Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You Forgot Your Monocle

Why does art always have to be so pretentious? Why can't we simply look at something and say "hey, that's cool"?

Have you ever tried to read an art magazine? It's almost as if the contributors are competing to see who can write the most incomprehensible article.

It reminds me of an episode of Futurama where Fry falls into billions of dollars and to celebrate, Fry and his friends, Leela and Bender, throw a party. At the party they are all sitting around drinking cognac, smoking cigars, and wearing top hats. Then Leela and Bender have a conversation off to the side.

Leela (wearing top hat) : "I know Fry’s rich, but do we really have to wear these top hats?"

Bender (wearing top hat) : "Maybe you don’t understand just how rich he is -- in fact, I think I’d better put on a monocle."

Image via The Futurama Point

It's just like this in the art world. No one knows exactly how they should act or what they should say, so they all just try to act as upscale as possible even if it all crumbles into a pile of babel. They all ignore the emperor's naked butt for fear that they won't get their piece of the pie.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Have you ever wanted to be Bugs Bunny and dig a trench and end up somewhere else like Paris?

I often wish for an escape from my current life and like Bugs Bunny try to find a tunnel underneath and around the so called obstacles. But for some reason I always end up in the cold facing off against the abominable snowman, who picks me up and names me George and loves me and pets me and just about kills me.

But I keep trying, and one day I know that I'll find Paris. And I'll live the life I want. But then again in the cartoons the snowman always ends up following Bugs to paradise. Luckily the snowman melts away in the summer heat. Now if only it wasn't winter.

Monday, January 29, 2007

River Docks

A colored pencil drawing that I did at work. Sometimes I have a little down time and it can get boring so this is my second attempt at using colored pencils. I got some strange reactions when I put my usual face, or lack there of, on the figure. With time I hope people will come to understand it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Jasper Johns

I love keeping up with art and artists and Jasper Johns has always fascinated me. When I first saw his flag paintings I like everyone else focused on the flag not seeing the collage underneath. It wasn't until I saw a close up that I realized that he wasn't painting a flag. You can see a detail view here on Wikipedia

I also thought that this deconstruction of one of his paintings was interesting.

This painting called Device is one of my favorites. I like how he nailed boards to the painting and slid them in a circle to make a design and instead of removing them he left them in place.

Recently I saw a episode of CBS Sunday Morning about different artists take on Picasso at the Whitney Museum, and saw a brief view of a new series of Jasper Johns inspired by Picasso.

On you can read a brief biography of Jasper Johns.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

After Park

This is a small painting that I did after I finished a larger one. I still had mixed paint and dirty brushes, so instead of letting it go to waste I did this.

I had no idea what I wanted to paint and this just formed itself on the scrap of plexiglass as I went along. I like it's minimalist leanings amid post apocalyptic scenery.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Abstract Power

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Nerds Strike Again

In my last post I mentioned The Spiritual Age of Machines by Ray Kurzweil, which I have now given up on. This is only the second of many thousands of books I've read (I stopped counting at 6,000) that I won't finish. (The other one was about magic cats, yes I said magic cats.)

Now maybe I'm just in the wrong mood to finish it, but his nerdiness knows no bounds. He wants everyone to think that he is smart but then he talks down to his readers. He takes three paragraphs to explain what DNA is. If you didn't learn about DNA in ninth grade biology then turn on the TV, almost every show has it in there somewhere.

He takes literally chapters to explain a simple concept that could be condensed to a few paragraphs. I haven't seen this much padding since girls bras in middle school.

And then to add insult to injury he makes up this really stupid idea of having a fake conversation with a so called reader. Later on you can tell he thinks it's stupid too since he breaks down and gives this fantasy reader a name, Molly, but he's in too deep and beats it to a bloody stump all the way to the end. (It's probably some girl he fantasized about in high school.)

