Monday, February 28, 2005

I thought it best to take a couple of hours to get to know the piece again, before I go changing things. So I let it run and took some photos. I liked them and thought you would too. Tomorrow I'll begin in earnest, knowing already that what I change tomorrow will be different, somewhat, from what I would have changed tonight. We'll see what happens. 

Mechanically, it seems to be fine. The jester turns his head and raises his finger to his lips, he raises and lowers the yellow harlequin, teasing the frog below, who is trying to snag the harlequin with his umbrella, to no avail, no matter how much he wants him, for reasons unknown. The angel peers through the glass, out over the city, then lowers it looking away just in time to miss the harlequin as he passes. 

Vaguely, I knew that underneath them was a deserted factory of some sort, and that the five of them were joined together somehow, by something. It's possible that one day Neil will figure that one out.  

Before I built this sculpture for Neil, I stared at the photos of the niche in the wall for awhile. I knew two things: One was that the figures in the sculpture would be atop some sort of crumbling smoke stack high over a strange, old city. The other was that the jester was once a rat. 

For the past thirteen years, I've either sculpted, painted, drawn or written something every single day, with few exceptions. One belief that has come from this, and from which I cannot be shaken, is that the mind is a universe, and that what it creates in any given moment will be different from what it creates in any other. The possibilities are limitless and the only restrictions are those we place on ourselves. 

Friday, February 25, 2005

Working on Neil's sculpture. Details :Neil's sculpture closeups

More on Bill in a bit. He is dearly missed by many. 

About the photo, the Neil sculpture and Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks

I only have a few heroes. Bill Hicks is one of them. Bill knew what was wrong with the world. He knew what we needed to do. He spoke about these things with such conviction, such deep insight, and such searing honesty that no one listening could go away unaffected. He spoke of these things with such raw wit and comedic talent that we groundlings could get it. He left us laughing, but really, he left us thinking. He was a teacher.
I didn’t discover Bill until eight years ago, when I started listening to TOOL . I was already deeply involved in my work as a sculptor. Bill was already dead. But I listened and learned that what I was struggling to say in art Bill had said more eloquently than I could have imagined, in words.
Bill saw the monsters, Bill saw the sheep and Bill loved people. I will always be grateful to him for his courage, wisdom and talent.

Today marks the eleventh anniversary of his passing, at age 32.

I invite you to post your thoughts about Bill.

AND I’m asking you to honor Bill by donating A DOLLAR to the Bill Hicks Foundation.

There is no shame in donating a dollar. I went to college. I'm an artist. I know poor. But if you don't donate at least the dollar then, well, you’re scum. Sorry, but, come on, One Dollar. Do it. If everybody does it, it will add up to many dollars. Good will be done with it.

If you don't know Bill from Adam's off-housecat, here’s what to do: Donate the dollar now, go find out who he was and what he had to say, laugh your ass off, learn something for God's sake and come back and make a decent donation.
Sacred Cow Productions - 'People Who Hate People' Party HQ
The Konformist - The Silence of Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks - Wikiquote
Bill Hicks - Interesting Motherfuckers - Acid Logic ezine

Click the Paypal button below to donate $1

PAYPAL recipient address is (Lynn Raridon, director BHF)

OR You can mail a donation to the postal address on the site.

OR You can donate $25 and receive your choice of a really cool T-shirt, coffee mug or CD.
Cool stuff to get for $25

When you get your shirt and/or mug, email me a photo at I’ll make a collage of the photos of all the very cool people who did this and post it.
Please send your photos to me by March 26.

I’ll wear my T-shirt and drink from my coffee mug while I work on Neil's sculpture, then I’ll take them with me to Neil's to wear and drink from while I install the piece and putter about waiting for Neil to write the something he promised to write for me. I’ll probably get Neil a mug too, because he is very cool to let you know about this. I'll post photos so if you’ve failed to donate a dollar today, you'll get another chance to feel like scum and do the right thing.

Make us proud. Innocent animals in need are counting on you.

Now. Speaking of Neil’s sculpture.

