Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Middle-Aged Women Without Hats

I was at the grocery earlier today, with the musak playing tunes of the 70s and 80s as always. I hummed along with a Joni Mitchell tune, and sang almost under my breath to Abba's Dancing Queen, but when Men Without Hat's Safety Dance started playing, I just had to do The Move. You know the one...well, maybe you don't, so let me put you wise with one of the best videos of all time.

As I danced with abandon down the cereal aisle, another middle-aged woman and her basket rounded the corner. I stopped and looked at her for a moment, then she broke out in a grin and began dancing, too. Two crazy ladies doing the Safety Dance at Safeway.

Dark Matter, Energy and The God Particle

The CERN went online this morning deep in the ground at a site outside Geneva, Switzerland, "The first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN was successfully steered around the full 27 kilometres of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator at 10h28 this morning."

This project has seen a lot of controversy, or as one blog put it, "Theoretical physics has not been so sexy since Oppenheimer designed the atomic bomb..."

As I understand it, and I have only read about this project in a very casual manner, the worry here centers around the possibility of an untoward result out of the method being used for smashing sub-atomic particles together will create a black hole, and that said black hole will then devour the earth from the inside, out.

See, all we're capable of seeing (not that we CAN see, but that of which we're CAPABLE of seeing - big difference) is a mere 4% of the Universe, with the remaining 96% taken up by intergalactic gas, dark matter, and dark energy. Dark Matter is hypothetical matter that does not interact with the electromagnetic force, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter. Dark Energy is a force stretching space and expanding the Universe, inferred by its gravitational effects. Deep stuff, huh? Just think of it this way; the stars and planets you can see when you look at the night sky are part of the 4%, the blackness is the other 96%. Strikes me that the terms "dark matter" and "dark energy" are a lot like a miscellaneous file - due to ignorance, we simply haven't yet quantified the appropriate layers of granularity. I really liked this line from David B. Cline in Scientific American, "It has been noted that the names "dark matter" and "dark energy" serve mainly as expressions of human ignorance, much as the marking of early maps with "terra incognita."

A far better explanation than that I have provided, including a nicely articulate video and links for further study, can be found at The Independent.

But there's good news and bad about The End of the World as We Know It. The good news? CERN is up and running and you're reading this. I.e.; the world's still right here and I can still get a good cup of coffee. The bad news? If there IS a problem (a black hole or some other scary fallout), the world is slowly going away as you read this, so you might WANT to get a good cup of coffee while you still can.


My birthday is here again, and as happens every year at this time, I find myself reviewing the year just past and planning for the year ahead.

This has been a year filled with positives, all in all. This time last year I was in so much pain I could only walk using a staff to lean on, and sometimes even that didn't save me from falling to my knees in agony when a sharp spasm hit. But coupled with my own intense advocacy and an intelligent, self-confident doctor (i.e.; not threatened by said intense advocacy), I chronicled the situation. And although we didn't discover the cause, we did find a way to manage the pain enough that I could live a little more.

In February, I accepted a personal challenge that wholely pushed me back into the land of the living, and helped me realise my artistic self again.

This year I was published, I had a gallery show, my studio was completely set up as a truly usable space, and I made a few casual acquaintances of fellow artists in town. I also started sleeping alone, stopped some very self-destructive behaviour, and let go of some people I had held onto for too long.

As I said, all in all a positive year.

What about the year ahead? I don't have those answers yet, though I was told yesterday that an ipod is in my immediate future! Yeaaa! LOVE those techno-giftees, and an MP3 player is sooooo welcome! But about the next year, here are a few things I'm fairly sure WILL happen:

Shadoe will likely go quietly to sleep and not wake up one morning.
Shatzie could easily follow her lead.
I will have some dental work done.
The car will get some repairs done.
The bus will get some repairs done.
More stuff will be disposed of around here.
My work will get better, bigger again (after a year of small stuff) and stronger.
I will continue to breath and to pray to The Ancestors every night for forgiveness for all my perceived others, but most of all to myself.

Time will tell all...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Palin is "Intriguingly Inexperienced"

If you didn't watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this past week, you missed one of the best. I was shrieking with laughter and screams of agreement at the clips of (de)moralising conservatives Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, Dick Morris, and Nancy Pfotenhaur (McCain's Senior Policy Advisor) speaking out of both sides of their mouths. Not to mention Palin herself. And then there was this moment between Stewart and Newt Gingrich that flung me out of my seat. The entire show is WELL worth your time, and can be found on Comedy Central's site. The Gingrich interview is in the 3rd segment.