Like most nerds, he thinks this makes it easier to understand, but all it does is get in the way. And then he attempts nerd humor in the conversation. Like this "gem":

"The subjective experience, however, is the experience of the process itself, assuming, of course, that the process is conscious. Which in your case, it is. At least, I assume that's the case."

Hardy Har Har!

They should make a monument to this guy as the king of the nerds.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Only Nerds Like Sidebars

Lately I have been forced to be around someone who set off my Nerd'o'Meter, and I've tried to examine what makes them nerdy. Now this might sound a little nerdy itself and I agree to an extent, but as the saying goes it takes one to know one.

I believe that I occupy an unusual, if not unique position, between nerds and non-nerds. I'm just nerdy enough to want to understand nerds and not so much a nerd that I can't see what's nerdy.

When most people think of nerds they usually come up with someone wearing large rimmed glasses, button up shirts, and pulled up pants. But these are just surface details that can be changed, you can take the nerd out of the bad clothes but you can't take the nerd out of the nerd.

For the record I like this person as a person, but I can't get past the fact that he's a nerd. Basically being around him has brought together my thoughts as to what makes a nerd.

A. Nerds have a passion about one or more subjects.

B. Nerds have a desire to share this passion with others.

C. Nerds have a tendency to talk about these subjects regardless if anyone else wants to hear it.

D. Nerds overlook or don't notice social clues that tell them when to shut up.

E. Nerds want to unload everything they've ever learned about a subject in one sitting.

If you combine all of this you basically get a nerd. Nerds are unaware of the way the come off socially and then don't understand why people don't like them. They often think that to be liked more they need to learn more about various subjects, not realizing it is the package people don't like not the product.

You could have the worlds juiciest hamburger in pristine condition but if you tried to serve it sitting on a rusty garbage can lid smeared with old trash, no one is going to eat it.

And it's the same thing with books. While thinking about nerds, I am reading The Spiritual Age of Machines by Ray Kurzweil,and while I want to read what he is saying and understand he's a smart guy, he comes off sounding like a nerd.

Advice to writers, or anyone else in a information giving arena. If there are two ways to say the same thing, always use the simpler of the two. You will reach a wider audience, and have greater understanding. (And not sound like a nerd.)

If you are writing a book so everyone will know that you are a smart person, first, you are writing for the wrong reason. And second, the very fact that you are writing about that subject already tells them that you think you are a smart person.

And finally please, please don't use sidebars. If you feel that the information in a sidebar is important, put it in the body of the text. And if it isn't important enough to put it in the main body, then don't put it in the book. Sidebars are a form of a nerd trying to tell everything they have ever learned in one sitting.

And if for some irrational reason you really need to have a sidebar, make it an end-bar. Put the information at the end of the chapter where it won't interrupt reading or thought flow. And if even that is too hard to follow, label it as "information that isn't really important so skip it unless you really want to read it" or "come back to this later since it is only remotely connected to what I'm trying to tell you in the main part."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Great Salt Lake Expanse

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Monkeys Pick Nits, Dogs Sniff Butts

So, I'm walking down the hall, and someone I know is coming the other direction.

"How ya doing?" they say.

And this is where the confusion sets in. Are they really asking how I'm doing? Do they want to stop and talk? Are they just saying hi? Am I supposed to answer and ask them how they are doing? What happens next if I do? I'm really busy and don't have time to talk, but should I stop anyway? Will they think I'm rude if I don't ask how they are doing? If I just say hi will they think it's weird? If I say fine and keep walking are they going to think I'm unfriendly?

At this point things are getting strange anyway so I just say fine and keep moving on.

Was that the right response? Are they okay with it? Are they going to talk about me behind my back? Were they expecting more from me? Will they understand? Should I explain things, or will that just make a weird situation weirder?

And then there's a second situation. In my cube farm people will periodically be standing up to relieve chronic trucker butt.

There you are just navigating the maze between cubes in an attempt to relieve yourself and 40 feet away you meet eyes with someone.

