January 5, 2016


Reading science fiction tends to reaffirm for me that the law of mass-energy conservation (that there is a constant amount of both in the universe, and the two can interconvert) really applies to all things emotional as well. In emotional exchanges you also have products and reactants and, as in all things universe-physics-Einstein-y, the energy generated in such an exchange exists and goes ... somewhere. It does not suddenly just blink out. But the rub is always, where is the somewhere? Who does it land on, sink into, impact, or change?

And what about the sub-level stuff, the actual electron level stuff -- is it possible that there really are humans who are inviolate energy expellers, never absorbers? Which of course would have to mean there are an equal opposite number (well, in pristine physics thinking, anyway) of energy absorbers. Does one get trained for this in childhood, I wonder, or is it really a genetic thing? And if it is genetic, can we develop a sci-fi kind of solution, some trippy procedure, which might reverse one's 'natural' state as expeller or absorber? I wonder about just who would sign up for that.

To me science fiction is psychology, abstracted out; sci fi makes it easier to face the limits and constraints of human being-ness in the present moment. Unlike, say, classic murder mystery novels, which offer psychology parsed out; killers have clear motives (well, most of the time), pain is pain, there are specific steps to redemption, and closure is possible. Both offer a kind of weird comfort.

They seem to always be about closed systems, though, about emotional constants that must balance, as hope with despair, violence with calm, imaginative leaps with limits. Because we all are in a closed system, causing and reacting, expelling and absorbing. Which makes me wonder how many writers are more absorber than expeller, or vice versa. And about what it would be like to inhabit my opposite number out in the world. I feel like this is a deep failure of imagination on my part; I find it much easier to spend time imagining the inner lives of absorbers, generally. Because I am pained by expellers, especially the truly oblivious ones, I feel a lot of anger and lack of trust about them. The energy has to go somewehere, after all. But I want very much to be able to imagine the joy expellers must experience. They must go through time and space with such lightness.

I know now that painting is an interconversion. Looking over my work over the past dozen years recently, I came across a fuzzy photograph of the first painting I ever sold...I had a seriously crappy camera at the time. The piece was called 'Found, grounded' and I painted it, and sold it, in 2002. It was actually four small canvasses (16x16 each) composed as one piece, and I painted it in early 2002 while my studio was set up in a tiny section of the tiny living room area in our tiny apartment in Seattle. A friend of a friend very kindly allowed me to hang some of my work at a coffeehouse downtown (I had just started painting about 6 months before) and a writer, visiting town from Chicago for a few days, saw the painting and wanted it immediately. I met her when I delivered the packed-for-the-plane painting to her, and she told me she had to have the painting hanging on her wall above her writing desk, that it would fuel her.

What the painting was to me -- the discovery that I had found that I could paint, and that this could be my work, my life -- seemed evident to this writer, without me explaining it. But in truth it mattered not at all to her, and rightly so. What mattered to her was the way she felt when she looked at 'Found, grounded' and the way she knew she would always feel when she encountered the piece. I have met only a handful of the people who have bought my paintings over these past 13+ years, but she fits with what I know of the others. They are absorbers too.

November 30, 2015

Integration Phase

Yesterday I worked on finishing a painting, the subject of which was an old friend. The work was fueled by my own recognition of her as someone who is not well emotionally, and/or psychologically, and by the further recognition that she has, most likely, never been. I just had not seen it until now. Which maybe says something ominous about my own ability to see people for who they actually are, or says something wonderful about her ability to manage and perform in a way that conveys to others, especially new acquaintances, that she is ok. Possibly both.

Seeing things, people, patterns, places for what they are is difficult if one is trudging through the world making your own meaning. There is always the temptation (or perhaps it is just the habit, after all this time) to fit perceptions into your self-made structure. Maybe it is easier for folks who have a ready-made structure or system to rely on, an external system that filters and organizes meaning for you? Then again, their commitment to this type of structured thinking seems to task them; life seems to be a continual stress test, for believers, to stay true to the language and rules of their chosen system. I can see why people are concerned that Donald Trump may blow a gasket at some point.

