Friday, October 29, 2010

Jill From Tuesday Night

I'm getting more confidant, and minding clumsinesses like the hands in the bottom study less. The humanoid smudge is a fifteen-minute blind contour, using the same pen as the other drawing on the page.

Discovered with Patrica at Drawing Group that we both have spent time following the instructions of Kimon Niccolaides' The Natural Way to Draw, she more than I, and with a student of Niccolaides, and at the Art Students' League.

I rediscovered Marshall McLuhan a few weeks ago, and thinking about media as environments and massages has been really juicy. It's been a no-brainer (snicker) to sort of map McLuhan onto more recent brain research: f'rinstance, Germans got volunteers to learn to juggle, and found that they started making new brain tissue. We're tripping across similar info frequently these days. So that's how the massage works. Anything you do is a skill, including understanding a television commercial.

Now I need to map that onto ecology, limits to growth, sexual liberty, etc., etcetera being Teilhard's and Soleri's notion that we will take conscious, somatic control of evolution.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Still Crazy After...What Was I Talking About?

I'm a hippie. A good friend and an acquaintance have both pointed out that that was then and now is now. The acquaintance went on to say something like, "The pot and sex were good, but that's over." He went on to outline some neo-conservative shit, and imply that I'd sign on to it too, if I were intellectually honest and courageous.

Here are two hippie sources, Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth brand, and Paul Krassner...uh, gadfly. The hip odd couple.

Sidearms At Wounded Knee

Stony says art shouldn’t tell you things; a work of art should invite you to consider something.

The Balinese have a saying, sayeth McLuhan: We have no art; we do everything as well as we can. Lovelock says life optimizes conditions for life, and he shows how life on Earth affects various planetary material cycles. I train my own nervous system, and I train my environment the way I think will optimize conditions for human growth.

Dennis Banks At Wounded Knee

Part Of Our Moment's Dilemma

I don't remember where I got this, but it's important.

Boffing With Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand with a Boffer. These things were foam swords for working out your aggressions. The theory was that violence is instinctive in us, and we could reduce the real thing by playfully ritualizing it. Brand introduced me to a lot of things through the Whole Earth Catalog, and its descendants, including Boffers — which got my thigh seriously chomped by a friend’s dog. More lately, Brand has introduced me to Steven LeBlanc’s archeological history of human violence, Constant Battles. We’re violent when we exceed carrying capacity.

The Cavalry At Wounded Knee

Maybe Jesus and the Buddha teach us how to be content.

But real oppressors and thieves replace you. That means that they select themselves to shape humanity and the world from now on. I had a 1-O draft deferment during the Viet Nam War, and I was serious, but I can’t be a pacifist anymore. If desire for human peace is hell, the moral thing is to go to hell.

Portrait of Jan

One of two drawings from Monday night. Let's just write the other one off to exercise.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Portrait of Liz

There were more drawings from my Tuesday night co-op, but this was the best page. Two two-minute poses, one okay and one clumsy, plus a nice little vignette.

Monday I was either playing at the top of my game, or over my head. With drawing -- as with everything -- I'm training my nervous system. There's a slippery medium.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Portrait of Lisa

The second of two Monday night drawings. This is a better likeness than the drawing of Emma.

I'm beginning to draw with assurance, which is good, because my hand doesn't have a lot of fine control. The brain's gotta do it. I'm starting to keep track of relationships: "This is on a vertical line with that, and a horizontal line with this other thing;" "If I extend that line, it will hit that;" "That's about as long as this." I'd like to speed the process up, so that I just see those things instead of having to look for them. I'm training my nervous system.

An interesting thing happened: I got the distance from the seat to the floor way wrong, but was able to correct it, and camouflage the bad marks.

Portrait Of Emma

The first of two drawings from Monday night. This is the co-op in which we rotate modeling duties. Two forty-five minute sittings per pose. I usually work with Sharpies on a 9x12 sketchbook.

This one is of Emma, and only those who know who it is will recognize her, but I like the melancholy--giantess look. I thought of putting in a horizon, about the level of the trouser cuff, maybe some surf too, but there isn't room, and that would be kind of fakey.

The Week Reports On Cyberwar

I can't believe I'm reading The Week. This issue summarized The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, and on the Stuxnet worm, which has invaded the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.

Nation: "Requires the expertise of a nation state. US? Israel?"

CSM: "First true cyberweapon. Designed to cross from the digital realm to the physical world and destroy something."

Forbes: "Frightening new era."

There was an interview a couple of weeks ago on NPR. Two computer experts said that it would take the expertise of computer, nuclear, and industrial engineers to do this, as well as logistical support. They got a little cryptic, saying they believed that Stuxnet was a message from unknown parties to someone, not necessarily Iran, which could be understood only by sender and recipient.

