificent is this land where they were born.

I was never a passenger on the 'Hope Train' that whistle-stopped around the country last year but deep inside I thought some things might change. We still have Guantanamo, we still have wire tapping of citizens, we still have Presidential Signing Statements, we still have no help for the masses of unemployed, we have no climate agreement, we have no hope of national health care and on and on. I guess I'm just naive but let me explain further and turn this into a Sunday post:

'It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.'

When I posted the quote and the somewhat shocking image of the President I was relating it to all the people I know at work and in general who have returned to their comfortable delusions now that the major banks have been permanently bailed out by the government. They've equated too big to fail with the assumption that if they get even bigger and greedier they will never, never fail but they don't care that regular people will. For them it's all about speculation based on complex computer algorithms and not about lending money so new businesses can be started or adjusting mortgages on homes where people live. There is no such thing as a jobless recovery for a society at large and that's exactly what's going on now.

I've spent far too much time this spring and summer reading financial news reports and watching Congressional testimony by Hank Paulson who actually admitted that if they hadn't bailed out the banks that the whole theory of Capitalism would have been recognized by everyone as being hollow and worthless. In my opinion that would have been a good thing. It's capitalism that killed 10,000 people in Bhopal, India when the unregulated Union Carbide Company released 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate gas in December of 1984. Thousands more have died since. It's unfettered capitalism in the guise of the Monsanto Corporation that forces third world farmers to buy seeds from them that have been made sterile so the farmers can't plant, harvest and plant again as they've done for millennia. It's capitalism represented by Big Media and the lobbyists of the Health Care Industry that won't allow a national health care plan to be presented before the people in this country when it's so obviously what most people want. As you well know it's capitalism too that's responsible for the only big manufacturing sector left in this country - the Arms Industry. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northup Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics represent the biggest part of the Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned about so many years ago. Weapons need to be tested and we all know who they test them on, don't we?

The logic freaks of economics don’t like to talk about ecology – their models don’t account for melting glaciers, dying coral reefs or the possible collapse of the entire Australian continent. But the reality is that it takes centuries to restore codfish to the Atlantic or to reboot a coral reef and it takes a thousand years to grow a single inch of topsoil. This is the kind of bio-speak that falls outside the theoretical framework of neoclassical economists who are much more comfortable talking money – the language of liquidity, stimulus packages and hedge fund regulation. There is no discussion within their profession of the real-world impacts of their economic philosophies.

People in general are numb and I blame television. I haven't watched it for years but I do understand how insidious it is:

I'll look forward to your post explaining everything :-)

Friday, August 7, 2009

a modest rant

Crow here. Sorry for my recent absence but I had to take a bottle of Remy Martin to Matt Taibbi who's been taking a lot of flack from financial reporters for describing Goldman Sachs tricks to the general public. They don't like it that a non-expert would clarify a subject kept out of general consciousness because essentially they enjoy the benefits of such game playing too. Matt Taibbi writing for Rolling Stone reminded me of someone else who got famous working for them so I thought I'd drop by here, pop my claws and do a little typing.

susan has talked about her favorite artists a few times, mostly 19th century illustrators like Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Maxfield Parrish, Kay Nielson and their ilk. You know, those namby-pamby Romanticists and Orientalists. She actually likes that stuff but everybody seems to need some form of escapism and that's hers when it comes to sources of inspiration. Go for whatever makes you feel better as long as it hurts nobody else has always been my philosophy.

I also have a favorite artist - Ralph Steadman. You may remember Ralph and the fabulous journeys where he accompanied our old and now departed friend, Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. It's impossible to talk about one of them without the other since their individual genius was multiply enhanced by their association. They first met in 1970 at the Kentucky Derby when Ralph had been hired to illustrate Thompson's article for Scanlan's Monthly:

'Looking down from the press box, I pointed to the huge grassy meadow enclosed by the track. “That whole thing,” I said, “will be jammed with people; fifty thousand or so, and most of them staggering drunk. It’s a fantastic scene–thousands of people fainting, crying, copulating, trampling each other and fighting with broken whiskey bottles. We’ll have to spend some time out there, but it’s hard to move around, too many bodies.”

“Is it safe out there?” Will we ever come back?”

Poor Ralph. The United States was quite a shock to his system at first.

Less an article about racing and more about public debauchery and greed the story and illustrations led to a long partnership where they examined the end results of following the American Dream™ to its logical conclusion. The most famous of their collaborations into the heart of darkness that is the American Empire™ was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. After Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail Ralph had seen enough of Gonzo America for a while so stayed safely in England and waited for the Vegas notes before commencing his drawings. (If you haven't read the book the movie is pretty good.)

Here we are decades on recalling that just a year ago everybody was taking the imminent death of the Republican party for granted but look at it now. With the help of Rush Limbaugh and associates in the MSM™ the crazies have erupted into vile and inexcusable displays of hatred and ignorance. Birthers and tea baggers are attacking health care reform even as they head to car lots to exchange their clunkers for cash. The cars they'd owned will be destroyed and they'll still owe thousands for the new ones. What sort of insanity is it when people seethe about the idea of a moderate heath care package while showing no awareness of the monstrous theft perpetrated by the financial industry? No wonder the smart boys over at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and the Federal Reserve figure they at least know what to do with the money they've stolen. Have you seen the yachts they're selling these days?

The media is broken but Dr. Gonzo told us that years ago. I'm not one for recommending movies to people but it was fun hanging out with some old birds in the branches of an oak grove watching Breakfast With Hunter a couple of years ago. I'd give it two pinfeathers up but maybe you should put the children to bed before watching it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

mr. pup goes om

His friends have always treated him well, but he's an old dog now and a bit tired, so he's retired to his favorite spot to prepare for his last trip. This time he won't be walking; he'll be riding in style.

As a good friend of mine said recently, 'Om is where the kibble is.'

This is the latest of the silk bags - 7x9", painted, steamed, quilted with a few beads for extra sparkle, a pair of 30" ties and finally all stitched together today. I thought it would be fun to try something a bit different and cartoony and so it was but for getting slowed down by weather too hot for doing much of anything. Please try a close-up look and tell me what you think.

btw: Here's the best poster I've seen recently that describe my feelings about our current leadership from one of my favorite magazines - Adbusters.

'It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.'

J. Krishnamurti