Do you nod? Do you wave? Are you too far away? Do you wait to acknowledge them when you are 20 feet away? Maybe 10 feet is better? Do you shout hi across the room? Do you smile? This is the third time you've had eye contact with them today, do you have to greet them every time? Are you supposed to stop and talk? Do you walk around looking at your feet so you can pretend that you really don't see anyone?

At this point they usually turn away and look down making things more awkward. Did I offend them? Did they want me to say something? Should I have waved? Arrg, I should have said hi, but man I just want to take a piss.

Animals have the system worked out. When dogs meet they always sniff butts. "Hi spot." sniff, "Hi scooter." sniff. Nice and clear and easy.

I don't advocate sniffing butts, but couldn't we come up with something easier?

If you just want to say hi, just say hi. Don't ask me how I'm doing, because then I'm unsure what you want.

If you want to talk then ask how I'm doing.

And as far as eye contact, can't we just nod and go about our business?

I think I might adopt the Aussies method. If you meet someone just say G'day Mate, and get on with your life.

And if I don't stop and talk to you, it doesn't mean I don't like you. I simply have something else I'm doing, and maybe I just need to pee.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Book List 2007

I like to read, but I've never kept a book list. So this year I decided that I would.

I'm going to keep adding to it as the year goes by. The list will consist of every book that I read, good or bad. I fully expect it to be heavily slanted toward scifi, since that's my genre of choice, but who knows? Maybe there's a surprise waiting even for me?

January books:

Triple Jeopardy by Rex Stout

Neuromancer by William Gibson (This is the fifth time I've read it.)

Hammerjack by Marc D. Giller

Seeker by Jack McDevitt

Engines of God by Jack McDevitt

The Dragonhead by John Sack


Ancient Shores by Jack McDevitt

How to Build a Mind by Igor Aleksander

Why Asia? by Alice Yang

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Africa: Part Two

(This is continued from part one.)

When a boy reaches the age of twelve his father will take him out into the jungle and perform rituals to make him a man. They are usually gone for several months and when they get back the boy joins the men at the men's hut.

Becoming a man means that his productive life is over. Only women and children work. A boy can help his mom until the age of twelve, after that his life consists of hanging out in the men's hut and drinking banana mash.

Banana mash is made by the men. They go into the jungle and cut down a tree. They will hollow it out like a dugout canoe and then fill it up with plantain bananas with the skins on. They then cover this with a thick layer of leaves and get in and stomp around a bit mashing the bananas.
They leave this out in the hot sun for a couple weeks then stomp it again. After a couple more weeks in the sun they will drill a small hole in the bottom of the dugout tree and extract almost pure alcohol.

Almost every boy is an alcoholic by the age of 15.

Later on the eldest of the three sisters showed up. She was pregnant. She had been raped by a man and now her and her two sisters live at the orphanage.

At the orphanage Mrs. R was volunteering at, they are taking care of over 700 children in a space designed to handle 200. The children are taught school lessons by older orphans who have graduated and get paid one meal a day for working a ten hour shift. In the orphanage they all eat together and try to teach a better way. Sometimes the children and women are served before the men, and on certain days the men serve the women.

They hope by teaching simple lessons like this that they will be able to change a society where rape and murder are considered a man's right.

She had plenty of other stories but I don't have the time here to write them all.

I wonder about a society that's self destructive and the ignorance of the rest of the world. Unfortunately I have to still group myself with the ignorant. And for now I have to satisfy myself with helping by telling others what I have learned, and hope through small efforts to make a change.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Africa: Part One

(I'm leaving out names and places since I did not ask permission to write about this)

A few weeks ago I went to hear a woman speak about her trip to Africa. I wasn't sure if I should write about it, but after thinking about it for a while I decided I should. But I warn you it might be a little depressing, as some eye opening experiences are.

As I sat down in a small intimate room with about 20 other people I was expecting a typical travelogue with a few tidbits of interesting information. I brought my notebook with me in case inspiration struck and I needed to sketch an idea. Up at the front of the room was a small table with a podium on it and around it were several hand woven baskets that seemed to be of African origin.

