22 August 2019

The New Water Jar

3600Times change and some of my painting habits have changed with it. I'm using bigger and more brushes as I explore the joy of painting acrylic. Washing these brushes in the old jar got a bit messier and soggier than before because they're larger and require a bit more vigorous of a wrist to get rinsed and clean.

Well, actually, messy, I don't have a problem with as the older I get the more feral I become. Soggy, though, I don't do. Anyway.

My Brown Eye Girl came up with a suitable, and larger, jar. Allow me to introduce you all:

Same former product, same brand (Hy-Top was what WinCo sold before they didn't). Bigger chest, smaller neck: should corral the sloshing water a little better.

Please, people ... celebrate appropriately. Thank you. 

The Daily Paint By Number: Beach Chair Trio Progress Report #3

3599Checking in with my current PBN project, PaintWorks' Beach Chair Trio, we find things going quite quickly actually, but since I'm splitting my time between three projects, it goes about as quickly as the big one.

The painting in warm colors is the fun part, really. I'm also letting the sharpening of my manual dexterity sink in, really knowing it. I want to capture my own artistic evolution in a knowing way and this is another reason why doing this is more personally exciting than the other times I tried to reinvent myself as an artist. This is the reason this one, I think, may just stick and take me places I should have been some years ago.

There are big tracts of single colors here, though, so doing one color takes up a lot of painting space. That's also kind of fun in its own ineffable way.

19 August 2019

50 Small Paintings #4: Deep Blue Sea

3598The next painting is an exploration in a simple gradation. In its simplicity it suggests looking out to a placid, sunlit sea.

The first step was to sketch in the shoreline and horizon with a mixture of unbleached titanium and yellow ochre. It was then a rather simple matter of gradating upwards, starting with a mix of titanium white and light blue permanent, leaving a sliver of canvas showing through, then applying successive horizontal strokes of the same with an increasing proportion of cadmium blue before the preceding strokes have wholly dried. This strikes me as a way of a sort of blending on the painting, a dash of alla prima. 

The work is finished off by adding in a sky of the same white/blue mix we started with, leaving a bit of canvas peeking out to suggest a cloud in the distance, and filling in the shore unbleached titanium. Comparing the finished work with the photo in the book, I find myself okay with it generally but a tidbit unsatisfied with the smoothness of the gradation. The author suggests attempting this several times if one is not satisfied, but I'm satisfied enough, for now.

... the scene of the crime:

14 August 2019

Eggplant With Peppers: Progress Report 2

3597After falling sloppy in love with the first three of 50 Small Paintings I've let the "Eggplant with Peppers" still life stay on the shelf. I took it down and did a little something.

Here's the painting, now:

I wouldn't say I'm in striking distance of simultude here. Maybe same area code, is as close as I am right now, and I didn't do much: the white/cad yellow mix on the inside to suggest the cut edge of the big yellow pepper, and the addition of some color to the small yellow pepper to give it some dimension and visual heft.

Up close it looked like ass. I grew a little frustrated and stepped back.

When I stepped back ... it kinda looked better. I kinda liked it.

Vision seems to work this way for me, and maybe for you too: you take a close look, a real close look, and you see all the little parts. They don't suggest a whole, they only suggest themselves. You step back, though, and the diminished level of visual acuity of those details which occurs naturally ... nobody, no matter how eagle-sharp your vision is, can see every detail when you step back ... causes as sort of visual blending to occur. That, and your peripheral perception provides the framing context which reaches into these visually-blended details and knits them into the visual whole. This causes the whole brain to do a gestalt thing, and this connects what you see into what you know, identities map, and it achieves a level of sense. It's not exactly what a pepper would look like, but it makes sense as a valid interpretation of one.

So, going into that prolix mishmash, I was pretty sad about this. I hadn't done much and it didn't seem to do much good but all of a sudden it all fell together.

Clear as mud? Thought so. Next, I'll be trying some highlights.

12 August 2019

The Little European E On The Paint Tubes

3596I'd always thought it was a European thing. Turns out I was right, not quite in the way I'd thought, but right sure enough.

There is a symbol to the right of this text; it is a minuscule "e" drawn in a peculiar style. I've seen it on art supplies, specifically paint tubes, for a while. It has to do with a standard for prepackaging weight for products and it turns out it points up a subtle yet significant difference between Europe and the United States of America.