The sculpture is called “Luck Be Nimble, Fate be Quick”. I spoke to Neil on the phone yesterday and after we compared cold symptoms. He wins this time. His is worse. He said he’d write something about the sculpture. It will be on his journal, which is here: Neil Gaiman's Journal
I’m going to be refurbishing the piece and actually making some changes. My work is different now so I'll update the piece a bit, throw in some suprises for Neil. First, I have to check the connections and possibly open the thing up and dig around to find out what needs to be done mechanically.
---This could get ugly. (If Neil didn't tell you about the problem with the motion sensor and the cats, let me know and I will.)
That done, we’ll have some fun with it. I’ll be posting photos along the way, then we’ll post the re-installation later on.

This was a long post. Thanks for reading. Remember Bill and check back in for progress on "Luck be Nimble"


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Working stage

It’s chilly in the house this morning, even with the fire going, and I seem to have caught a cold. It’s the first day in weeks without rain, so I can open the studio doors and clear some of the carnage from last week’s creative mania. It looks as though Mr. Hyde has occupied my workspace, but then I remember, it was me, caught in the current of ideas. I started three new works, laid out elements of Lost and Found on the biggest work table and sketched pieces I couldn’t get to, made notes about others.
First to clear out some chaos. Two large sheets of laminate were blocking shelves with bins of things I’d need to get to. These I laid flat on the floor, taping the edges with the smooth sides up. Later, when Orion is home from daycare, I’ll set him down on top and give him a handful of markers. Then it’s a matter of putting tools in bins and brushes in cups and trying not to get distracted.
I like this stage of the creative cycle. The sober, working stage, the sanity that comes after the mania of creation. I like that part too., that exhilarating high, however exhausting. When I’m in it, I wish I could always think that way. When it’s done, I’m relieved it’s over. It’s like taking an exciting holiday, sort of. You feel renewed, refreshed, invigorated, your life back home seems mundane in comparison, but as soon as you open your door , you’re glad to be home. Anyway, the cycle works for me. Or, perhaps I’ve learned to work within a rhythm I have no real control over.
Of course, this morning there’s this cold. I’m wanting to snuggle in on the couch near the fire with the Ramsey Campbell paperback I pulled from yet another carton of books we inherited from a friend of a friend. If only we’d inherit the shelves as well.
But, I have at least five pieces to finish, some angels to send to collectors who’ve waited patiently for them, and rats to mail.
In between, while paints dry and castings set, I’ll sit at the big table and work on Lost and Found. So, it’s off for coffee and cold tablets.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Everything has a price.

No doubt you've seen this ad. This copy is from National Geographic. Technology is a good thing. Atomic fusion, the internet, automobiles, fast food, cell phones. No moral judgements. Just know this and make no mistake:
Everything has a price. Actions have consequences.
I didn't make this up, it's the way the universe is made, no matter how you look at it.

So. let's look at this ad.
"We're building a dream." Whose?
"One robot at a time". Uh, no, not for long. There's no profit in one at a time.
Look at this family. Stepford meets Target.
Even the dog is average white upper middle class. Perfectly manicured lawn, nice big entrance. Ok. This is who we're to believe can afford ASIMO.
ASIMO. ASIMOV. Is it just me? No, didn't think so. You saw that way back. Does this family read ASIMOV? Is this a family? Possibly they are talent.

ASIMO is waving. Why? Because he can't smile? Note---the humans aren't waving. They're smiling. Waving, smiling. Same, samey same. Very human.
Why is ASIMO shown outside the home, waving to us and not inside, carrying a beer or changing the litter box?
Ok. The text explains that one. "Right now ASIMO walks forward and backward, turns corners and goes up and down stairs with ease. All with a remarkable sense of strength and balance." So much for changing the litter box.

So, why is ASIMO shown outside the home, waving and not inside the home, waving? Maybe because people don't normally wave inside? Is it possible the most important aspect of this ad is the wave?
The text goes on to say:
"But ASIMO has the potential to respond to simple voice commands, recognize faces, carry loads and even push wheeled objects. Which means that one day ASIMO could be quite useful......assisting the elderly....etc."
Cause, damn. No human wants to waste time helping the elderly. God forbid we help each other.
Ok. So ASIMO is a potential new product. That's no surprise. People have been expecting robots since the fifties. I grew up with the Jetsons. I thought by 2000 we'd all have flying cars.
Note that ASIMO is referred to as ASIMO, not THE ASIMO. So, a name is implied, but they carefully avoid using 'he", "she" or "it". Clever bastards.

It's not the technology that bothers me. It's the ad. ASIMO isn't here yet, but the herding is.