Wisdom from the Blogasphere

I was thinking this morning about how someone I recently met seems too attached to his own and other peoples pain. And maybe I'm being hugely unfair. He suffered a personal tragedy a few years ago, a fact that is foremost in much of his communication. Maybe he doesn't enjoy all the public commiseration and sympathy his blogs attract, and I understand that a tragedy such as the one he suffered doesn't just go away, but there are other clues of his self-vicimization, too. But no matter. Thinking about him caused me to google "addicted victim," resulting in a TON of links to victims OF addiction, so I changed my search parameters. Eventually, I ended up on the Samizdata blog where I found a posting from 2003 that speaks eloquently for me:

Addicted to being a victim
Johnathan Pearce (London) Health

There is a fine article in The Times today (link requires registration and may not work outside UK) by Mick Hume, bemoaning the decline of belief in individual responsibility and the growing use of the word "addiction" to describe almost every form of repetitive behaviour.

As the article can only be read through registration (grrr), here's the opening gaff:

"We are becoming a nation of addiction addicts. Our society has become hooked on the habit of blaming human behaviour on some form of addiction. Apparently normal people - doctors, scientists, politicians (normal? ed), even journalists (ditto? ed) - seem incapable of resisting the urge to inject "addict" or "dependency" into any discussion of social problems."

Exactly. The use of the word addict is used by policymakers to assault the idea of Man as a being with free will. We are all essentially passive victims. By doing so, it opens the floodgates to authortarian control of our lives. Look at the massive lawsuits against tobacco firms. Now I hold no brief for such firms, but the idea that people become so "addicted" to X or Y that they are unable to resist is surely contradicted by evidence all around us of people quitting such repetitive habits. Millions of people have in recent decades quit smoking, for example, like the good David Carr of this parish. Many have taken the painful step of quitting hard drugs or quitting alcohol. Of course change can be acutely difficult, which is why we praise folk who take the step of leading a healthier life.

Addiction is a word in danger of being rendered useless by applying it to just about every form of behaviour which is either frowned upon or a repeat form of activity.

Come to that, I suppose I must be "addicted" to blogging. Help me nurse, I am using Movable Type again!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Frustration Fandango, Part 27

I just received returns from three different ATC swaps that were incredibly mediocre. Paper cut outs pasted to cereal box cardboard from two participants. Notice I didn't say "artists." I figure someone has to earn that moniker, and I'm somewhat sparing in my use of the term.

Between the disappointing swap returns and my STILL dented feelings about the rejection by a juried site, and the increased perception that once aGAIN, success everywhere is all in the stinking politics, well I'm pissy and bummed and ready to walk away from art again. Lots of strong emotions to sort through. I just don't know, she said, lips tight as she shook her head slowly from side to side.

Once again I find myself in a situation where it's who you know, not what you know, and I'm really unhappy about that same old in-crowd b.s. I have struggled against conformity all my life, like a fish on a line, sometimes the struggle taking the form of trying to fit IN. See, it's not so much that I mind Sam Rayburn's famous advice "you gotta go along to get along" as it is the false mask I have to wear in the game. I call it "the cute shoes" game. You know the scene. Two women meet, both all a-twitter, and one shrieks "Oh what cute SHOES!" It took me forever to find women I could be real with, and we never connected over fashion, kids, or all those other things that seem to consume so many women. Kids are fine, they just don't define ME. Fashion's the same way. But I've drifted down a rat-hole here.

I've simply never been worth a damn at anything requiring a popularity contest. I'd rather drink hemlock.

Earlier today I changed a decision I made when rejected all those weeks ago, which was to never subject my fragile ego to a bunch of faceless, nameless, VOICEless (except for their collective yea or nay) people whose work is generally not better than mine. I decided to chance the ego hit again, to put my best work out there...and I have improved considerably since the last try, and see whether I was good enough yet. I enlisted Peter's eagle eye for quality in things artistic, asking him to be ruthless with his opinion of what should stay and what should go. I went to the juried site and reread their requirements for membership, then made a point of carefully adhering to each point of order. And somewhere in the middle of all this cold-hearted (oh, it was, believe me...slitted eyes and cold feckin' heart here) preparation, I realised that it wasn't that I wanted to be a member there so I could trade art with those people. No. What was important, I suddenly, starkly realised, was that I made the cut. I don't give a damn about the art, it's the membership I've been so attached to.

And with that realisation, I could clearly see what a tiny little pond that group was, how relatively unimportant the site and people are, and I discovered I could let go of my attachment to the outcome. I no longer care about membership with that site. My work is good. Sure, some of it's mediocre, but all in all it's pretty good. And I'm satisfied with that. Would I still like that badge of acceptance from my peers? Oh sure, but if I don't get it, maybe they're NOT the Tribe I was looking for....for which I'm still looking. I can hear Bono in the distance, singing "....and I still haven't found what I was looking for..."