Wednesday, September 29, 2010

EU Sanctions Member Debtors, Protects Upperclass Twits

The European Union is planning sanctions for member nations which don't get control of their debt. The object is to prevent crises like Greece's. Of course. Of course.

The problem is the shock the belt-tightening measures will have on European workers who are just doing a good-faith job, believing in a social contract that can't last. And you know that the Ferrari-driving numbnutzes, the real problem, are gonna keep on truckin'.

What's needed, there and here, is a different paradigm. Universal ownership, instead of wages and welfare distributed as largesse. Mimicking and integrating with world ecology, instead of waste, pollution, and (soon to be out-of-reach) sticking plasters for the wounds.

Three studies of Jill. Good likenesses, but I missed something that's girlish about the woman herself. Jill speaks three languages I know about (English, Romanian, and Japanese). In the rest of the world, that might be standard, but in the US, what's somebody with brains doing pulling two-hour life modeling gigs to pad her income?

Mark Dayton For Governor

In Minnesota's three-way race for governor, my candidate is Mark Dayton, the Democrat.

The Republican, Tom Emmer seems a little dim and thuggish.

Tom Horner, the Independent, is bright and fair-minded, but adamantly centrist. Born in 1950, his career has been as reporter for suburban shopper-stoppers, press flack for former Republican Senator Dave Durenberger, press agent, and university communications perfesser. Eschewing radical solutions, and groomed as somebody who could run for governor, he represents the discredited, square paradigm. I never got high with this guy.

Dayton, a department store heir, formerly married to a Pillsbury, is a child of privilege who wants to increase taxes on the privileged. He recognizes that the money -- and a lot of it -- has to come from somewhere, but the thing that persuades me is his privilege. This guy has had the leisure to think about something besides a political career. Usually, I'd be happy to send the richest candidate to Terra Haute for the Indiana hot shot, but if one of these characters understands the Whole Earth/CoEvolution take on intervening in the system we laughingly call our society, it's Mark Dayton. And he's been State Auditor.

Five gestures of Jill. I used a brush, which had the contrary effect of making these quick studies less elegant.

Joe And Bonnie: Neighbors Involved In Transition

From the October issue of the Corcoran Neighborhood News. I do one of these every month. I posted this as a scan from the paper, rather than pulling the drawing and copy from my hard drive because I didn't want to scoop my publisher. Just spread the article a little further.

Ferrrari, Slowest Car On The Road

"No... No, Jack, it's a beautiful car. It just seems like ya got a lotta capital tied up in it."

Ivan Illich is supposed to have figured out how fast a car will go, if you account for all the time you spend earning the money you need to operate it. Something like six miles per. I wonder how fast this thing goes. (Yeah, yeah, I know, but I said "earning.")

Scan from the September 24 issue of The Week, which can be a fun read over your cornflakes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Little Boxes Still Made Of Ticky Tacky

I took these pictures at a Woodbury, MN strip mall. It was tricked out to look like it's just down the street from Beaver Cleaver's house -- there's even a bank pretending to be Louis Sullivan's Owatonna Farmer's National -- but most of the businesses are national franchises.

There's a lot of recent residential building nearby, but this is not the only commercial development seeking those people's custom. Find the steeple on the horizon in the top picture. It's about an inch in from the margin. That church used to be out in the country (we're looking back toward Saint Paul). Now it's at the west end of this commercial building spree.

All built on credit that could have gone toward wind turbines, photovoltaics, permaculture, etc., the kind of development that could create wealth instead of sharing it out. How many of these buildings will be shuttered in ten years?

How many apple trees or hazelnut bushes could I have put in the ground for what that planter costs per year?

Minnesota Auditor Candidate Proposes Adopting Genuine Progress Index

I've known Annie Young for twenty-five or thirty years. Annie's on the Minneapolis Park Board, and she's a Green party stalwart. When Sam was a baby, she and I were on the board of a since-winnowed food co-op. Annie was the spark plug for the Green Institute. The city wanted to park a garbage transfer station in one of Minneapolis' poorest neighborhoods, and one that was already home to an asphalt plant. Instead of just protesting, Annie and colleagues proposed an alternative for the site, an energy-efficient business incubator built with renewable and recycled materials. That's the green roof and solar panels behind her in the photo.