This is what they call the "estimated sign". It is a European standard. Without belaboring things too much, it appears in the same visual field as the weight or volume of the product and it means that the contents won't, on average, be less than the number you see, and for those that are slightly less, that slightly-less will be within an expected tolerance.

The European market, then, is what they call an average fill market. In America, though, that packaged weight is the least you will expect to see in all cases, and for that reason they say that America is a minimum fill market.

The language behind all of it makes even my eyes glaze over; the specifications, as well as the precise specifications for even drafting the symbol can be found on the Wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estimated_sign. They are intimidatingly complex.

A slightly less abstruse reading can be found at the page https://www.ceway.eu/cosmetic-product-labels-estimated-symbol/, published by CE.way, a consultancy that provides market-oriented regulation and testing advice to the cosmetics industry. It makes the highly interesting point that, while you may see the 'e' on prepackages sold in the USA, since it's for products shipped from withing the EU to within the EU, putting the 'e' on your USA package imported to the EU means little or nothing, especially when one takes a moment to think about making a minimum-fill product jibe with standards for average-fill products.

So why do it? For the same reason any American affects something European: style. It lends an air of sophistication.

But that's the story behind the 'e'.

And that, as they say, is a thing you know now.

50 Small Paintings #2: Simple Sunset

3595The second of the series of 50 Small Paintings is "Simple Sunset". It shan't take long to see why.

It's a brief yet effective experience in using pure tube colors as well as layering them.

First, a fat stripe of Cadmium Yellow Light (Lemon Yellow had to suffice, since I, at that time, had no Cad Yellow Lt) across the lower middle. Then, a big stripe of Cad Orange overlapping that. Then, coming down from the top, Cad Red overlapping the first two. Below the horizon, Mars Black. Put a few bumps on the horizon to suggest distant clumps of trees, and a short horizontal stroke of Titanium White for the setting sun.

Once again, how effective and evocative this simplicity is! I, with just my meagre re-emergent artistic skill, have created a scene you can kind of melt into, that reminds me of slightly-out-of-focus, heat-distorted sunsets I've seen portrayed in film.

How powerful, this modest amount of technique is.

And at the end of it all, the palette. We drank water that day.

11 August 2019

50 Small Paintings #1: "Moonrise"

3594My Brown Eyed Girl is always on the lookout for compelling things that make me want to create. This is credit that must be stated. And, in her (so far) tireless quest to do so (much gratitude) she located, at the Mighty MultCoLib, a book by Mark Daniel Nelson, titled Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings. This book delivers exactly what the title advertises: 50 small works, most seem to be easily accomplished in a single sitting, each concentrating on introducing and giving experience on foundational skills in acrylic painting but each resulting in a charming little simple yet displayable painting.

It also touches on principles of design and display: the works are conceived in groups along common artistic themes so that they may be displayed together in harmonious groups or strategically against each other to create thematic contrasts.

I found a gold mine here and intend on doing all 50. And it has been rewarding, exciting, and fulfilling. There are more aspects to this work that I'll get into later, but, for now: the first painting.

These are all going to be done on 8 inch by 8 inch acrylic-primed canvasboard, the sort you find in every art store (the book specifies 5-by-5 and advocates exploring preparing your own grounds but 8-by-8 works just as well and I could fool about creating my own ground but I just want to get down to it (and the text is very accommodating about that as well)). Here in Portland we are blessed with more than one value-minded art supply store (mid-level acrylics and sensibly-priced canvasboard are in good supply at not only I've Been Framed but also Artist & Craftsman Supply), so exploring and getting an honest-to-goodness start on a painting practice is both convenient and not about to bust any budget.

So: ready, steady, go. Here we go down the road toward painting and illustration.

"Moonrise" means to introduce the aspiring acrylics artists to basic paint application and basic mixing. The only colors used here are Titanium White and Mars Black, and here's a view of the palette immediately after the work was completed:

For the record, yes, the big cracked cup had coffee in it, and the brushes were almost (but not quite) rinsed in the coffee more than once; some artistic traditions must be maintained.

