Monday, January 28, 2008

Happy Grandson

A Bit of This and That

Y'know how it is when you clean out your junk drawer, and you have a lot of nitnoid stuff that doesn't fall into any one category? Well, that's today's blog post.

I'm adding a new link to my "Links and Blogs" list for a discussion blog called "Sellout". This is a new site that's dedicated to the business side of being an artist. The more I read, the more I find that's worth reading. Lots of good discussions in here about all different facets of being a struggling working artist.

A few weeks ago, I decided to find out what all the fuss is about "social networking" sites. So I signed up for three: FaceBook, Art Scuttlebutt (hosted by Art Calendar magazine), and LinkedIn. Now that I've played with them a bit, I've developed some thoughts.
- First, I am not impressed with FaceBook. It isn't as open as I thought it would be. There's too much time and space on useless stuff (Example: every time I log in, it asks the question "What are you doing now?" What kinda question is that? What the hell do you think I'm doing? I'm on the FRICKIN' COMPUTER!). And when the first "discussion" entry I see reads (and I'm quoting here) "yo foodlion skatepark rocks yo" ... well, let's just say that I passed the skateboarding age quite a few decades ago.
- Art Scuttlebutt is okay. It lets you get your work out in front of other artists. I've only seen one non-artist on there ... meaning that it might be good for general discussion, but if you're looking to drive business to your web site, you've probably got a long wait. There are a few very interesting artists there. Think of it as an unjuried group show at a nationwide local arts council and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
- LinkedIn has proven to be a surprise. This is a networking site for executives. There are very few fine artists enrolled, so I seem to be a bit of an oddity (well, that's nothing new ...). The surprise is that it has already become the #2 source of referrals to my web site. I initially put up a half-assed profile that didn't say a lot, but then started seeing more and more LinkedIn referrals showing up on my Google stat counter, so I spent some time polishing my profile into something respectable. And when I started building my own network on there, I found quite a few old Navy buddies plus some of my art-world friends. I figure that if I keep getting looks from all these execs, sooner or later, somebody will have some kind of project for me. Let's hope! Overall, LinkedIn is a very good professional networking site.

George Bush's final State of the Union address comes on in just a little bit. The best thing about it is that it will be his final State of the Union address.

We saw a good movie over the weekend. "The Hunting Party" stars Richard Gere and Terrence Howard as a couple of journalists in Bosnia in 2000. They're trying to find an accused Serbian war criminal (based on Radovan Karadzic), ostensibly for an interview, only they get mistaken for a CIA hit squad. The story is loosely based on the true experiences of a group of five reporters. Much of the movie was filmed in Sarajevo, and it was really cool for me to see how the city has developed since I was there as part of the peacekeeping forces in 1996. I thought the flick was highly entertaining ... not an Oscar-winner by any means, but certainly better than most.

One political note about Bosnia. An unanswered question raised in the movie was why the UN, NATO, and all other forces had not gone after accused war criminals like Karadzic and others (like Ratko Mladic). There were a few conspiracy-theory ideas bandied about, like Karadzic had the goods on some US people, so he was allowed to live as long as he was quiet. Well, that's not true. When the peacekeeping forces went into Bosnia in 1996, the NATO leader was Admiral Smith. His idea was that we were there to build peace. Everything else was secondary. But the cease-fire between the Serbs, Bozniaks, and Croats was extremely tenuous. At one point, a low-level Serb general literally took a wrong turn on the road, wound up at a NATO checkpoint, and was arrested. The Serbs went ballistic and the whole peace process damn near fell apart. It was that close. But even in spite of that, there were calls from all over the world for us to go after Karadzic and Mladic. ADM Smith said no. He stuck to his policy of building peace first and worrying about bringing K&M to justice later. It made sense then. Now that we're twelve years on, it probably still makes sense. Peace in Bosnia is balanced on a knife edge. Do you want to have people getting on with their lives while K&M wander around Serb territory? Or would you rather have a resumption of civil war while K&M go through a war crimes trial in the Hague for ten years? I don't think K&M are worth it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Oil Sketch

I've finally been able to spend some time in the studio doing some painting. This is an oil sketch titled "Jennifer" from our life drawing/painting session tonight, a two-hour session.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Grumble, Grumble