Now she's running for State Auditor. There was a piece of campaign literature at a co-op where I was delivering Barsy's Almonds. The piece said Annie's for:

     * Sustainability

     * Life Cycle Cost Accounting

     * More holistic economic indicators.

I had a hard time with how she put that last one -- although I knew right away what she's after, and approve wholeheartedly. I still haven't come up with a better bullet point. I can imagine some rube suggesting that Annie wants to print the GDP numbers on hemp paper, or arm wrestle over whether the economy's an Aries or a Sagittarius. That guy wasn't gonna vote for her anyway, but I'd like folks who might to know what holistic economic indicators might be.

Barbara suggested "least cost accounting," but I'm not sold.

The idea is that indices like Gross Domestic Product treat all economic activity the same. If a dollar changes hands over a loaf of bread, blasting the peak off a West Virginia mountain, or a nudie cutie ice cube tray, it registers the same. So a flattened United States where everybody sells pornographic novelties is humming along nicely.

What the candidate is proposing is rating the economy according to how people and our environment are doing. Read an overview at Annie's website, or go to to read about the Genuine Progress Index.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Drawings, Aches And Pains, And The Second Worst Bank In The World

I've been icing an aching back. What I think is a cramp started in my hip, and migrated to just a little southwest of my left shoulder blade. At one point I was afraid the Stillwater police would have to stick their oar in, because an old guy, in distress, was trying unsuccessfully to lie down on a riverfront picnic table. Beautiful day in a beautiful town: antique downtown buildings; sailboats moored nearby; frisky young dog chasing a tennis ball.

Barbara, executrix of her mother's will, learned in conversation with the Distelfink, PA, Recorder of Wills, that her mother's bank was "the second worst bank in the world." What is your obligation, if you are an employee of the the second worst bank in the world?

Above, four drawings done in Monday and Tuesday drawing sessions. Between the two, I made eight drawings, only one I would call "good," the reclining nude. The unfinished clothed model, whose hand grasps the tubular chair, is typical of the eight. I was making an effort to measure, and get everything in its right place, a skill that comes and goes with me. I abandoned this attempt when I realized that different parts disagreed. The portrait and the standing nude are two middling-quality examples. The portrait is a near likeness, and is a little overworked. The standing nude is fairly solid, which I like, and is a decent likeness, but has some real proportion problems, a dinky left hand and the top half's being too small for the bottom being most obvious.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hippie Survivalism

Another picture of the New Alchemists, circa 1973. It had fallen out of its own book, and I just found it tucked into one of my art books.

The text on the rest of the page reads: We find that there are resources, often in the strangest places, as we become less concerned with high energy and more concerned with diverse wholes. If we are willing to change the way we live, tghen we can begin to restore and reconstruct. By passing through the portals of nature, we can begin to work with or through her so that the scares begin to heal. The path will involve the three strands of practicality, science, and a wisdom that is philosophical, even mystical. Separately change cannot come about, but perhaps... and this is only perhaps, together the world will begin to sing.

It is easy to begin. The Ark and the Backyard Fish Farms reflect wholistic and small-scale thinking, and although they are early explorations into man in nature, they will help give confidence and directions.

Time is not on our side. Hence the urgency and tone of the "Journal" (The Journal of the New Alchemists). To some, like Odum (Howard Odum, a biologist and one of the few sensible members of the WWII generation), our survival is at stake; should they be proved wrong, we will stand to gain. If they are right, there can be virtually no alternative that is not hell, until the living order of the earth's mantle is restored.

Rubens: Negro Head Studies

We were at the bakery yesterday (record day!), and a caterer was working alongside us briefly. She told us that she was working at the Renaissance Festival, a commercial affair featuring lots of jester's hats, sword fights, and hey-nonny-nonny. Her being at the Ren Fest was remarkable only in that she is black. Who cares, right? There really was nothing remarkable about it.