Barbara suggested the message was between Iranian factions, or that the worm is part of a protection racket. Sam, our family tech guy, believes it's five guys in Russia, doing it for kicks.

The same issue of the week holds a dozen-page, pull-out ad for a television mini-series about Carlos "The Jackal." Terror is the weapon of the disenfranchised, and Carlos had a pretty good run as the outsiders' military-industrial complex.

To further add to the disquiet, the magazine notes a hedge fund, designed to profit from an Israeli-Iranian war. The Atlantic, reportedly, gives an Israeli attack by summer a better than fifty-fifty chance.

There was an obit for Roald Dahl, too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Farmers' Market, Peak Oil, And The Midnight Knock On The Door

Saturday's Farmers' Market was our last outdoor market of the year. Sam and Marissa manned the booth for a while, both being great outgoing Barsy's Almonds personalities. A pair of activists were leafleting people entering, passing out the "Scare the Spooks" piece, and later another group had an anti-war demonstration.

The Scare-the-spooks thing is so creepy (FBI conduct sounds more like the KGB of grade school propaganda), I asked the canvassers if they didn't think the targeted activists might not have been up to some mischief. They said not. The peace demonstrators were in good humor, with chicken (chicken?) costumes and a trumpeter.  Friendly car horn responses were almost constant. It seemed like the organizers had some economic understanding, which is good, but their emphasis was on protest.

Unlike neighbor Sean Gosiewski, who was leafletting for his organization Alliance for Sustainability's November 13 Transition Towns & Neighborhood Sustainability Networking Fair. I'd like to see a strong protestor presence at the Fair. The protesters' analysis of our Afghan occupation is that we need a base in the region to secure petroleum flow. So far so good, but what are we going to do instead? Sean's barking up the right tree, but not loudly enough. The protesters are barking loudly (and getting a lot of agreement, given the honking horns), but they're under the wrong tree.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Artistic Observation, Representation, And Narrative

Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) is the presumed inventor of scientific perspective, around 1425. Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468) invented (European) movable type around 1450.

Marshall McLuhan connected print technology and perspective in art. He seems to have believed that perspective derives from print, but their order of appearance -- a generation apart -- would have them merely coincidental, or deriving from third source. McLuhan wrote:

The Renaissance Legacy.

The Vanishing Point=Self Effacement.
The Detached Observer.
No Involvement!

The viewer of Renaissance art is systematically placed outside the frame of experience. A piazza for everything, and everything in its piazza.

The instantaneous world of electric  informational media  involves all of us, all at once. No detachment of frame is possible.

The first example is a modern child's drawing, taken from Betty Edward's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The drawing tells us what the artist thinks we need to know: People have a cap of hair, eyelashes, pairs of arms and legs; clothes have edges, and houses have doors and windows; smoke comes out of chimneys; there is a man in the moon. There's a narrative, given the unusual circumstance of a child's being outdoors alone at night, or of the moon's being visible by day (not an unusual event, but something a seven year-old might have only just noticed). Things are sized hierarchically. (This drawing is by an unusual child, or an adult, given the signature, written in confident, non-standard cursive.)

The second example is an etching by Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer. Durer, using scientific perspective, is illustrating a gadget for drawing objects in a cold-blooded way. McLuhan would have said the picture also illustrated his point.

The third example is a portrait of Ambrose Vollard by Pablo Picasso, done in 1910. The artist and his subject would have known electric lights, telegraphs, telephones, phonograph records, and cinema, but not radio. The artist has deconstructed Vollard's image, and put it back together, in a cloud of impressions, forming something new. We get to share various moments of perception, recalled or invented by Picasso.

The fourth example is a page from Saul Steinberg's The Passport, published in 1954.  This may be one drawing, or it may be two, fortuitously combined for the book. In any case, we have a narrative, as we did with the child's drawing: These are men sleeping on a night flight, not noticing as their airplane passes over a desert town.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Bread and butter cartoon for Marissa's parents. My drawing, Barbara's caption. She says captions should come first, but I think she did pretty well working the other way.

A Visit To An Outsider

I drove a friend to the Mall of America to buy dress clothes. On the way back we passed the outsider-art house at 33rd and Bloomington. I remarked on the installation, saying that it was ugly. Steve said that that was my opinion. I disagreed, and we dropped the subject.

The installation is a front yard full of cast-off dolls, furniture, and painted hoses. Think of the ditch where everybody in the county tosses their old bed springs. My friend Steve is an outsider himself, given to producing zines full of redundant neologisms and often correct but usually unsupported assertions. Everybody is entitled to his own pattern language, but understanding requires coherence, and something there is that doesn't love a mess.