So last night I went to a meeting of the River District Artists. The really good thing about these meetings for me is that I don't have to run them anymore. I was the Prez for three years and we made a lot of progress, but then last year I was able to railroad ... er, persuade ... somebody else to take the job. But I kept my fingers in the pie a bit. This year we have another new Prez who's going to do a great job and I see my involvement scaling back even more. This is a Good Thing for both me and for RDA. The reason it's good for RDA is that it is much less personality dependent now than it was several years ago. Back then there were only a few of us who were really active. Now we have a lot more people, which means more people willing to volunteer, which means the jobs don't necessarily have to be the near-full-time ventures they once were. And it means that the organization is taking on a life of its own now. I feel good for having helped get it to this point.

But anyway, sometime during/after the meeting last night, one of my good gloves disappeared. I spent a good hour looking for it last night with nothing to show for it. So I was pretty grumpy. Then when J got home, the garage door opener made a funny noise and quit working. I opened it up today and one of the gears inside (made of nylon ... now, I mean, who the hell makes load-bearing gears out of nylon??) had shredded itself into something closely resembling grated parmesan cheese. Wonderful. Instead of spending the day doing studio stuff, I get to spend it buying and installing a new opener. As if I had a spare $200 lying around doing nothing, anyway.

So there I am, sitting there with my cuppa joe, getting all pissed off at the world (or at least garage door openers in general and my missing glove in particular) when Soozee sits down at my feet and gently paws my leg. She didn't want anything more than to sit in my lap for a few minutes and be held.

So much for being pissed off.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Looking at Artists

I'm going through my new issue of "Art in America". I gave it a once-over and flagged some artists that I thought looked interesting. Now it's time to look 'em up on the net and see what I think.

One that caught my eye is a Chinese artist named Yang Shewei. There was only one real hit for him: the website that features just one of his works. This one is very witty: a rather angry-looking official in authoritative uniform wearing a cheerful mask, the kind that Japanese and Chinese people use to prevent the spread of germs during cold season. How ferocious can somebody be when they've got a brightly smiling cartoon bear on their face? What a great way to disarm the suposedly powerful. This painting, and the one on page 69 in Art in America, show somebody who's a very good draftsman with a sharp wit and something to say. I just wish there was more of his work that I could look at.

Next up was a small ad for Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City, California. I bookmarked this gallery just now - he has quite a few artists that I really like. This painting, for example, is by Joe Sorren, who does exquisitely crafted paintings of these strangely stylized people, usually in very carefully and realistically rendered landscapes or spaces. To me, the mixture is unsettling, almost nightmarish, but very powerful. The gallery has images from its past shows on the web site, and they're all exceptional. Check out Carrie Ann Baade, Nicola Verlato, Gary Baseman (previously written up in Art in America, I believe), David Anderle ... heck, check 'em all out. This is a good gallery.

The final one I found was another Chinese artist, this one named Wei Dong. He's represented by Stefan Stux Gallery. Wei's paintings are filled with luscious, often bald, women, wearing fabulously textured clothing worthy of European royalty. They're usually in ambiguous situations that tell a story, but you can't quite figure out what ... but it's fun trying. I browsed around the gallery and there was a lot of good work there. For example, look at the "Chinese Relativity 2" exhibit, which is a group show of Chinese artists. I focused on the painters, and these guys can paint. The works are conceptually gripping, well composed, and extremely well painted. I'm in awe.

And sadly, those were about the only things I found worth looking at in this issue. I had a few other pages flagged, but after looking up the artists, I didn't care for what I saw. Seemed to me to be mixtures of poor concept, poor execution, no substance, too much hype, or any combination of those traits. So in the spirit of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all", I'll keep quiet.

But the ones I wrote about above are good. Go take a look.