It reminded me of these Rubens studies, and that Africans in Renaissance Europe would have been about as exotic as it gets. It also reminded me that the people of five hundred years ago believed a lot of baloney, and tortured you to death if you didn't share their superstition. In fact, within living memory, only Europeans and Africans were allowed to become US citizens, and not that much further back, it was only Europeans.

Did you know that a fifth of Americans agree that the universe revolves around Earth, and another tenth aren't sure? (I could find my source if I had to.) I'm becoming less charitable about people who are full of beans. The Constitution may allow us to believe any dumb thing we want, but there is no unalienable, Creator-endowed right to perverse opinion.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Jaundiced Look At Mitch McConnell's Agenda For America

Back of the envelope calculations by one Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center -- clear-eyed analysis of the right-wing agenda, as exemplified by Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell. McConnell wants to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, wants to maintain Pentagon and Medicare spending, and he favors a constitutional balanced-budget amendment. Target year: 2020. I'll be 71. My son will be 39.

The Congressional Budget Office projects a $1.2 trillion deficit for 2020, and $5.5 trillion spending, of which three trillion Gleckman says would be for defense, Medicare, interest ($100 billion for interest on the extended tax cuts), military retirement, and veterans' benefits. Subtract the 1.2 trillion whose payment the proposed amendment would require, and you get about the same amount as projected Social Security payments. In other words, the government would be reduced to military, interest payments, and benefits to people my age.

When I was in Stillwater a week ago -- the upscale end of Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District, home of Representative Michele Bachman -- I walked past a t-shirt store with a front window full of cute slogans. One said, "Vegetarian: The member of the tribe who can't hunt, fish, or ride." Dat's pretty funny, Ole. You should put it on a t-shirt, doncha know.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Max Ernst And Found Patterns

For some acidheads it was the trails, some were -- puerile as it sounds -- trying to expand their consciousnesses. For me, it was the way random textures seemed to organize themselves into elusive geometries.

I met a girl in Galesburg, Illinois, forty years ago -- Meg. Her aunt was Dorothea Tanning, Max Ernst's wife. Meg, who didn't like me, was gracious enough to take me to her house, and show me a gallery of Tanning paintings and Ernst collages. She made a point of telling me something like, "a lot of people think that Uncle Max gets his images from taking psychedelics, but you don't need to take drugs to make pictures like these."

Tuesday Night Sketch

I decided to try yer basic Ticonderoga Number Two. These things bring out the worst in my drawing: Because they lend themselves to modeling, and because of that pink thing the other end, they make me unsure of myself. Next pencil will be a softer one, one whose value range goes darker. Scary.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One of my heroes died Sunday night. She was ninety, and had been sick briefly. I had a hard time believing she was dying, because she took her Discover Magazines to the hospital, and had taken up sudoku there.

Elaine Spenader was Barbara's mother. She had been grievously wronged twice in her life, and there were periods when she battled demons, but for the last twenty years, she was cheerful, curious, and a friend. She lived life on her own terms.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Mom And The Literacy Test

I have friends who grade standardized college admission essays. Believe it or not, this can be done. There are even computer programs that do it. Knowing these friends has made me think of bringing back literacy tests for voter eligibility. And for office holding.

Example: Make fair and credible arguments, both for and against Keynesian economic stimulus.

Responses would not have to match familiar arguments. The point would be that prospective voters prove familiarity with the ideas the political process processes, and think coherently about them.

The other day my mother and I were talking about her grandchildren's prospects, and apropos of my niece's job search (she's a recent PhD who's interested in education policy), I said something about Keynesianism.  Mom, an educated liberal who was old enough to be aware during the Great Depression, and whose doting grandfather edited a newspaper, had to ask me what I was talking about.

Answer: Spending decreases during recessions in the business cycle, because demand for goods is satisfied. Production slows and businesses cut staff. Keynesianism suggests that banks lower interest rates, and that government spend on infrastructure, during times of recession, increasing spending and production by increasing available money.

This is a good idea because it keeps manufacturing exercised, keeps workers who are not party to decisions affecting their livelihoods employed, and is merely a way of timing necessary public works.