Who at Honda (or not) put this ad together? Whom did they consult? Where are they leading us? I sound paranoid? Fine. But all these things, down to the #12 on the kids jersey, are DECIDED and the choices made are for REASONS. What are they?
What do you think?

baaaaaaaah baaaaaaaaaaaah baaaaaaaaaah baaaaaaaaaaaah baaah

I saw my sister's name online and pinged her. I got her husband, K. I asked after him, and told him I'd email my sister, that I was concerned about how she'd
done with the anniversary of our mother's death. Usually, it's a hard day for her.
He typed:
"Oh, she's doing just fine now. I bought her a diamond necklace."
.................cone of silence...
."That's great, Kirby. Nothing cures grief like a diamond necklace."
I'm so popular back home. I got a two- sentence email recently, regarding my 'career in California':
"Potty mouth. Your mother would have been ashamed."
Goddammit. We wantsss to stick a fork in our eye, preciousssss.
I love 'em, but I don't get 'em. Same as they don't get me.

Everything has a price.
Everything has a price.

I take it back---I don't miss rain. Rain is good.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Raining in, raining out

I have never, ever had writer's block, artist's block, or any other kind of creative block. Never.
"Shhhh!" you say. "You'll jinx it".
I could use a little quiet. The noise, the noise, the noise. So like the rain outside, never like a faucet dripping. That, I can shut out.
It's Monday morning and raining hard. It's disconcerting, in the way it goes against the desert-ness of the desert. Now we've had more rain than in a decade (according to the news) and this place has a strange new face.
"We're so gonna die" is what Aubrey said in the car the other day. She was looking at the hills, formerly of the rock variety, now sprouting like really ugly Chia pets. Palm Springs can get very claustrophobic. Geographically, it's a deep thumb print on the edge of the mountains. The grocery store I wander late at night has nothing behind but mountain. It is literally on the edge. Now all these rocky faces are covered in greenery that will turn to brownery in summer, then kindling, then I'll be sending you photos because there is nothing quite like a palm tree in flames.
I hope you enjoyed the pics of Windy's party, because that's it for awhile. I don't get out much, you know. It's flooding in places here, mud slides over in LA. Mudslides in my head. These last weeks I've been flooded with images and ideas. So much so that I begin to suspect I'm wandering into some sort of mania. It would make sense, considering my family tree. Or growing a tumor. I don't sleep well, am irritable and preoccupied. All this stuff has sprouted up around me. The studio is crammed with work and work in progress. Lost and Found is splayed out on the table like an autopsy.
Will I ever, ever escape the fucking morgue?
I look around at all this and hear Aubrey again....
After this flood, will it all will dry up? Will it burn? Will I burn out?
No. It doesn't happen. Ever. But eventually it slows to a drizzle. At least then, I can think.
I never, ever thought I'd say this but, I'm getting tired of rain.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The bands were Riotgun and Whores of Tijuana!. Flahertys was out of Killians, go figure, so it's me and my Sapporo, my Sapporo and me.

Jamison says he likes vampires better in a classical setting. (discussing Blade) I would tend to agree. The raw nature of the vampire is better against a Victorian backdrop than a New York subway. He looks too at home there. 

Hubby-guy Pete (mine) and Windy, the birthday girl, with tequilla 

Angie and Tony 

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Jump to the left, with beer

I'm still caught in the madness that is me, in studio, with the proverbial bee in my bonnet. The 'bee' being at the moment, a connection to "Lost and Found", which I have been neglecting, mostly due to lack of said connection.
I am sleeping in naps, and just woke from one and in that moment of dullness just after waking tried some of Aubrey's beloved soy milk. I tell her it's nasty and tastes like soybeans. She says soybeans are delicious. I say they are not when they are pretending to be milk.

I'm forced to take a much-needed break tonight, but I can guarantee my mind will wander, amidst the Irish-inspired happy ruckus of Windy's birthday revelry at Flahertys---unless Jake is there, beside whose madness mine slinks away in shame. Jake has an interesting brain, that presents itself oddly when soaked in alcohol. He can be mad enough to jaunt naked down a street at midnight, yet sane enough, somewhere, to wait at the crossing light, jogging in place, parts dangling, whilst causing chaos amongst drivers of all sorts.
In a sense, bringing us together for the moment.

I shall tell you anything about it there is to tell.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Inner Space

I both love and hate the last inch of juice in the orange juice carton.