First, the entire square was covered with a dark gray mixed from the two colors. Second, the dark mass of the hillside and skyline were added with pure Mars Black. Then, pure Titanium White was used to create the Moon and the reflection in the water (short, wiggly, horizontal strokes for that). As a finishing move, more dark gray was mixed and the sky and water were went over once again, to make it as opaque as possible and also to clean up the edges on the Moon and reflection.

The Moon was a little out-of-round: this was done with a #8 round brush and, as with the other non-PBN paintings I've been doing, working with other than the now-teeny-feeling #2 round has been a revelationary experience in and of itself. Scary and exhilarating.

This is the final result of the work, displayed next to the book (thoughtfully laid out so that you can do your work against the book and compare as you go):

Not too terribly bad, hey?

This gives some important experiences. Not only those mentioned, working with the paint, applying it, experience mixing (the final dark gray was lighter than the original dark gray, so I got experience in adjusting as I go) and dashing in lines with a paint brush to fill in, but a truly singular one I really felt for the first time: the experience of actually completing a real originally-created painting.

I've done it two times since. Those results will be up presently.

But, if being an artist hinges at all on completing the works one attempts, having a serious accomplished painting looking back at you, then I have graduated to actually, at long last being an artist in a positive way.

And I've done it two times since, three in total, and am about to embark on a fourth.

I can't recommend Mark Daniel Nelson's book highly enough just on that alone.

Progress on "Eggplant With Peppers"

3593Here's how the work on the "Eggplant With Peppers" painting is proceeding.

EWP, as will be recalled is the first project out of John Barber's The Acrylic Color Wheel Book, and is a project that acquaints (or re-acquaints) one with the basic ideas of arranging subjects in still-life, color mixing, glazing, and creating highlights.

The book, which hovers somewhere between moderate tyro and beginner masterclass, doesn't grab your hand and direct the brush so much as it tells you generally where to go and you take your chances. This is a positive thing, because by trying something you aren't wholly confident on yet seems, at this point, what I need to get experience and grow.

The opening moves were to fill in the simple veggie shapes with simple colors straight from the tube. The two yellow peppers were filled in with cadmium yellow, and the long and small peppers were a mixture of that yellow and ultramarine.

See the palette below:

The painting is a simple still-life and the shapes easy to fill in, the directions for the colors easy to follow. 

The challenge at this point came at defining the shadow in the cut pepper, which turned out a lot rougher than I'd hoped. 

The blue-gray color for the neutral background came out a bit more blue than I expected as well. The shadows, however, I find, are kinda convincing. Kinda.

I'm tabling this for a few days while I go on to the first three or four of 50 Small Paintings.  And what are those? Well, tune in for our next missive, which comes up...

Right now. 

22 July 2019

The City of Mind Controlling ... I Don't Know, Spiders Or Something

3592Just your average day in the average coffee shop out in the Foster-Powell nabe, and you want to use the restroom but you've got to wait for the mind-controlling spider to finish what it started with the guy who went in there first.

Or maybe it's a cybernetic ant, I don't know. But you know, it's the way people everywhere are.

What do you mean "no, not here?"

Beach Chair Trio: The Opening Act

3591And here's the first moves on "Beach Chair Trio", the PaintWorks PBN by Darrell Bush.

It's a smaller work, only about 17x11, and the dark and the second dark colors are easier to cover in a single sitting. And even though there is a black to fill in, and a black pot of paint, the black on the card isn't black. It's a combination of color 2 (a red) and color 5 (a green). The result is a dark yet warm purple. The second-dark is a very light blue (color 6) and a darker yet neutralized blue (color 8) resulting in the seafoam swells.

Eggplant and Peppers: The Opening Act

3590There's not much to see here, but it's the foundation to "Eggplant and Peppers".

The author suggests I block in the veggie outlines with black chalk. I went with a 2B Lyra Graphite crayon because it'll work just as well for my purposes and I don't have any black chalk anyway.

Letting my compulsion toward frugality override my desire to happily create, I used a canvas panel which I obviously accidentally intended for something else, or which intercepted something somehow, and I figure I'll work it in somehow (which is perhaps an unwarranted fit of artistic competence at this point, but I'm going to roll with it).