And yet... My urban permaculture plantation must offend some minority among my neighbors, and ears there are that don't hear what I think coherent.

I went by the installation yesterday afternoon with my camera, and got a tour from the artist. I didn't take pictures, and I didn't ask the man his name. He is a tall black man of fifty or so, lived between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six in prison for  B&E,  and affiliates with the Black Panther Party. The word "gentrification"features prominently in the installation, painted in letters eight or ten inches high on the upstairs porch's asbestos shingles. A nylon tarp covers the front yard, and is covered in turn by painted lettering making connections between racism, war, economics, and community development. Red-painted pipes and hoses run between each other and various dolls, masks, and cabinets. A retail display case contains a Hilary Clinton puppet, and a cabinet television which plays a tape loop of the World Trade Center attack. There are concealed speakers which play crowd noises, including screams. The video and audio were not on during my visit.

According to my host, people who benefit from injustice have no reason to end it.

The artist was coherent, but not receptive to ideas which from me would have been supportive and informative. We parted easily, the ease making me feel a little objectified: I was an audience, someone who needed to be informed, and with no dimension or importance of my own. He wasn't going to miss me. I'm not going to judge somebody who has probably felt like that a lot, himself, but it stung a little. And, if I lived on the same block, I would think that my freedom was limited by my neighbor's vehement exercise of his.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Tuesday and Monday studies. I also did a New Yorker-style cartoon as bread-and-butter note for Marissa's parents. The weather's a little scared here. I lay awake between three and four, thoughts flying faster than I could catch them, but not letting me go. Everything had too many exceptions, qualifications, and implication. Reminded me of a bad acid trip of forty years ago. Deep breathing and a body scan finally let me drop back to sleep.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thermotats And Voter Literacy

More on my snarky theme, Literacy Tests for Voters and Public Servants.

Are thermostats valves or switches? The way they work is to sense room temperature, and to switch the furnace on or off, depending on the setting a human chooses. This one has a feature that changes the setting depending on time. Most of us, including me, treat thermosstats like valves: set the thing higher, and more heat might come out, but the furnace only has one setting. (What's really happening is that we're cheating, getting a little warmer until somebody more responsible comes along and busts us.)

Why is this important? Thermostats are an example of negative feedback, and an introduction to thinking accurately about how the world works.

Yoga's European Origins

I found an article in the November Yoga Journal strangely comforting. Mark Singleton, whom I surmise to be an British academic and yoga student, wrote in Yoga's Greater Truth that what you and I think of as "yoga" has a nineteenth century origin in a Danish system called "Primitive Gymnastics." So "Yoga" is part of our own lebensreform movement. Asana is one of the limbs of Patanjali's Eightfold Path, but what we're doing the Indians got from us, and recently. The Indians who introduced us to yoga a century or so ago were interested in breathing and meditation, and looked down their schnozzes at the gymnastic stuff for class reasons.

Upper photo taken because the Swiss ball looked mysterious and surreal next to the plumbing. This is the downstairs bath, the tub and shower mostly unused. The dangling hose is part of Sam's brewing apparatus.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Belief, Thomas Merton, And The Rabbi's Cat

One of the sources that moved Thomas Merton toward belief was a book by somebody named Etienne Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy. Merton was initially skeptical of it because of its Nihil Obstat (Catholic certification that it contained "nothing objectionable"). That would have been my reaction. Merton thought of the Nihil Obstat as "Catholic censorship."

In the Sussemans' telling, it was Gilson's relaying the Medieval scholars' idea that "God is Being itself" that moved Merton.

But how do you get from God-as-pure-being to the Resurrection, and to a vow of obedience to lesser men? (Trappists also take vows of "stability," staying put, and "conversion of manners," which includes the well known vows of poverty and chastity.)

Comic book frame from The Rabbi's Cat, by Joann Sfar.

A Story About My Brother And Father Kelly

Left to right, Tom, Bridgid, Denny, Tim. Here's a story about Tim.

In the fifth or sixth grade, Sister Assissium told Tim's class that the people in some part of the world were poor because they were Communists. Tim ventured the opinion that these folk might be Communists because they were poor. Assissium made Tim stand out in the hall.

Father Kelly, the young assistant pastor came along, and asked Tim why he was out there. He told Tim that he didn't want to see him there again.

This happened in 1961 or so. Father Kelly -- "call me Joe" -- went on to become the local radical priest, and a friend of the family. When I heard the story about Tim, it included a story about Joe Kelly's hearing the story, and saying, "Tell Tim I'm sorry."