I’m too exhausted to write, from all the things that give me something to write about. Too, too much working. Too much coffee. Too much damned thinking. Something’s got me by the right hemisphere and is kicking my butt. It’s like that sometimes. I have to keep working on it until it lets go.

I did want to mention a couple of things: On Feb 26 I’m going to be posting about Bill Hicks. Please check in and send others. It’s important.

Also, on Feb 26 I’m going to start refurbishing a kinetic sculpture I built for Neil Gaiman five years ago. I’ll tell you what nearly happened to it, and what Neil did to it while protecting it. And I’ll post photos and notes while I work on and…. make some changes. I know me. I can’t just ‘fix’ something.. I’ll want to play. Should be fun. Then I'll blog the re-installation.

I’ll be showing you the new SlaughterHouse logo and T shirts
and, I’ll start moving a couple of things into the back room. It's gonna be busy.

I’m off to the studio. If anything worth mentioning happens, it will be here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

For Mildred

This story has no moral, no lesson, no artistic insight as far as I can see at the moment. It is simply an account of what went on this afternoon. In other words, I got nothin'. So, breaking my own rule, I'll tell you about my day. C'mon. Every day can't be an enlightening experience. I can't afford those drugs. Some days I just paint rats.
So I spent the morning painting rats, trying not to think about the guy online who complained about the price of the Lovecraft rat. Willing myself not to post a comment telling him I'd just PayPal'd him a couple of bucks for gas so he could borrow his mother's car, go to the mall and buy some Mary's Moo-Moos or Dept. 56 made in sweat shops in China by women and girls for no benefits, no breaks and precious little pay. Nobody is sitting for hours painting rats except me.
wow Look. Already I've already slipped and fallen up, onto my soapbox. Sigh.
So I spent the morning painting rats, listening to Goreki, Hindemuth, Flogging Molly and a bit of Kronos Quartet. Something else I can't remember. By afternoon I was hungry enough to want a hot dog, but knew tomato soup would be much healthier. I cut up the hot dog and put it in the tomato soup. Um Um good, that's what Campbell's soup is....for kids who climb on rocks...
I picked up Aubrey, then Orion and we were headed up Dinah Shore toward the mountains when the car died. It just gave out, poor old thing. Didn't stall, just slowed down, down and down. Aubrey asked if I were slowing down on purpose. I said no. I managed to get into the right lane before we slowed to a complete stop, just around a curve with heavy 50mph plus traffic on our left, and a sandy hill on the right, stretching as far as we could see, dotted with pretty desert foliage and covered, literally, with big black ants. Not great. I hit the emergency flasher.
I dug out my cell phone, started to call AAA, then called Ben (sculptor, engineer guy who rarely shows up for work these days, and never, ever on time) instead. I'd just started to tell him where we were when the cell phone died. No service.
Yes, a word I'll admit I use all too frequently, and which, in these moments, has no equal. What to do? I remember Wile-E- Coyote. (the monomaniac) I try some inventive positions, which would have, under different circumstances, elicited wild laughter from Aubrey. But she was quiet. She knows me. This was not the moment. (Neither is when I'm cutting mats) I found a magic pose, got service to the phone. got Ben who said he was on his way. I phoned AAA , holding my Wiley pose. Just as they answered, Orion decided to try out every possible incantation for "fuck"."Fuck. Fuck, fuck Fuck FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCK. Fu-fu-fu-fuck. FUCKKKK!" then "Wheres French fries?" about forty times, then more 'fuck fucky fuck."
"Cute kid," said the AAA operator, Vicky. Cars and trucks buffeted us as they passed. Ok. After a lengthy discussion with Vicky, trying to explain that the reason I knew Gene Autry Trail crossed Dinah Shore was because I could see Gene Autry Trail from here.
Ben came and collected the kids. We quick -stepped through the ants, got Orion strapped in and they were off to Taco Bell. Whew. I tried waiting on the bank, stepping from one foot to the other, but the ants were really interested in my shoes, which made me think they were probably interested in my feet. I got back into the car and sat for half an hour.
After I'd searched every possible nook and cranny for a pen, pencil or even a crayon, I resigned myself to the fact that I was stuck with myself. So I thought. And thought. And tried not to. Then I noticed how evenly distributed all the different kinds of wild vegetation on the hill was. That reminded me of how people space themselves in the elevator, the movie theater, in waiting rooms, on the sand at the beach. I was saved. Something to do. We all tend to naturally space ourselves out evenly. I'm going to look around and see if I can find out why. Do you know? There must be something about this somewhere. And I'm going to try some experimenting. Okay. Fine. I'm going to fuck with people.
I'll let you know how it goes.
The tow truck driver was an elderly man who moved so slowly I almost checked a couple of times to see if he was still breathing. He was nice though. He was a fan of musicals, and because I knew who Robert Preston was, he felt like talking. I found out his wife is diabetic. He worries about her a lot. She's in charge of the playgrounds at the schools. He was proud that his tow gear was made of titanium alloy. When I brought up transparent aluminum he lit up with such delight I thought he'd break 3 miles per hour. So we talked about Star Trek and and laughed about Preston's great hair and his musical number in Victor Victoria.
February 15 isn't my favorite day of the year. It carries the memory of my mother's death on this day many years ago when I was young and losing my mother was about the worst thing that could ever happen. I didn't tell him about that. Didn't need to. I did tell him my mother had liked Robert Prestion. She always said, "what a head of hair that man has!" Her hair was red and she was really good at math. She always had tissues and Rolaids in her purse and she taught me to notice things like how people spaced themselves out in elevators and on the beach. That's good enough. I love you, Mom.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Clown Balloons