After a few minutes of milling around we all took our seats and a tall, thin but strong looking woman went up to the front. She appeared to be in her late 40's or early 50's, her hair was losing its color but still had a general light blond-brown color.

She introduced herself as Mrs. R and started to speak and I forgot about my notebook and everything else for the next hour.

It turned out that she went to the Congo area of Africa once or twice a year. She went over there at the insistence of a friend who volunteered at an orphanage.

She went through a complete culture shock when she got into the city. Most of the city is what we'd call a shanty town. The worst part of an American city is better than the best part of the city she showed us.

As she walked through the streets children would surround her and she would crouch down to be on their eye level. They would touch her hair and laugh and touch her face and make a sound like "tht". At first she thought that they were fascinated by her white skin compared to their midnight black skin because she was pretty to them, but later on she learned that the sound "tht" actually meant grub. They were comparing her white skin, slick with sweat with the larva of bugs they found in rotting wood. Since they are adapted to the climate they don't sweat in the general heat of the day.

She went on to talk about the culture. She explained how she met three girls who were sisters the oldest was eleven. At night they would hide in a doorway with a piece of tin to cover them.

The women in that part of the world have next to no rights. At night a woman will gather her children inside their hut and use whatever wood they can find to barricade the entrance. The windows in the hut are made deliberately small so only someone's head can get through. They do this to prevent men from coming in at night and raping and killing them.

At night the worst thing in the world for a female to do is be outside. If a female is out at night she will be raped or killed and if she is raped she becomes the woman of the man who raped her.

Women in that area rarely if ever have husbands, since it costs $50 to buy a marriage license. That $50 can feed a person for a whole year. Because of this, women are often taken property of "The Man". "The Man" is any male who has claimed a woman for himself. If a woman's man dies or goes away a new man will become "The Man". This is usually a frightening thing for a woman since any of her children by the previous man now have to leave. If they don't leave, no matter how young they are, one day the new man will take them for a walk into the jungle. Later on "The Man" will come back, but the child will never be seen again. The new man usually kills the previous man's children. Because of this, there are thousands and thousands of orphans.

One story she told was of a mother who only had a little food left. Their culture says that "The Man" eats first, then his children, and if anything is left over the woman eats last. But one day this woman fed her children while "The Man" was away, since there was so little food and they were starving. When "The Man" came home he was not happy, so he barricaded her and the children in the hut and set it on fire. They all died except the woman who barely survived. She had third degree burns over 96% of her body, and only a doctor's special care at the hospital was able to save her life.

(to be continued.)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Even Madonna Thinks Britney Should Wear Underwear

Whatever happened to manners? When did the line between a lady and a skank become blurred? And who would have thought that Madonna would turn out to be the classier of the two?

What's next? A photo op of Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell hugging?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Up is Down

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Art Needs Thought, Not Words

I've never understood those posters you see in malls of a photograph with a large word printed beneath them like Daybreak or Melancholy or some other doggerel. Why do we have to have someone else tell us what we should feel or see?

The great freedom of art is that we can make up our own minds as to what it means. It's as if the publisher or artist thinks we are stupid. Or maybe they recognize the laziness in people who don't want to spend the effort to think for themselves.

I often wonder if people are tricked into buying these abominations or if someone out there actually likes the big "my first artwork" type images. If someone likes the photograph I totally understand, but why does the art need a crutch?

I say avoid the jack boot word Nazis and either cut off the offending member or don't buy it in the first place. And to those artists out there who are tempted to lock our minds with iron manacles, if your art isn't strong enough on its own, there isn't a word in the dictionary that will be able to prop it up. And if it is strong enough, it doesn't need it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Suzhou he

Years ago I was flipping through channels on the TV and stumbled across this scene of a Chinese girl in the rain with this look of complete loss on her face. I watched the rest of the movie which was only about three more minutes, but this image was stuck in my head and I couldn't shake it.

