edited by Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer Hieroglyph is a publication, collective conversation and incubator for the “moonshot ecosystem” bringing together writers, scientists, engineers, technologists, industrialists and other creative, synoptic thinkers to collaborate on bold ideas in a protected space for creative play, science, and imagination.
Oppressive governments often lock up writers, artists, intellectuals. They lock them up because such people are dangerous to those in power. In the United States, we mostly don't have that problem. This is partly because of the first amendment, but also because American writers, artist, and intellectuals are mostly tame.
The lack of politics in art and literature is seen as a virtue as though there were a pure aesthetics that could only be tainted by the addition of politics. In the US, this is partly the legacy of McCarthism. While our arts are sometime offensive, they do little to change the structure of power.
And so it comes to me as a shock that in Paris there is a terror attack on cartoonists. Cartoonists? Really? Cartoonists.
Many of my friends and many people I admire seem to feel that is this is a good moment to engage their critical skills, to evaluate the worth of the long and successful careers of the recently deceased cartoonists. In other words, what did these artists do wrong that made people want to kill them? I don't think that's the right question.
Based on a cursory look, their cartoons are not something I myself would have published. But I don't see their Mohammed cartoons as racist. To call the Charlie Hebdo cartoons racist is to avoid the issue of what they really are: irreligious. While I am an athiest, as an adult, I have learned not to express myself in ways that are irreligious. To be an athiest as a public intellectual, you have to be willing to be sort of an asshole. You have to be willing to offend. To me, as an adult, this has not seemed worth the effort.
It is a terrible, terrible thing that gunmen burst into the Charlie Hebdo offices and shot all those people. While I see why some people felt the need to explain that Charlie Hebdo was offensive, the problem is not so much that they were offensive, but rather that most of the rest of us are so tame, so unwilling to give offense.
Our tameness, our passivity, has become so normalized that when something like this happens, people very much like myself ask of the bloody corpses on the ground what they did wrong.
We KNOW that if we have not already lost our democracy, we are on the verge of losing it. We KNOW that our governments are becoming increasingly invasive and oppressive. And yet most of us remain tame.
It is not that we would be willing to offend if things got bad enough, but rather that we have learned how not to break character.
If your art isn't worth dying for, what is it you think you are doing?
Not only is this a strong piece of graphic design that is impressive in its own right, but it also is a sophisticated reference to one of the more psychologically intense moments in the story. Just wait until you read it. Then you will understand quite how good this cover illustration is!
This was my first time exhibiting in the Boskone art show. Many people had nice things to say about my work, and at least three expressed the desire to buy prints at a lower price point than what I had in the show. And I promised to post information about how to buy my prints via my ImageKind.com store.
The photo, "Peter at the Sand Table," which was my most popular piece is HERE. And the journal collages, which people also liked a lot, are HERE. I showed only two, but I have six on ImageKind.
I had this cold earlier in January. Which became a bacterial infection involving white spots in the back of my throat and ominous chest pains. So I went to the ER and got a prescription for Zithromax which cleared it right up, and as of last Wednesday I had my energy back and went to yoga class and had a great day. Except.
Friday, I was feeling a bit achy. By Saturday night I was pledging to actually find myself a regular doctor here in the Adirondacks. Monday I went to my new doctor and was diagnosed with a sinus infection and given a new antibiotic: Augmentin.
So I need to stay in bed, and relax even if its boring. And I have fiberoptic Internet and a MacBook Pro. So I'm watching movies. Here are my recommendations so far:
The first three I bought through iTunes:
Obselidia (2010) starring Michael Piccirilli, Gaynor Howe, and Frank Hoyt Taylor: Asperger's type writing an encyclopedia of obsolete technologies learns to cherish and fetishize the present the way he does the past through the (temporary) love of a good woman and words of wisdom from a misunderstood genius. The protagonist is my kind of man, so this is my kind of film.
The Wife (1995) starring Tom Noonan, Wallace Shawn, Karen Young and Julie Haggerty: A husband and wife work as therapists together leading group therapy in their house. One evening, one of their clients shows up unexpectedly with his sexy wife who wants to know what her husband has been saying about her. Marvellously acted film in which the lowbrow slutty wife gets the better of the other three characters using the superpower of being willing to degrade herself to get what she wants. It has an epic and quite astonishing dinner scene in which almost anything can (and does) happen.
Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing (2010): Terrific film adaptation of Shaun Tan's surreal picture book which had me muttering about impossibly hostpitable dystopias.
And I also discovered the website Indieflix.com which, for a small monthly fee, seems to allow unlimited access to a large number of independent films. I have been poking around there and here is what I have found so far, all of them short:
The Professor's Daughter (2011; 17 minutes): An AI story in the mode of Ted Chiang's story "Understand." The daughter reminds me of my friend Mary Lou Jepsen.