I'll be fine tuning the blocking just a little, but just a little. The author is encouraging me to keep it loose here and to bring the finer detail when I go in and actually do the painting.

20 July 2019

Two Paintings: One With Numbers, One Without

A preview of the next two things I want to attempt, painting-wise. Number one is another PaintWorks PBN. Number two is the real challenge.

Pictured above is the PBN. It is another PaintWorks product, this one titled "Beach Chair Trio". It's a smallish one, only a little bigger than 17"x11", and contains just twelve colors. This is similar to the "Flower Shop" PBN I did a while back. There is an opportunity for drybrushing practice here. I expect the usual level of PBN satisfaction from this.

... and the second one:

A while back I picked up a book by John Barber called The Acrylic Color Wheel Book. It contains a slidable color wheel in the cover so you can easily envision the mixes it calls for, and several projects that look pitched at the beginner painter who wants to gain skills to do more solid work. It is the kind of stuff that sits on the next level of proficiency that I want to attain on this journey.

I've reviewed the work "Eggplant and Peppers", a still life, quite a few times. The feeling I have of it is that of the swimmer about to dive into the deep end of a cold swimming pool and is still building up courage to do so. But in that way, it calls to me, such a mundane painting to do so, but it does. And I can picture me doing the techniques it calls for. So it't time to push into it.

I'll be documenting it all here on this blog and on the Facebook page I've started, The Daily Paint by Number. Wish me something resembling luck, or at least, perserverence.

The Daily Paint By Number: Selected "Echo Bay" Progress Photos

3588Very recently I completed yet another PaintWorks PBN project, Darrel Bush's "Echo Bay" (#73-91474). I generated an armful of progress photos and want to share them all here, but 24 graphics is a bit much, so here, hopefully thoughtfully curated, is a reduced selection of that.

I may have duplicated one or two or put one or two out of order. I'll fix that later.

17 July 2019

The Olivia Report: Olivia The VW Goes To The VW Hospital

3587After two months of stress, worrying, deprivation and hope, we've finally gotten the ball rolling.

Olivia, Our lil' yellow VeeDubya, went to the hospital today to have her heart torn down and rebuilt.

Somewhere around the 8-9AM hour, our old friend from Team Towing, Danny, and if there's a more squarely-professional buckle-down-and-get-it-done tow driver on this planet, we've not yet met them, brought out the flatbed and we got the process in motion.

Even without power it's nice to see her moving down the street, you know that?

One tow bill later, we've gotten her from Outer East Portlandia to the hospital in Saint Johns ... a place called Fix-Um Haus. We've spoken with Rich, the proprietor, at length about the prospect of fixing the engine and what impresses me the most about him as that as he's talking about fixing the motor he's reeling off a detailed plan in his head. He's like the sculptor who knows what stone to chip away to reveal the figure he sees hidden in the stone. He's like the artist who knows where every line is supposed to go on the drawing he's about to do before the ink goes down.

So far he seems to us like a rockstar old-school hardcore VW mechanic, which is what we need so much right now.

As you can see, Fix-Um Haus has a lot of people depending on it. There was the sweetest blue '74 Type I Cabriolet there ... it's a very nice shop. Everything inside the bays is tight and tidy. It looks like we found a true winner here.

So we commend our beloved VW and (soon) a good deal of money (part of it crowdfunded) into the hands of a pro who we're expecting will Get The Job Done.

Stay tuned and we'll update. 

16 July 2019

Multnomah County's Only Covered Bridge: Cedar Crossing

3586Oregon has many covered bridges, but up until historically recently, none of them were in Multnomah County.

In 1982, though, the county deemed that we deserved to join the party. So a secluded spot was selected where a back road that connected the SE 134th and Foster neighborhood (almost-but-not-quite-Pleasant Valley) to the backside of the then-still-small-and-charming backroad burg of Happy Valley crossed the upper reaches of Johnson Creek.

The road becomes SE Deardorff Road in an unsigned change as you round a sharp bend and dive into the gully there, then you turn a corner ... and there suddenly, is this:

If it seems a little new looking for a covered bridge that's because it is: as I noted, it was built in the 1980s to make up for the fact that Multnomah County had no covered bridges within its boundaries; it was dedicated, in part, by County Executive Don Clark (a political titan back in the day when MultCo only had three commissioners), and its name was selected from a naming contest held amongst David Douglas High students.