Clown Balloons, pencil on illustration board 2000 [If you can't see this image, email me and I'll send you a jpeg]

The only thing that makes me want to gag more than what sheep do to St. Valentine's Day is what sheep do to Easter. The cheap lace, the candy, the pink, pink, pink. Fluffy bunnies, fake sentiments, sugary store displays guilting us into buying ugly plastic and plush crap for all the wrong reasons. Here's a nice monochrome to cleanse the pallette. I created this drawing to illustrate a really good Phil Brucato story for a collection that sadly never came to be. For details, contact Phil or Alan M. Clark . Every time I look at this drawing I so want to draw with pencils. It's so neat---not messy like sculpting. I'm going to have some prints made today. Ravyn wants one. If you didn't know this, she does all this brilliant work for the website in exchange for art. Maybe I'll have several prints made, send them out at Easter....
Ahh...I love everything about drawing with pencils---the mechanics, the process, the smell, the squashy erasers and the satisfaction when I'm done. I want more, dammit.
I'm staying in today. Tomorrow all that unbought shit will be there for 75% off!!!
For what? I dread to meet the people who buy that crap, after the holiday. Shudder.
But in a couple of days it will be gone, replaced by St. Patrick's Day stuff. At least St. Paddy doesn't goad us into buying gifts. We can mostly ignore the plastic shamrocks and go have a fucking drink.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Stuff as illustrated by monkeys

In case you missed it, Greg P. offered The Law of Monkey in response to my last post on anger non-management. I'm posting it here because it's worth the read. I spent a bit of time on the site and for a few seconds thought "Hey---that's what I'm talking about. I don't even need to post, I can just send people here. " Then, reading on, I decided to hang in there for balance. This is a very testosterone-heavy site. Good information, and funny in places, but it reminded me of exactly why I stopped playing Magic, The Gathering. I think I started playing (about 7 years ago) just at the time the game got to be a lot more about buying cards, and the rules changes turned intelligent people I enjoyed playing with into monkeys in a pissing contest. It was a good game too...
It works out in the end, because as of late, I'm learning far more than I ever wanted to know about commitment to art. No time for games, Dr. Jones...
Thanks Greg. Cool site.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Stuff and more stuff...