Ghost(2011; 8 minutes): A ghost story that snaps into place very nicely at the end.
The Lost & Found Shop(2010; 9 minutes): A short fantasy about a child recovering a crucial but lost memory of her mother at Christmas.
Sunshine Bob (2010; 3 minutes): Reminds me of the day literary agent Virginia Kidd's grandson totaled Virginia's Nissan Maxima. Virginia told him, "Remember Steve: when you have a car accident, always turn off the ignition. Steve replied, "I turned off the ignition so that damned woman would shut up." The Nissan Maxima had a female voice that issued advisories to the driver. After some discussion, we arrived at what the car might have been telling Steve: "The tree is in the ignition." This film brings me back to that moment.
On New Year's Day, I bought a package of three blank journal books for the kids and I in Lake Placid. In January, I have found myself using my little book to do visual journalling and then, later, collage work. Here is a sample page spread.
I had gotten bored with using only printed prose from magazines and newspapers I was willing to cut up, and had the epiphany that we have a whole bookstore full of interesting books downstairs.
I brought a computer printer that will no longer act as a printer but still functions as a copier to the bookstore. Then I chose about six books to copy from: some drama, some fiction, and some non-fiction. The rule I set for myself was I could look at the pages for layout to make sure they had the right kind of text, but I couldn't read them in advance before trying to work with them.
I am pleased with the result and have ordered some sample art prints of six two-page spreads to see if they came out as well as I think they did. I will probably have some of these in the Boskone art show.
(Click HERE to see a larger version of the image.)
A few days ago, Peter, Elizabeth and I paid a visit to the artist Ted Cornell's art farm, Crooked Brook Studios. The proximate reason for our visit was to collect water samples from his wetland for Westport Central School's third graders to look at under the microscope tomorrow. Peter, who is in 8th grade, has been doing a biology independent study since January and wants to share with the 3rd graders some of the things he's learned.
It was a beautiful day at the art farm, and we had a great time. While exploring, we were accompanied by both my dog Sunshine and by Ted's photogenic black lab, Lily. Here are some of the pictures I took.
Crooked Brook Studios was first known as an art farm in connection with the Adirondack Harvest Festival’s Farm Tour in 2005. Becoming an art farm encouraged talking about these sculptures as if they were bio-organic eruptions, a conceit which is encouraged by their leisurely and seasonal growth patterns. They began appearing in the wetlands below the pond, and up near the barn and then in the pond, and then up behind the barns, in an area now known unavoidably as the sculpture garden, about five years ago. They were first known as large slow jokes, and they move in the wind and sport a jaunty devil-may-care attitude. They are junk sculptures making use of previous existences. They are environmental sculptures suggesting the creation of a transcendental asylum.
From the perspective of children with buckets, there for creatures and water-fun rather than art, they are landmarks that structure the farm. Destinations. Trailmarkers.
For a while, I have been wanting to produce fabric art that makes use of my photos, my artwork, and my kids' art. The other day, I happened across a site called Spoonflower that prints custom images on fabric. As a test, I have ordered a yard of the fabric above, created using a drawing of mine from 2001. I've also ordered a map that Peter drew as fabric. We'll see if it truly suits my purposes, but I am hopeful.
I have some very specific projects in mind if it does. The test fabric design comes from this drawing of mine:
My original intent had been to reproduce it as endpaper in a small press book.
I'm counting the days until my test yardage arrives.
When we were first sewing pieces together for the smallest block, I told her, "Never sew the pieces together unless you know what they mean."
She asked, "What do these pieces mean, mommy?"
I said, "These are angry men running in the grass. This one is the moon rising over the lake. This one is our house. This one is about thinking about the tiny little creatures in the water."
This is not a quilt make from a pattern, but from a method of construction. This is a method to be done fast, in love, in anger, and as a form of meditation: Use only scraps, as much as you can. Cutting from the big pieces of cloth should be a last resort. Make small blocks as though you were spelling words, combining letters. Then make bigger blocks as through you were making sentences.
The bigger blocks will not all be the same size. The easy way out would be to trim them so that they are and then sash them with a plain fabric to spread them out so they don't have to mean together. Don't take the easy way out.
Arrange the pieces on the floor in relation to one another. If some are too simple, cut them apart and sew them back together in a different order. Add strips of fabric to fill in the gaps, but using the same grammar that you have used so far.
Work fast, but observe things like seam allowances carefully. Because this kind of quilt is made in the heat of the moment, it is prone to structural flaws. Overwork the structure just a little to make sure it will all hang together in the end.