Thomas Merton

I read a good part of this short bio of Thomas Merton while waiting for the auto shop to fix an exhaust leak and some other stuff. Merton was the smart and cosmopolitan scion of American and New Zealand expats. In his twenties he converted to Roman Catholicism, and became a Trappist priest, as well as a hermit who carried on conversations and correspondences with the likes of Aldous Huxley, Brahmachari, and D. T. Suzuki.

I'd read it before, and done some underlining I'd forgotten. Quotes:

"If I pray for peace, that prayer is only justified if it means one thing." -- it had to mean that he himself could sacrifice affluence, the things that made for greed. Just praying for a cessation of war wasn't enough.

"I am scared to take a proprietary interest in anything, for fear that my love of what I own may be killing someone somewhere."

"How can I write about poverty when, though I am in a way poor, yet I still live as though in a country club?"

"Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others."

"Biblical eschatology must not be confused with the vague and anxious eschatology of human foreboding."

And in regard to the above foreboding, Now here was Father Louis (Merton) their teacher, telling them that this was a pathological fear, and that such fears were really a thinly disguised hope for violence, a hope for a violent end, in opposition to the true force of eschatology."

He repeated over and over that nonviolence does not make sense "if one does not also have faith in God."

Do I believe that last one, and does it square the earlier statements about poverty? If scarcity is the germ of war, doesn't that make war's elimination a purely practical problem. And what if there is no god.

Monday and Tuesday Drawing Groups

Drawings from Monday and Tuesday, the gestures from Tuesday. Tuesday was a problem I didn't solve, and still don't understand. There were a lot of us in a member's living room, and crammed close to the model. In the longer poses, I didn't get the proportions right, while thinking that I was doing a good job measuring. Do we have a zoom function in our vision that rationalizes close up distortion? Or was I measuring wrong?

The more finished drawing is of Laura from Monday night. That group was talking for a while about deep stuff: heaven, hell, belief, doubt, Christianity, and Buddhism (both American and Asian). I was surprised to hear someone express her deeply felt belief that the early deaths of worthy people argue against the existence of God.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Solar Boats, Fidel Castro, And Political Repression

A political cartoon I did when I was editing the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society's Newsletter, plus pics of three kid-built solar boats, from a dozen or so years ago.

Speaking of Fidel Castro, a gay friend sent me the following links, the first in Spanish, the second a partial translation of the interview. In them, Fidel says that persecution of Cuban homosexuals was wrong, and takes responsibility. Mao murdered his way to the top, and Stalin committed greater genocide than Hitler. Castro treated obstructionists the way I probably would, a good reason to keep me off the throne, but conundrum-raising history.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Systems Approach To Economic Recovery

If the rich aren't burdened with regulatory and tax burdens, this will free them to create wealth for society. In times when society's back is against the economic wall, we are foolish to so burden them. That's the theory, anyway.

It's more like they're children who tell their parents the family won't have to hire a plumber to fix the toilet, if the parents let them shit on the floor. Forgetting for a minute that resource limits play a big part in current economic stresses, the business cycle has periods of growth and recession because need for goods is saturated.

Where are there unmet needs? If we know, we can direct capital toward them, most effectively stimulating the economy. Here are two good places:

     * Building an industrial base for a civilization that runs ecologically and on solar-power;

     * Poor people --  a demographic whose need for goods is not saturated.

Where will we get the dough? Not by borrowing. We won't ever be able to repay. Not from the government's non-military discretionary budget. There's not much there. It has to come from the military, and to a lesser extent, from the wealthy.

H- Bomb graphic from Makers of the Nuclear Holocaust (A Guide to the Nuclear Weapons Complex and Citizen Action), edited by Sam Day (1981, 2nd edition, 24 pp.; $1.50 (then) postpaid from AFSC, Rocky Flats/Nuclear Weapons Facilities Project, 1660 Lafayette, Denver, CO 80218). AFSC is the American Friends Sevice Committee.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sam's Wedding

We married Sam off on Saturday, the wedding in our immature urban permaculture plantation. From top to bottom:

     *The bride, Marissa Bremer of the Plymouth (Minnesota) Bremers. Dig that dress! She's standing on the street side of the hedge. On the ground behind Marissa, you can see a plant in a short cage. This is a hazel nut bush. Shortly before the wedding, some animal ate one of the baby hazels. We're lucky to live in a neighborhood in which you can call somebody up and ask, "Do you have any spare hazel bushes?" as though you were borrowing a cup of sugar.

     * The wedding party at the rehearsal. Note the "dude of honor" and the "groom's woman." (Guess which witness is a Minnesota state cop.)

     * The mothers, Barbara Spenader, and Mary Kay Bremer.

     * Father of the bride, Larry Bremer.

     * The groom.