An Opening in Marshall

On Friday evening, we had an opening reception for my "Meditation on War" series in the Madison County Arts Center in Marshall, NC. There was a really good turnout - it was much more crowded than this picture suggests, and because I wound up talking all night with different people, this was the only picture of the event I could take. Getting my paintings up on somebody else's wall is always a good thing and this one is no exception. We had a lot of fun. Madison County has a lot of interesting people and it seems they all showed up on Friday.
This week ought to see me getting back to normal in the studio. About time, too. The holidays threw a monkey wrench into my painting schedule and this past week was taken up with getting the Marshall show prepared and hung. Tomorrow (Monday) I need to do a road trip over to Knoxville to retrieve a painting from a juried exhibition. But after that it'll be back to painting. I have several works in mind and I'm eager to get started.
I just read an interesting article on CNN/Money about the economic cost of the Iraq war. It was written by Lawrence Lindsey, who was the chief economic advisor to President Bush until he told a reporter (in 2002) that the cost of the Iraq war could be as high as $200B. Since that was four times the amount being advertised by the Pentagon, he was forced out. As it turns out, Lindsey was more or less right about the ongoing cost of the war ($100B per year) but not about its length. Still, he thinks the war was worth it. I disagree most strongly about this position, but found the article to be surprisingly objective in its consideration of true economic costs and their impact on the economy. You can read the article here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


As promised, here are some pictures of Jackson. He's already starting his professional career as a model in San Diego.

Granny Ro and the GrandJacks!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Politics Again

Okay, I promise, just this one post about politics and then I'll get back to the important stuff, like posting pictures of my grandson. I had a very witty entry written last night for this blog that had some brilliant insight and wicked skewers of some egos, but my connection burped and all my comments were lost. Sigh. And, of course, I'm not feeling very witty right now (some say I never am anyway), but I'm overdue for a posting, so here it is.

With Iowa and New Hampshire now behind us, it's clear that the front-runners are pretty much the same ones we had before Iowa and New Hampshire. Actually, I was very encouraged by Iowa, where the caucuses for both parties clearly went for change. Obama and Huckabee are very much outsiders with a very different message than what we've been hearing out of Washington for the past too many years. So I was pretty excited. New Hampshire, tho, went for the status quo. Clinton and McCain have both been around a long time in one fashion or another and had a hand in making the mess we're in right now. So Iowa says "CHANGE!" and New Hampshire says "STAY THE COURSE!" I vote for change.

I'm getting really really really sick of Romney. His ads have been running on our local TV stations because their broadcasts go into South Carolina. They're the worst mash of pablum and distortions I've ever heard. Romney in general bothered me, but I couldn't really put my finger on it, but then heard the Huckabee comment where he told Leno "People are looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than the guy that laid them off." Right on target. I see Romney stickers on Cadillacs around here, probably the folks who live in the gated communities, while it's the pickups with "We Still Pray" stuck on 'em that have the Huckabee bumper stickers.

Huckabee also slammed Romney for his refusal to issue a pardon to a decorated Iraq vet who wanted to pursue a career as a security guard or policeman. He'd supposedly shot a classmate with a BB gun when he was 13 and wound up with a childhood felony. I thought, no way, this can't be true. Well, yes, it is. You can read the full story here. The guy really did shoot a classmate with a BB gun, got a record for it, went to Iraq many years later and earned a Bronze Star (that means a high degree of bravery in combat), and now can't get a permit to carry a weapon because of that BB gun incident. And Romney refused to pardon him. So I say, let's send Romney back wherever the hell he came from. He doesn't deserve this job.

Okay, I'll shut up now. Next post will be something much more fun. I promise!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Presidential Race

We're FINALLY down to the last few hours before the Iowa caucuses. I'm getting really tired of the general mainstream media reporting, both from real news stations and from the Fox propaganda machine. The only things the media reports are (a) poll results and (b) gaffes. They may as well put it on their sports reports, since they're only reporting on the race, not the substance. And only eleven more months of this to go, too.

The other day I watched one of the Big Three evening news programs. Their headline was the Iowa race, with latest poll results, pundits, a few interviews, and other human interest stories. Then they went into some human-interest end-of-year reporting. Basically, they wasted their half hour on non-news. Then I switched over to the BBC. What a difference! They reported on things like the violence in Kenya over the stolen election (a very big deal for the African continent and our interests there), some substantive new information about the Bhutto assassination and what it means for Pakistan, and how 2000 people were stranded in Colorado due to a blizzard ... none of which was mentioned by the American mainstream media ... and then they had a few words about Iowa, not one word of which was "poll". Good stuff.