This bridge is as East County AF.

It's also pleasant, secluded without being too far out, and there's a turnout on the south side of the bridge where you can chill and listen to the forest and the flowing creek below.

15 July 2019

A Sprig Of Mahonia

3585The Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, is the state flower of Oregon. It's not a grape at all, of course, but a berry. This is how they grow them out in Happy Valley:

It's a shrub. The leaves are not unlike holly leaves, stiff and waxy and prickly along the edges. The berries are that beautiful dark blue color, and are edible but not really palatable, unless you like the tartness unless you do something with them. Wikipedia tells me that pre-colonization natives in these parts used to offset the tartness with a sweeter salal. I am also told that you can make preserves with it, either mixed with salal or on its own, and you can make a wine with them, though you have to use rather more sugar to get it to ferment.

We plan on having these in our yard one day soon. They're drought resistant, grow in poor soil, and the berries attract birds.

In Salem, Mahonia is used as foliage, as hardy evergreen bushes in home landscaping, and to grow governor's mansions.

Oregon Highway Signs Are Pure Visual Bliss To Me

I adore the Oregon state highway shield, as those who know me know, and as those who only read me now know.

I've spent a great deal of my life watching Oregon highway shields go past. The current day design may seem odd ... like a chicken's egg on its point that decided to try become an oval as it got to the top. There's a reason for that. The original Oregon highway shield was adapted from the state's armorially-styled seal which can be found on the front side of the state flag. The word OREGON and the route number were surrounded by the outline of that shield with a silhouette of the eagle, sheaf, and arrows that surmounted it (a lovely photo of a battered old Hwy 99 sign can be found here: https://www.aaroads.com/shields/show.php?image=OR19550993&view=3.

I was born near Hwy 213, have lived most of my life near Hwy 213, live near it now, and will probably die in proximity to it. So it goes.

So to someone else, this might be just a banal roadside marker, but to me?

Visual poetry.

I also just like the way the number 212 looks like in that font that the State uses.

14 July 2019

When Worlds Collide - The New Revised Edition

3583One of the novels that I have loved since I started reading SF is that classic of American SF literature, When Worlds Collide. 

It is an odd bird, this book.

It is, arguably and as far as I know, the first mass-market work of prose or literature that has as its main event the physical annihilation of the planet. It's influence has rung down through the years: it's cited as the inspiration for Flash Gordon (in as much as the rogue planet Mongo is on a collision course with Earth) and Deep Impact, the comet-hits-earth flick from 1998, the year with not one but two asterism-threatens-to-hit-Earth-and-everyone-dies-movies (this was the one that didn't suck).

The broad outline of the plot, for those who don't know, is that a binary rogue planet, the Bronson Bodies (named for their discoverer) are discovered hurtling toward the Solar System, and scientists quickly determine that they are going to interact, not in the good way, with Earth. One planet, known as Bronson Alpha, is a gas giant world similar to Uranus or Neptune in appearance and size. The other, Alpha's moon, is Bronson Beta, a world almost identical to Earth in size and, as it turns out, environment.

A scientific clique, the League of the Last Days, is formed to address the threat. The first-amongst-equals is an American physicist, Cole Hendron. He and his group of scientist-engineer survivors drive most of the plot in their endeavor to construct a ship to escape our doomed world and make a landing on Bronson Beta, for it is predicted that the Bronsons, after making a close and catastrophic pass on Earth will round the sun and return in sixteen month's time to finish the job; Bronson Alpha to collide with and physically demolish the Earth and Bronson Beta to be captured by the Sun and bereft of gravitational influence from Alpha by Alpha's collision with Earth.

The novel was written by two well-known and popular novelists and writers of the day, Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer (Balmer, who mostly wrote SF and for the pulps, has been largely forgotten while Wylie, who wrote in more than one genre and famously wrote a mainstream novel Generation of Vipers and another classic of speculative fiction The Disappearance, still has something of a legacy footprint). It was written and first published in 1933 and has been in and out of publication ever since. So it has staying power.