Three of my studio walls are filled with shelves crammed with all sorts of interesting things and parts of things. It makes for a creepy place late at night, but whenever I look up from whatever I’m working on, I see something with an idea attached to it. My brain is like this too, just with a lot more shelves--closets too-- and a dark, secret basement. As in the studio, I have to rearrange things occasionally and add something new, or else the view gets too familiar and becomes invisible.
Creative types tend to bury themselves, thinking that it’s okay to live in our heads. We can forget that we have to put stuff IN, in order to bring stuff OUT. You can’t make something from nothing.
So yesterday was for putting stuff in. Some of the stuff I went looking for, other bits just fell in accidentally, like the argument.
There are a number of intense, articulate people around here, so the fireworks can be spectacular.
It’s funny how all arguments can end up being the same fight. Somebody starts by deciding to make a point. Some observation about something external or some personal gripe begins in earnest, with (maybe) good intentions. You intend to be rational, calm and persuasive. Right. Depending on the subject matter, and more importantly, prior arguments, things can go from calm to insane with quantum speed. Suddenly a discussion about one specific thing is an all-out war about EVERYTHING, and nothing. It’s a vortex, pulling stuff in from all directions, including temporal. You know what I’m talking about ---stuff from ten years ago. Stuff from first grade. Stuff your mother made you eat. Internal stuff, external stuff. Stuff that hasn’t happened but might.
You think you’ve got things under control and the next thing you know you’re a monkey and something’s gonna get broken.
If you’ve ever had the slightest doubt about evolution, watch someone who’s really pissed-off. You know what I’m talking about. Apes are hooting in your head and you want to smash.
And suddenly everything is a candidate for smashing.
The furniture taunts me---
“C’mon” it whispers.
Especially that massive glass display case with the Cerebus and Babylon 5 stuff, the 50‘s devil figurines, and those fucking Rumph mugs chanting “Break Vader! He’s the crappy one!”
We regress. Not so far as to hit someone, (hopefully), but far back enough that we want to substitute something. Kick the trash can, slam the door, mutilate the stuffed parrot, rip up the paper, throw the cell phone, squash the poor, innocent banana and my favorite, throw the sculpture out the window. Ahhh, if only we could see ourselves…
We do, evidently, as this is usually the moment we realize how ridiculous we are and how distant the “point” has become.

If we’re lucky, this happens before something gets broken.

If we decide to, we can retrain ourselves. If we want it enough.
If we want it enough.
If we want it enough.

The other ‘stuff’ from yesterday I sought. I saw Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby’. It did not disappoint. I’m not going to write a movie review. There are way too many people out there who are infinitely better at that than I, including Pete.
But I brought a lot of stuff out of there. There is a lot of stuff in there. Go get some stuff.
It’s good for you.


Strange Attraction---one answer for lots of emails

I've received tons of emails about Strange Attraction since the entry about it a few nights ago. I had the publisher address the question, to answer everybody at once. Here it is:

From Vincent Harper, Bereshith ---

Like any good Ferris wheel, Strange Attraction is something that shouldn't be stopped. It's been five years since the publication, yet the stories and book are as fresh as if they were just published yesterday. It makes my heart glad that Lisa has once again decided to ride the Wheel, and I'm there beside her. For the record, there are still copies of all editions of Strange Attraction available. Yes, even the deluxe, statue-included edition (which I find hard to believe). This is a true collector's item, and the attention to all details, from stories, to binding, to case, to coin, to sculpture, truly show the feelings we all felt (and feel) about Lisa's artwork.If you have not procured your own copy, I really can't stress enough the experience you're missing. If you are interested in owning a copy, please check out the Strange Attraction section at dearly hope to see you all at the carnival...we'll save a seat on the Wheel for you!

There you go. I shall be back tonight.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Ravyn's Lamb

Today Ravyn sent me, as part of a very cool care package, a new mascot for the SlaughterHouse. ( Oh yes, and I'm having the last of the cheesecake from the fridge.) I heard the package coming up the walk today as the sheep's bell rang with the postman's every step.
The cool thing about this sheep is that it was Ravyn's for years, a gift from her mother.
And now she's given it to me. If we're gonna insist on attaching personal significance to inanimate objects, we shouldn't do it often. Don't give your car a fucking name, that's just annoying. Unless it was in the family for years, and your father passed it down to you, which could mean it's a loving reminder of them but probably means it's an old piece of crap. Ok. Then you can name it. If someone's going to give me something she's cared about for a long time, I think it's probably a good idea to remember that every time I look at the thing.
So. SlaughterHouse has gained a lamb. Sometimes people get the wrong impression about SlaughterHouse, and me. Usually, it's people who haven't met me or come to conventions. Things sound a bit different than they read. I don't hate sheep (or any other farm animal, for that matter). I'm speaking of the metaphor here---I never hate the sheep. I hate what made them. I've never hated anyone for over five minutes. But yes, I'm only human. Sometimes when sheep are acting like sheep, I wanna kick 'em in the heads. No more talk of hate tonight. There's always time for talking about hate. Time for cheesecake.
So, hello, little lamb. Mind our sheep.
Thanks, Ravyn.
G'night all. Thanks for checking in.