The movie ended and I was wondering if they were going to show it again, as some stations do, but I could never find it on again. By this point I had forgotten how to spell the name of the movie since it was in Chinese, but I knew I had to see the rest of it.

The next day at work I was still inspired, so on my lunch break I did this sketch of three figures standing in the rain. I never finished the background because I thought that I would rent the movie and find something in it to inspire me as to what I should put there.

I remember over the years searching foreign sections of video stores hoping that I would stumble across it and be able to remember the title. But finding a video store in America that had a well stocked foreign movie section would be like finding a race horse wearing a dress driving a car next to you on your morning commute.

After a while I forgot about it, and then one day I was going through some old papers and found the sketch that I had made. I remembered the movie and the idea was still fresh in my mind so I decided to just draw in a background.

But since it reminded me of the movie I went to the internet and searched for hours until I finally rediscovered what the name of the movie was, Suzhou he, or Suzhou River. I put it in my Netflix queue and I just watched it last night.

The imagery in it is awesome and has inspired me. It's shot in a handheld first person view that at first drove my eyes crazy but it settled down after a bit. Basically it's a type of love story told by a videographer who we never see, about the loss of love and the search to find it again.

But it's more than a love story. It shows the complex interactions between people with alienated overtones from the narrator. It almost seems like we are finding out who the videographer is by watching him tell this story, and that the real story is about him, but only we, the audience, know about it.

So now after watching the movie I realize that the background that I drew doesn't have the feeling that I want, but I like it anyway. So I think that I will paint two versions of it. But I will have to do some new figure sketches so that they don't look the same. There's enough inspiration in this movie for a dozen paintings, the only problem now is that I'm going to have to buy the DVD.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Killer on the Road: Part Five

It's been a while but I've finally finished. In part four we stopped after the fence was put in and let the paint dry.

I still hadn't finalized the figure so I spent some time drawing different people until I came up with the right idea. You can see my cut out drawing taped to the right easel leg below the painting. With something like this I'll draw to any scale I like and then scan and adjust the size on the computer, and then print it out.

After I have it cut out I'll lightly tape it to the paint surface and trace around it with a pencil. I've used other methods for transferring a drawing to a painting but this one is the easiest so far.

Then I remove the cut out and draw in a few of the missing details. Now it's time to mix paint. In my sketch the figure was all one color and I thought about making him all black like a silhouette, but since he was carrying a bag, which would be hard to distinguish in silhouette, I decided to add a little color but kept it dark.

After the figure was done I stepped back to get an overall look. The figure looked like he was floating on top of the road, so I added a shadow by taking a small flat brush and putting a little gray paint on it but then wiping most of it off. This helped make the shadow look like part of the ground and not a flat shape floating above it.

At this point I always have a short battle with myself whether to add my crosshatching or not. I really like how it looks and put it in most of my paintings but I hesitate because I wonder what other people will think of it. I wonder if people will think it's supposed to be some sort of religious thing, even though that is definitely not what it means to me. But since it's my painting I push through the controversy in my head and paint them anyway.

To paint the crosses I thinned down some white paint with Liquin and paint thinner to a soup-like consistency. Then I load up my liner brush and use short vertical and horizontal strokes to crosshatch behind the buildings.

There's only one thing left and that's to add my signature. I wipe off my liner and dip it into the black that I used for the figure coat and paint my signature in the left hand corner. And that's it, the painting's done!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

How to Comment: Update

I realized that some instructions in my previous comment post were unclear, so hopefully this will make things easier to understand.

You do not have to be registered to comment on my website.

In the nickname area, if you are not registered, just click either the Other or Anonymous button. If you choose Other simply make up a username and type it in the first field, the field for your website address is optional, and then click publish your comment. If you choose Anonymous then you don't have to have a username just click publish your comment.

If you are registered you can sign in, or just publish in one of the other two ways, by clicking one of the other two buttons. And if you are already signed in then you can choose any of the three options.