It has, unlike the novels frequently touted as its equal on the covers (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World) not aged well. Tied into the current events of the day of its writing and laced with soft versions of the sexism, racism, and elitism of the day, it's a literal period piece, dated as dated can be, despite being apparently regarded as one of the seminal works of the modern form of the genre.

So, last night at Powell's, I found a particularly luridly-covered vintage copy of this book. I found it interesting in that way, especially the incongruence of the two imperriled people to the catastrophe unfolding literally at their feet, the handsome man and the beautiful woman as stylishly on-point as their world is chaotically disheveled, as well as the melodramatic tagline Out of the horror of doomsday comes hope for life, for love. In a dark way, hilarious.

The real hook for me? In the lower right hand corner of the book, there is a dark blue flag with white letters reversing out the legend NEW REVISED EDITION.

Here, see:

On the right, a more modern version of the paperback, one I've owned for many years. Grim, blocky type made more intimidating by the atmospheric and effective Vincent DiFate cover art. On the left is the oddity I found last night, sardonically-hilarious art and all. Isn't that a scream, really? It's almost unfair to make fun of it, it's so obviously silly.

That's not the real treat here, though. Remember NEW REVISED EDITION? Well, the original text, written in the 1930s, is so full of anachronisms it's amazing that anybody's using it as an inspiration anymore other than wistful rememberances of That Was The World that Was (and if you are, you're almost certainly Caucasian; the only character that got any development that wasn't white was the Japanese manservant of the pivotal character Tony Drake, and when he was regarded, the text is leaden with benevolent, kindly patriarchal condescension). When I read the first few pages of this edition though, I almost fell over myself in bewilderment; the book starts off chapter one with the supporting character Dave Ransdell, a war veteran and aviator entrusted to courier the precious photographic plates to Dr. Hendron in New York, waiting to pass through customs at an airport, receiving urgent pleas to sell his story to the papers first.

Hold up. I've read this novel dozens of times. I knew he approached New York on a fast cruise ship from France. In this version, though, he voyages on a transatlanic flight from Lisbon.

It was then it sunk in just what NEW REVISED VERSION really meant. And I went looking. This edition was released in 1952 and sections of the text were revised to reflect more accurately the then-current geopolitics. A resurgence of the Nazi party in Germany was referenced. A reference to Mussolini was deleted. The Iron Curtain is referred to. East Germany is mentioned.

The truly odd thing on top of all the other odd things is that the version you're most likely to pick up today is the more anachronistic one, not the NEW REVISED VERSION which, while still anachronistic, is less so than the original. The version on the left, the more modern edition, was copyrighted in 1962 and was probably published sometime in the 1970s (all a guess as it's not documented in the book itself when it was published) but it's the original Thirties text, not the updated version, which came out in about 1952. It's not unprecedented; the Patrick Tilley novel of ET invasion and conquest, Fade-Out, was originally published in 1975 with reference to then-recent military events and geopolitics and republished in the 1990s with Gulf War references.

I think this would be worth a series of articles here about each chapter and what got changed and the book in general. It's still, though hoary and old, a part of what I informally think qualifies as an American modern SF canon, and it continues to inspire works of not only comics and literature but also popular music. And it's always useful to confront what's expired in our culture and winnow the bad out or at least call it by its name.

Oh, and just to be complete, here's the back covers, complete with more melodramatic text, some of which never actually occurred in the work itself.

Veni, Vidi, Legere

3582Art on the chalkboards at Powell's City of Books is always splendid. This I enjoyed Imperially.

This board is on the stairwell going from the Gold Room to the Pearl Room, which is heaven because that's where the art instruction books are and it's wholly proper to ascend as unto heaven for that biz, and will doubtless be up for about two more weeks. 

Movie Posters in a Hawthorne District Mexican Bistro

3581Pepino's is a tidy little Mexican joint down at Hawthorne and 38th. it's been under a couple of names during its long life (it's been there about twenty years) and the food is always simple and good. Street-taco-style tacos and a chipotle and potato burrito that's swell just the way it is, and is only kicked up to the next level by the addition of steak. Horchata ladled out of big glass jugs, five kinds of salsa, it's a fine place to be.

The vintage Mexican movie posters, though, really cast a sort of a spell over the place.

... and they do love them some Cantinflas, don't they? I'm up for that SF feature Santo vs The Invasion of the Martians, myself.