I suppose the upside of a commitment to the ready-made is that you are socially knowable, since most of what you communicate are signals and signifiers to others in your group. And yes, those of us outside your group can read your signals, too. So you can be seen clearly for who you are, because you have allowed this idea of self to be defined by the belief system you adhere to and promote. And, speaking of Trump (and speaking with no authority on the subject other than a childhood spent around exclusive rich white narcissists who were motivated by the acquisition and promotion of wealth) there is truly nothing else there.

But my old friend has not adhered to one system or structure outside of herself for her identity, and I do not either. So our intermittent engagement with each other has been one of slow-motion discovery, as if we were binary stars rotating around a shared past experience but not really interacting with it or each other, and so never seeing the full surface at any time. She is both lovely and strange, and I realize now that her self-perception scares me too. Perhaps it always did, but I had not created enough of myself yet, way back then, to recognize that.

October 13, 2015

A Most Delicious Nourishing and Wholesome Food

I am certain I am echoing others' sentiments here when I proclaim that something must be done about the pervasive ghoul problem in America, and something must be done soon. They are a pox on the nation; you see them everywhere, proclaiming and exclaiming, protesting and demanding, and this is exhausting public will and, also, the supply of a 'public' itself, really.

We all know that ghouls debilitate the citizenry at an alarming rate, far more than terrorists or the flu or even terrible midwestern drivers. Ghouls drain resources and take up air time; ghouls demand attention and suck energy. As per the reality of physics, their destructive actions actually generate grief, a thing which we all know has a half life that is in many cases disabling. And they always seem to leave tremendous messes behind them.

After consulting with friends in other nations -- places where the ghoul problem has been acknowledged for decades, and, seemingly, managed -- and seeking the advice of Knowledgeable People and Scientific Thinkers, I have a proposal that, to my mind, addresses the ghoul problem effectively and at the same time attends to a resource issue much in the news these days in our United States. I hope the reader will take a moment to consider this, with the full knowledge that I come to this with the best intentions and no dog in this fight, as it were.

To start with, I think it is best to think of ghouls as useful in some manner, rather than as just vaguely threatening, and to admit that it is very easy to identity them, even those who prefer the "concealed" approach. That they enjoy presenting themselves openly as ghouls (both online, especially after an event, and also at rallies) really helps with this. So, identification is quite easy.

Collection will require non-ghouls to gather in large numbers, as the ghouls have to be surrounded and "taken out" (to use one of their pet phrases) and is I admit the clunkier aspect of this proposal, but think of the benefits! Once rounded up and subdued, the epoxying process (there is apparently an industrial strength glue that works quite well in adhering the ghoul's dermis to their weapon of choice) can be very swift and then the plastic coating and varnishing process, which is automated, is really very efficient. The end result, which has been recently modelled by a group of motivated and enthusiastic students at MIT, is a 3 foot by 6 foot "brick" (on average) which can be painted, grouted, stacked, or even cemented in place.

Ghouls into bricks then becomes a resource for us all -- think of the schools we could build or, more to the point, retrofit (particularly those in need of repairs after a ghoul event) practically for free! One artist friend encouraged me to include here the creative benefits as well; she envisioned creating a set of public benches and fountain enclosures in various cities across the land using unpainted, transparent ghoul bricks. She was thinking of the impact, the visual "wow" of a park bench made of a ghoul-with-gun encased in plastic (weather resistant plastic, of course) that you can actually see, like a bug in amber, though I think her approach a might bit maudlin. Nonetheless, it shows enterprise!

No doubt others, those Silicon Valley types and captains of industry, will come up with novel ideas for ghoul-brick use as well. But as a start, Ghoul Bricks for Schools seems both appropriate and timely, and in truth it is also future-oriented. Because with the gradual transformation of disruptive and destructive ghouls into inert objects/building materials over time, the student population can only grow.