Also if you're wondering why there is a security code, here's the answer.

In this day and age when people have little respect for others, there are certain companies out there that will employ software robots to scour the Internet looking for places to post their advertisements, like comments on blogs and email addresses that are also a send mail link.

So to prevent this, an image security code was invented, which so far only humans are able to see and understand (it's made up of image files not text, basically it's pictures of letters). You type it in so that you don't have to sit around and read advertisements in comments all day.

Hopefully this will clarify things a bit.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Drawing 1

I admit that colored pencils are probably my least favorite art medium, but I bought myself a set so I would have something to do at work on down time.

I really had no idea what I was going to draw, so this just came together. I'm not quite sure if I like it. And I'm still not sure about the colored pencils, but I will have time to mess around with them and hopefully come up with something that works.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sick + Hollywood Clichès: Round Two

I've been sick for the past three days with the worst cold I've had in five years. Between sneezing, coughing, fevers, and an on again/off again nose, I haven't been able to think or do much of anything. Mostly I've watched a lot of television.

I'm really sick of television right now. So now I have two illnesses.

But I have managed to ferret out two more Hollywood clichès.

They both involve couples arguing. In the first version, and most often used, a couple are fighting and all of a sudden the phone rings. How many times in real life does this actually happen? I admit that I rarely argue, so maybe other people think this is common, but I think it's trite and an obvious device to create some sort of tension. I'm actually amazed that people still fall for it. Personally the only tension I feel is from annoyance.

The other clichè involves the same situation except instead of a phone ringing, a child walks in out of the blue, usually with a completely crestfallen expression. First of all, if the parents argue all the time the child by this point will be used to it and have less of an emotional impact. And second, why does the child always seem to wait, like Captain Jack Sparrow, for the opportune moment to interrupt? Could it be that the writers are hacks and can't think of anything else to get on with the show?

Being sick has tuned me in to the overwhelming monotony of television. In the past you used to run across an interesting show once in a while. But it looks like today's fodder is all about crap wrapped in a pretty bow with no new ideas on the horizon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How to Comment

I've had some complaints that when people post a comment they are not showing up.

Unfortunately I have very little control over how the comment section works, but here's the basic method to make it function, such as it is.

At the bottom of the post you want to comment on, click on the comments link next to my name and time. This will take you to the comments page.

Type your comment in the text box. Blogger limits this to 300 characters and won't let me change it. If you need to write more just leave another comment below your first one.

After you are done with your comment, you need to type in the security code. (If you are logged into Blogger or Google you don't have to do this.) The security code is the group of funky blue letters. (Letters can also be different colors.)

After you type them in correctly you need to choose if you are posting with a nickname or not. I allow anyone to leave comments, even though I would appreciate a nickname, I don't require it.

And finally click the publish your comment button on the bottom. That should work.

Man-aze sounds icky

Yay! It's 2007! And since tradition holds that everyone make a New Year's resolution, I have a resolution for everyone!

Stop the hillbillyization of the English language.

While I know that I'm not the paragon of correct pronunciation, I at least make an attempt at it. I'm not trying to lambaste one region of the world over another, since everyone is allowed to have their local dialect, but you would think that a dictionary would stick to their guns.

At a New Year's party my friends and I were talking about pet peeves. We started talking about colloquialisms, how people would say things in our area and things we've overheard. This eventually led to someone getting on the computer and looking words up.

I was amazed that Merriam-Webster's dictionary, had kowtowed to the majority and started putting in pronunciations like, worsh for wash, man-aze for mayonnaise, and ag for egg.

Making this sentence a possibility (at least phonetically.)

I'm going to worsh me an ag far the man-aze.

This brings me to the next words on the hit list:
formiliar for familiar
ohl for oil
pellow for pillow.

But there is some hope out there., has not bowed beneath the lead weight of apathy.

So everyone's resolution is simple, learn to pronounce one word correctly. I suggest mayonnaise. They put those letters in there for a reason.