Now that we're about into the first contest of the election year, I wanted to go on record with my picks and pans. This is how I like them, not how I think they'll do in the elections. So here goes:
1. I like Obama. Yes, he's light on experience, but the past seven years has proven that experience is vastly overrated. Obama has a positive, unifying message that is inclusive in nature and reaches out. He's a little short on details, but then, as President, he doesn't pass laws, he only suggests and then implements after Congress is done mucking around with it. He's been beaten up a bit during the campaign over the past year and has come out of it looking strong, steady, upbeat, pretty honest, and a good leader.
2. My number 2 pick goes to Edwards. If you want details, look at his plans: he was first to spell out the nitty-gritty of what he would do, and I like what he says. I also like his populism, the fact that he is campaigning for the little guys against the big guys, and his concern about the growing shift in wealth from the middle and lower classes to the richest. On the negative side, he had the worst attendance record of any Senator and didn't really accomplish anything. And his mega-million damage awards he won as a trial lawyer have upped insurance premiums for businesses across the country.
3. My number 3 pick is Hillary. She's smart and knows her way around Washington. Of all the candidates, she best knows how to get things done between the White House and Congress. Her biggest issue is her last name, which automatically sparks rabid hatred from the right-wing loonies. I'm tired of that sort of thing, and this country desperately needs to put the Bush-Clinton-Bush years of partisan extremism behind it. If she's elected, she'll do a good job as President, but the Republicans will have you believe she's Satan incarnate, regardless of what she accomplishes.
4. Bill Richardson comes in next. Every time I've heard him talk, or read something he says, he's made sense ... note that I certainly haven't heard all that much simply because the media doesn't give the second-tier candidates any coverage.
5. Any of the other Democrat candidates would be my #5 choice.

Note that I haven't mentioned any Republicans yet. None of 'em have said anything that would make me vote for any of them even if they were the only ones in the race. Although they claim to have a "big tent", in reality their whole platform is built on exclusivity and Nancy Reaganism "just say no". You want to immigrate into this country? No. You want a peaceful resolution to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, Israel/Palestine, Pakistan, or Sudan? No, bomb the crap out of 'em. You want to work with the rest of the world, instead of ordering them around? No. You want to work for a cleaner environment? No. You want to reduce our crippling budget deficit? No. You want to make sure our health care system reaches everybody? No.

And look at the things the Republicans are for: banning gay marriage, building a wall across our borders (they're not really doing anything about the root causes, or improving port security, or any of that stuff; they're just handing out big contracts to build a frickin' wall), handing out monstrous no-bid contracts in the name of "downsizing" the government, and staying the course in Iraq. Any of that make sense? No.

The candidates themselves are frightening. John McCain would've had my vote seven years ago, but now he's older than even Ronnie Reagan was (and Reagan was probably going senile during his last couple of years in office) and he's wedded to the Iraq fiasco. Rudy is a nutcase, a certifiable loonie, who ran New York like a capo runs a mob family and on September 10, 2001, was about the least popular man in the city. Romney will say and do anything to get elected and all I've heard out of him is pandering to the right, which is not exactly my direction of choice. Huckabee seems like a nice guy, but when you dig deeper into his personal beliefs, things get alarming. Anybody who believes that the earth is only a few thousand years old, as he does, should be barred from the post. And then there's Fred "I'm not a politician but I play one on TV" Thompson, who might or might not be actually running a campaign.

So there ya go. For me it's clear: any Democratic candidate is better than any Republican candidate, hands down. At least this year.

You want real change? How about Dennis Kucinich versus Ron Paul? Wouldn't that be fun?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy new year to all! Despite the tone of some of these posts, I am a very happy man. There is so much to be grateful for ...

... like my wife Janis ...

... my two spirited "daughters", Indy (left) and Soozee (right) ...

... my grandson Jackson, who's the most photogenic kid ever born ...

... thanks to his parents Rick and Julie.

And I'm also grateful for my sister Robin, her husband Terry, and their three kids Blaine, Holly, and Gabe ... and since my sister rarely sends any pictures, I only have this one of Blaine and Holly ...

... and then there are all of our other family and friends here scattered around the world. May 2008 be a wonderful year for you all!