13 July 2019

Ukulele Player On Woodstock Blvd

On Wednesday last week, My Brown-Eyed Girl was down in the hidden southeast part of Portland, taking the car in for a bit of necessary, and while waiting out that process, spotted this genuine human on SE Woodstock Blvd ...

They were exhoriting us to do our homework naked, and eat our cereal with a fork.

Amanda Palmer music, I understand.

13 February 2019

Palliative Reading: Zen Comics and Ursula K LeGuin's Tao Te Ching

These are all times of extreme dexterity and chaos for many of us, and just because one has learnt to live with chaos doesn't mean that chaos is welcome.

And that's as may be. Comes the time, more than often, when what one sees bearing down on one becomes intimidating and the ability to stay on an even keel leaves of its own accord. You can't knowingly coax it back, but you can recreate it.

Recently I had trouble sleeping, freight train running in my head and all that, and The Wife™suggested I read some paper book. Not book on my cheapo yet faithful tablet, that involves that blue-biased backlight which doesn't really do your biological system any good, really kind of destabilizes it, and paper book reading is a very somatically satisfying thing to do, as one can find out for ones self by just doing it (hell, I just feel better holding a book in my had, but that's for another time). And my The Wife™, she know me well, and suggested.

There is a pair of delightful little volumes called Zen Comics (not to be confused with the webcomic Zen Pencils). This modest collection of panels was drawn by a Buddhist named Ioanna Salajan, who was part of a Zen Buddhist community in Amsterdam back around the early 1970s, and they had a periodical called Cosmic Paper. She did these for that publication. What they are are little 4-panel (mostly; some of them break that to illustrate a joke or a theme) situations based on, as I understand it, Zen concepts or koans (and a koan, as I understand it, is a riddle or question that has no sensical answer, the point of which is to embrace the absurdity and acquire understanding from the point of view that provides).

There are around 100 of them in all split between two rather small volumes, titled Zen Comics and Zen Comics II. They are all charming little things that you glance over, then glance over again, and then move on and come back to. At first it's the comic style seeming to combine brushwork and fine line; the whole artistic style, seeming at once unashamedly primitive and childlike but somehow simultaneously sophisticated; and the feeling that it's all trying to communicate with you on a visible and and invisible level.

The comic has a handful of characters. The star, though I don't know if he'd say so, is The Old Monk, that chap on the cover graphic in the robe and that stylish beard with the head with the high dome. The co-star, who I've heard referred to as Number One Disciple, is his most frequent foil (and target of his switch) and serves as a relatable interlocutor. There's also Rinzo, a burr-headed chap who would be a Number One Disciple someday, if only he could figure some basics out. There are some other Zen practicioners, a few Western tourists, and one Samurai warrior who has an epiphany.

There's a whimsy that makes it all approachable even if the point is frequently ineffable (something I also understand a good koan's lesson should be). And I don't know if I'm getting the point of it all, but reading it (as I have many times, it never gets old) again and again always makes me feel a kind, gentle humor within.

It's been reprinted many times; my 2-volume set was printed by Charles H. Tuttle publishers back in the 80s. It's a pleasant reprieve for the weary mind. I recommend it to you.

The other book I've been absorbing is Ursula K. LeGuin's rendition (as she says herself, it's a rendition, not a translation) of the Tao Te Ching. It's a pleasant looking book, small, square, containing two CDs of her reading it as music plays in the background. I've not listened to the CDs yet. I read it, like Zen Comics, frankly, not quite comprehending what I'm reading but it's speaking to me on some level. I love it because UKL did it, of course, but there is a comfort to reading these poems not yet knowing what they are totally supposed to say but feeling their truths falling into place in some internal way.

Ursula K LeGuin's affection for the work makes it a soft, kind thing, and it too, helps me calm the anxiety.

And so it goes.

09 February 2019

WinComadgeddon, an episode of PDXSnowpocalypse 2019.

The scene: the Winco 122nd And Halsey store. Me and The Wife™ leave the Mighty Multnomah County Library midland branch after enjoying a recharging day amongst the books complete with Dutch Bros Coffee because that's the way you Library Day, and we decide we want to get a few absolute necessities before Snowzilla comes to town.