Sheep. It's about 18 inches tall, I believe, and is at Worlds of Wonder. Tiny puppets march up and up and in and out until they reach the top, where they swan to the ground below. Fellow puppets pick up the pieces and carry them up again. This one is static. I reproduced it as one part of the kinetic sculpture "Midway Between Grace and Chance" . In that version, the puppets actually do move in and out and appear to fall. I must find to show you a photo of the insane gearing mechanism inside.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Here is a straight-on look at the table top. I should've photo'd the bottom, because when I signed it, I was having so much fun that I ended up writing all over the underside.

As promised, here is the 'Those Pesky Infinities" table I made for Boskone. 

Quick Clarifying Comment about Strange Attraction

Several people have emailed me regarding Strange Attraction. I can see, from what I wrote last night, that I could have led you to believe none of the project came about, when in fact, the three hardcover editions did. The open edition, the signed limited with color plates, and the deluxe with the statue. What hasn't come about (yet?) is the trade paperback edition.
The hard cover editions can be ordered from Bereshith or Amazon.

Back to the studio---

Crowded After Hours

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lisa's Strange Attraction

Lisa's Strange Attraction
I shot a cat once, when I lived in south Georgia (rattlesnake capital of the world) and came upon the poor thing after it was bitten. I was miles from any help and it suffered horribly. What I remember most after all these years, is how much I shook. Everything else faded, but that. Not the shaking.

I'll post a photo of the table, but not tonight, as it was another very long day and now that the house is settled and quiet, I'm very content to sit here on the floor with my Sapporo for dinner, and type. At this moment I'm grateful for those typing classes in high school. I can lie back with my eyes closed and write for long intervals. I'm such a child sometimes---I make the effort to take a drink and return to the keyboard without looking, with as little movement as possible. Hmmm, I can almost hear and smell the surf... But, yes, the house is quiet and at these moments I return to this idea of the broken animal. It came to me a couple of weeks ago and still the image hasn't fully formed. Sometimes relationships become living things, outside of the people involved in them. They are living dynamics, animals. And sometimes, no matter how sick or rabid or wounded the thing is, nobody wants to be the one to insert the bullet. I ask myself, how much suffering does it take to justify taking the thing out of its misery? And I answer myself. None. Justification is not required. A dynamic is alive, in a sense---after all, we tend to interchange the adjectives, dynamic and alive---but a dynamic is not a cat.
Perhaps what we're afraid of is the shaking.

Lisa's Strange Attraction
I made this Ferris wheel out of wood. I carved most of it, from boards a man named Ed Clements salvaged from an old boat in Panama City. It was mahogany, which has a natural preservative that humans and other living things shouldn't breathe. So I did the carving mostly with a Dremmel, sitting out on the broad wrap-around front porch wearing as many layers of everything possible. I think it was about fifteen degrees outside most days.
It was a commissioned piece by Jane and Howard Frank, and you can see it in their Chrysalis Books - Great Fantasy Art Themes which has a chapter on the carnival.
Ed Kramer and I were looking at it at the World Fantasy Convention in Chicago. Other people were looking at it too, and several authors suggested there were stories in there.
Ed liked that idea, and the concept of an anthology of stories, each based on a different rider (each car was occupied) was born.
Gene Wolfe wrote a fabulous story called "Pocketsful of Diamonds", Neil Gaiman wrote "Harlequin Valentine", John Shirley wrote an amazingly tender story called "Occurance at Owl Street Bridge" (pun intended). David Niall Wilson wrote "Deep Blue" which has been just published as a Novel.Deep Blue Kramer put together a first-rate group of writers; Caitlin Kiernan, Chet Williamson, Jack Dann, Charles DeLint, Brad Linaweaver, Michael Bishop......on and on.
Then, we got this brilliant idea to go another step in this artistic exploration. Each author had chosen a part of the sculpture to write about, so a photograph of that character would preceed each story. Then, I would read the stories, and reinterpret them with pencil drawings. It took the better part of a year for me to do the drawings alone. Kramer had required each author to include a Ferris wheel somewhere in their stories. In fairness, I put a Ferris wheel, sometimes hidden subtly, in every drawing.
Bereshith Publishing produced three editions. A hard cover open edition, a limited edition with signatures of all the contributors that had color plates of each of the drawings , and a crazy deluxe edition that was leather-bound, tray cased and came with a token coin and a statue of the jester (the subject of Neil's story).
The plan was to get these editions out and then get a trade paperback into full circulation. It was a beautiful book, it was a beautiful plan.
Then Ed Kramer got into legal troubles, he dropped out of circulation and nobody else could or would touch the project. I was disappointed enough to become very depressed and stop working. I decided to go back to school and return to the laboratory environment where editors and artists and publishers dared not tread.