I did have to reach for the larger pieces for the outside edges, and needed a trip to the fabric store in Lake Placid, NY to get the batting and the backing.
Also, I did a small amount of applique using some of the better scraps -- 20 years ago I had experimented with hand-cutting rubber stamps and then printing on fabric with fabric paint.
I am going to tie the quilt, rather than hand-quilting. Elizabeth and I discussed it last night, and she wants the binding to be sunshine yellow like the backing.
Posthumans communicate electronically. Pay no attention to the geek behind the handle.
A posthuman outnumbers a human: their emergent relationship is often predator and prey.
Humans are single, identifiable individuals. Posthumans are legion; they are multi-headed hydra. When fully developed, they contain multitudes, as many identities as they need.
Posthumans are the heroes of their own stories.
Humans may have several social identities, usually dependent on contexts such as work, parenting, gaming. Posthumans have more.
Humans are cursed with continuous lives; posthumans are not. Posthumans can go underground with a keystroke. Bingo, another identity!
Posthumans are lonely, they are looking for love and companionship and attention. Self-love does not ease the ache for another, more satisfying identity. Perhaps even as a superhero.
Posthumans are disinhibited.
Posthumans are thrill-seekers, enjoying the rush of the group demagogic skydive.
Posthumans live in constant fear of exposure as insignificant meat.
Posthumans argue against the unique identification of moral actors.
To protect them from predation, children are taught in elementary school how to become posthuman when going online. As with many top predators, by adolescence, these proto-posthumans with have learned the role of predator. Social networking plays a major and perhaps even Darwinian role in this socialization.
Posthumans hunt in legions. If no one else will hunt, posthumans become the legion.
Posthumans bear no responsibility for the past. For posthumans, electronic life is an organizing principle imposed on the past, which is chaos.
All the truth posthumans need is available online. And if it isn’t there, they can make something up and put it online.
For a human to seek a human's address and phone number, she looks in the phone book. For a human to seek a posthuman's address and phone number is stalking!
Humans privilege relationships formed in and founded on what they call "real life." Posthumans either deny a distinction between “real life” and online relationships, or disparage the idea that "meatspace" relationships have any privileged meaning.
Posthumans like to watch. They especially like to watch humans and other posthumans fighting.
Posthumans find inflicting pain easier than do humans. Posthuman demagogues easily replicate the results of the Milgram experiment again and again, since posthumans are drawn to such experiences.
Posthuman culture changes at a much more rapid pace than human culture, such that the social protocols of online communities less than five years old are often regarded as ancient and venerable traditions. Still, most bad ideas go back a long way.
Truth is the consensus of posthumans today. Tomorrow's truth will be different. There is no fact outside of constantly-shifting consensus truth.
Humans are limited to no more than 3 or 4 romantic entanglements at a time. Posthumans may pursue 15 or 20 simultaneously; those posthumans augmented by bots can pursue hundreds. For some posthumans, this can prove highly profitable, particularly those who specialize in widows and the elderly.
Posthumans can blogswarm from jail!
The posthuman condition is a happy state for registered sex offenders.
Posthumans have solved the problem of professional ethics: The ethics of posthumans are completely undiscussable. How dare you raise the issue of ethics!
Posthumans are becoming the natural prey of Intelligent Agents, currently in the service of humans and adept at parsing social networks and friends lists. Intelligent Agents perform due diligence.
A posthuman’s HR department already has the posthuman’s Charles Manson fanfic on file; is already aware of the disturbing themes in the posthuman’s Shirley Temple Second Life porn; the posthuman’s Flickr account has already been run by legal. Legal has advised management to let him dig himself in a little deeper.
Posthumans are losing security clearances for unexplained reasons.
Posthumans are now being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Now posthumans lose their jobs.
Intelligent Agents take over. Truth is the consensus of corporately owned Intelligent Agent systems.
Spent several hours at the waterfall in Wadhams painting the waterfall under the instruction of artist Kevin Raines. The painting went tiki-god on me when I got home and finished it. The rock needed a face.
Last evening, the kids and I went to Edward Cornell's art farm, Crooked Brook, just outside of Westport, NY. Elizabeth didn't understand how there could be an art farm. When asked, Cornell explained that it's a farm where the art grows.
Cheryl Morgan has noted that my kids and I are absent from Denvention. Ah, I'm busted playing hookey from the WorldCon. No, I'm not in Denver, I'm in Westport, NY painting my basement and painting pictures of Lake Champlain.
Mapping for the masses : Nature Commentary: Mapping disaster zones
Google Earth software proved effective during relief efforts in New Orleans and Pakistan, say Illah Nourbakhsh and colleagues. Is there more to be gained than lost from opening up disaster operations to the wider public?