The commute is pretty much normal for 1800 on a Friday night. I had heard, via staccato signals of constant information, that the stores in the Seattle area were getting astoundingly mobbed. Saw the pictures. Astounding. And, I figured the impending trip to the grocery was going to be a bit of an endurance trip but not ...

Well, I get ahead of myself. But I figured it would be a task needing fortitude but not like the penultimate scenes to When Worlds Collide or Deep Impact, or maybe half that bad. At most.

But how do you prepare yourself for something you've never seen and couldn't therefore envision? That you can't intellectually encompass because you have nothing to compare it to?

The store was thronged, to be sure, but it was channelled chaos; bumpy but negotiable. Wife finds us a handy parking spot; with her awareness of human nature, while every last parking spot in the lot in front of the store was taken, the spots on the side near the Shari's were NOT all full. People think of the area in front and everyone (including me) gets that tunnel-vision; they don't think about the small lot on the side.

Getting a cart was another challenge. There was not a free cart to be had. We had our library and Powell's City of Books bags and we went to work.

The first real clue that we were not operating under normal rules came in produce, when we found that there was not one bunch of bananas left in the place. At Whole Foods, they came for the kale, first. Here in more proletarian Outer East Portlandia, first they came for the 'nanas.

Walking off to bulk foods, we sang bars from "Yes, We Have No Bananas". because that's the way we roll.

The rest of the trip was uneventful if not for the immense crowd. The 122nd WinCo is laid out like most WinCos; the dairy is at the back.

As was the end of the line to the checkout. Down the dairy case on one side of that aisle; another proceeding the other way in front of the frozen foods case on the opposite side of that aisle. For a short time I worried it was all *one* line and I was going to be coming back that other way, but the WinCo logistics were immaculate; That line went to one end of the register line, our line to the other.

WinCo planning for this was straight-up rockstar, in other words.

Numerous incidences of simple human friendliness. This is when Oregon Nice comes out, in the transition between normal operations and crisis; oh, sure, if the apocalypse extends any more than a few days we'll be eating each other alive, but for the first few days, at least, we'll be cool with each other.

My wife comes back with a cart after I, having secured a place in the line with a few groceries already, had moved out of the dairy aisle alongside the bottled water area, which was by now as dry as the Atacama. The only cat litter available was in a 40-pound bucket, at which point an estimable gentleman donated his cart to her after concluding that he could carry what he had out to his car in his arms.

And I'll never have the opportunity to thank him, alas. Well, we paid that forward in our turn anyway. So that goes.

We waited in the line for check out, chatted philosophical (I can't speak for my spouse but I'm definitely in that phase of life) and exchanged conviviality with the others in the line ... and we checked out of Checkstand 1.

That's how you know this was a capital-E EVENT. Because, my friends, Checkstand 1 at your average WinCo is the one farthest away from the entrance. It's in the booneys, as the WinCo layout has it.

In that way, it's a shame that me and my spouse never had kids. We'd have grandkids who were infants by now, and in a few years, we'd be able to tell them the tale.

About how the weather was so bad, back in Feb of '19, that we checked out of WinCo at Checkstand 1.

And so it goes.

04 January 2019

The SJKPDX Portland 2019 Calendar Is Still Available!

I had the calendar finished and was publicizing it on Facebook last month and it only now occurred to me to feature it here. Silly me! I've always been much better at designing than marketing.

But here it is and it's still wonderful, and there is still 360/365ths of 2019 to enjoy it, which makes the $13.99 asking price still a very good value!

It's a unique work; you've seen Portland on many calendars and posters, but never the way I do. And I have a most unique eye.

Below you'll find a embed that'll let you get a preview, but don't stop there! Go ahead and treat yourself: If you can't be in Portland, you can at least have it on your wall. And it is the one part of Portland that anyone can afford.


03 January 2019

Wy'east, Red Sky At Morning over Killingsworth St

This was the scene on NE Killingsworth St just west of I-205, a favorite place, two mornings ago:

This is a favorite place because the thronging of civilization is there in front of you, and beyond, impassive yet warm, is the local geography, which, to the degree it can, runs on its own clock, by its own rules.

It does not check with you.

Wy'east in molten gold.