It is a bad idea because it does not address economic inequities or possible physical reasons for specific downturns, and it provides funds to businesses and individuals for unnecessary spending, and consequently weakens an economy in the long term by mobilizing limited natural capital for redundant products.

There are other answers, and other questions, but I'd like to insist that my fellow voters have D-minus or better understanding.

Arsenic Abatement And Resale

The problem for homeowners (in this case, a late middle-aged couple occupying the upper half of the duplex) is that the EPA has tested their soils and found them hazardous. If they don't agree to the abatement process, a prospective purchaser (or renter) could ask them to finance the abatement themselves, or discount the home's price.

Abatement in this project averaged over fifty grand per yard.

A (Slightly) Targeted Keynesian Project

There was a lot of digging on my block this summer: abatement of arsenic-contaminated soil -- ostensibly from a long-gone pesticide manufacturer, in business until 1968, about a half mile away. The money came from the Recovery Act. It raised a lot of questions for me:

   1. Was cleanup necessary; meaning was the arsenic an actual hazard, and was there a better method?
I don't know, but a landscaper friend has suggested a method that might work, much more inexpensively, and with other benefits.

   2. Is the problem limited to this geographic area?
Contamination is proportional to proximity to the old poison factory only at low levels, and otherwise is related to historical chemical use by homeowners, implying that the EPA could take its project just about anywhere.

   3. Is the problem limited to arsenic in garden soils?
Of course not.

   4. Is cleanup society's responsibility?
Yes, in spite of 2.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Does anybody reading this know why I only get part of the screen when I post You Tube videos?

The Choreography Of Hippie Abandon

Vamping On The Medium

I wish for a different blog format. I post from bottom to top, but I read from top to bottom. To complicate matters, individual posts work top to bottom.

I'm not always posting serially, so it doesn't always matter, but sometimes I do think of one post's depending on another. This blog usually doesn't have much to do with the events of my life, or with the events of the day (I like trends and big ideas), and there are pieces from a year ago that I wish people would read.

Where's Marshall McLuhan when you really need him?

The People Yes

The leaders -- or, better, beneficiaries -- of the Tea Party-goers and other restive American conservatives are venal, authoritarian, simplistic, and resentful. Liberal leaders are all over the place: good or bad, strong or weak, smart or stupid, informed or superstitious. The Partiers themselves, 'though they be exactly, one hundred-eighty degrees, wrong in their analyses and prescriptions, have a leg up on politicians of all stripes, and on a lot of private liberals with heavily decorated rear bumpers: They know what the stakes are.

This is from Carl Sandburg's The People Yes:

The people yes
The people will live on
The learning and blundering people will live on.
       They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
       The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
       You can't laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
      "I earn my living.
       I make enough to get by
       and it takes all my time.
       If I had more time
       I could do more for myself
       and maybe for others.
       I could read and study
       and talk things over
       and find out about things.
       It takes time.
       I wish I had the time."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Litchfield Minnesota, Noon, September 8, 2010

This view looked real spacious, but the photo looks flat. Somebody told me once that photographs look flat, and it takes drawing to show space.

Taking this picture made me think of a comment of David Hockney's. Hockney, a Brit in his seventies or eighties, is a painter who's probably Picasso's most interesting heir. Anyway, Hockney said that photographs and most paintings show things from the point of view of a cyclops with his head in a vise. In other words, when we view them we don't get the benefit of comparing multiple vantage points: binocular vision's two slightly different ones, and the countless serial ones that come from moving. Fair enough, but when I look at a picture by somebody who refuses to be that paralyzed cyclops, all I can see is analysis.

Character Armor

Drawn last winter while reading Steven LeBlanc's Constant Battles.

Wilhelm Reich invented the idea of "character armor." The idea is that we have devices, postures, habits that we use, both to defend ourselves from a world we see as hostile to us, and to keep us from realizing ourselves as we really are. We have all had experiences, even in the womb, Reich thought, that convinced us that the world is hostile, and we perform a kind of goofy calculus that makes us think it would be even more hostile, if we were to behave as we really are.

Alberta Woman makes Herself Very Uncomfortable For Peace

To The Ark

The Ark, circa 1973, a large, super-insulated greenhouse. Inside is a designed ecosystem that grows protein and vegetables, and that purifies water.

This was almost forty years ago. Why are we still knee deep in big muddy?

Solar Arson

I've always wanted to live in the country so I could do stuff like this.

Exposition: Notice the guy's wearing welding goggles. What looks like orchestra seating on the tilted board is a lot of plain old mirrors aimed at the point where the thing is burning.

Steve Baer wrote a story once in which demonstrators carrying pocket mirrors simultaneously reflected the sun onto the police station and burnt it down.

The New Alchemy Ark Today

Le Corbusier called his insecticide factories on stilts "machines for living." This is a machine for living.

From My Sketchbook

Proof Of Concept At New Alchemy

Circa 1970.

Saint Peter's, Delano

I don't believe in God. Maybe I do. I don't know...but I'm not an agnostic. I just don't think existence works the way churches say, and I'll bet that if you could fire up a time machine and go tip some vino with Jesus, he wouldn't either.

The think is: Eighty or ninety years ago something was meaningful enough to a congregation in Delano Minnesota, people poorer than ourselves, that they attached this folly to the church they built.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Aquaculture Under The Dome

More vintage New Alchemy Institute.

Sketchbook Drawing

Ark Interior: New Alchemy Institute

Tuesday Night Drawing Group

Beats golf. We spend two hours, including a fifteen-minute snack break, drawing five two-minute poses, and filling the rest of the time with ten- fifteen- and twenty-minute poses as they fit. I think this was a twenty, but I put in the darks  later. I didn't leave the face blank out of respect for the model's privacy, as somebody suggested once about another drawing. Something told me drawing features would wreck the composition.

Compost At The New Alchemy Institute

Composting seems almost mundane, knowing that the dome in the background shelters a pond with a designed aquatic ecosystem, and the blades on the windmill are fabric sails, sewn by the New Alchemists. These guys were pioneers. They'd be pioneers today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

More From Inside The Ark

This is another picture from the New Alchemy Ark. Buckminster Fuller said somewhere -- probably in Critical Path -- that we'd survive because we demanded the technologies that could save us.

I want to eat breakfast in a space like this!

Peace Can Only Be Won When...

I have three or four strategies for making peace:

   * We must recognize the humanity in each other, and the poignancy of that humanity; recognizing each other as real human beings will make war unthinkable.

   * Cultivate equanimity and contentment; this is taking the example of the lilies of the field to heart.

   * We must live within the carrying capacity of our range -- the planet -- by conservation and invention; violence won't be attractive to people who are living in abundance.

   * Prohibit behaviors by which individuals exceed our shares of carrying capacity.

Trying To Do Corporate Capitalism A Favor

If corporations are persons, I know one that needs a come-to-Jesus moment. Of course corporations aren't people. I think it's Gregory Bateson I'm paraphrasing: Corporations aren't people. They aren't even aggregations of people, they are aggregations of parts of people.

Here's what happened. I came back from delivering Barsy's Almonds to find the cabinet Qwest keeps in the alley behind my house open to the weather. It was drizzling and the wind was blowing. I could see a bunch of electrical gadgets. The doors wouldn't close, and it looked like it would take a wrench to close them. I had probably already trespassed by trying to close them. I looked up Qwest's repair number, and called. The robot on the other end didn't want to give me the option I wanted: "Hey, your cabinet's open." "Okay. Thanks. We'll get on it." "Cool. Goodbye." If there was a way of getting to talk to a human, I missed it. I called sales, figuring that they'd have somebody manning the phones there. The first operator forwarded me to somebody else who kept putting me on hold so I could listen to advertising, and who couldn't find my address -- which is on the cabinet itself. I didn't suggest she get in touch with billing. All told, I spent over half an hour on the phone, trying to do a "person" I share economic space with a favor.

When I hear people complain about government's intruding into their lives, I want to tell them to bend over. Qwetht ith coming.