So...... That didn't happen. Which events might be another rant, or story, or best left alone. At any rate, I gathered myself, moved as far away from the whole mess as possible and made other art.
Now that I'm no longer shaking.... I can look at the anthology without the attached memories and see it for the beautiful thing it is. I sent an email to the publisher to ask if there are any more copies left.
This came about because Ravyn sent me a link to Jason's jason erik lundberg blog where he'd mentioned finding a copy of it. Jason wrote a story called "Wicked Games" based on another sculpture of mine. He seems to think I no longer am interested in drawing it. Maybe not as a graphic novel, but certainly it merits illustration. I remember it as a good story. I don't remember deciding not to do it. Hmmm. I should maybe look into that again. Though I must warn that there are three projects in line already.

This really got long. And I'm nearly out of beer and energy. Orion is sleeping just beside me. Gurtie (our cat whose name isn't short for Gertrude, but for Regurgitate, which is, fittingly, her full name) is sprawled out on the other side.

Tomorrow I am spending packing and shipping art to people who have paid me and graciously been patient while I ranted and scrambled to get art sent to Boskone. Angels and flying nightmares and rats will be traveling....

I promise to fill in the links tomorrow (or Ravyn will if I fail to, because always, Ravyn has my back) for Strange Attraction, and anything else I missed. I've heard rumours that she sneaks in late at night and fixes my typos....

G'night and thank you and be careful out there...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Finnigan Beginagain

I made a small table for exhibiting in the Boskone art show next weekend. I spent hours today, painting in layers of color and detail, only to decide that these were not the colors this table wanted to be. So, I spent more hours sanding it back down and returning it to primer, then doing something very different and simple.
Now the finish fits the table and I am very, very finished finishing.

Aubrey is looking somewhat less Goth these days. To me, she is beginning to look a bit like a pirate. But, when I asked her about it, she asked how that could be possible, as we live in a desert and she has no boat?


Monday, February 07, 2005

Two artists collide

I went to Vons this evening for buying, not brainstorming. As I was leaving a man addressed me.
(I was wearing my Elmo T-shirt and jeans, with my hair down. Funny how people view the uniform and not the person.)
I looked up.
"Would you like to contribute a dollar to support the arts?"
He was here when I went in, but farther from the door. I've seen him here before, and at Target, and Starbucks...
He looked like an artist---- well, like one stereotype of the artist---white pants, white T-shirt, black leather jacket, long skinny ponytail and huge portfolio.

"I do support the arts," I said. " I've seen you before. So, what is it that you're doing?"

"I'm raising money to support my art." He indicated his portfolio. Taped to the front were about a dozen 5 x 7 copies of pencil drawings. They weren't bad, really.

"So, you're begging."
"I'm supporting my art."
"Soooo...." (He rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason, and I found myself suddenly in the mood to pick a fight.) "Why don't you get a day job?"

Like the rest of us. I thought. There's a vague flood of endless hours working hard, doing things I didn't really want to, to support myself those YEARS until my art started to sell. Maybe I was feeling a little self righteous, knowing the long hours I work even now, to make a living as an artist.
I don't know this guy from Adam's off-housecat. I don't know his story, how he may have arrived at this spot, whether there was some reason he couldn't do something other than beg. ---He looked pretty fit to me. Mid 30's maybe, or late 20's with drugs or alcohol...

I saw his chin lift. I knew what was coming...

"Because, I am an artist."

Bingo. Told ya.

Suddenly I didn't feel like talking to this guy anymore. He was making the rest of us look bad...

"Well, good luck there, bud," I said. I turned and walked to my old, beat up car. I had a nice warm dollar in my pocket.
I thought briefly about going back. His work looked to be fantasy in nature. I could tell him about conventions and grant opportunities and...
Fuck it. I surprised myself. I'm tired of trying to rescue people. He has every right to do things his way. It's none of my business. I felt suddenly selfish and miserable. I left a different way to avoid having to drive right past him. I looked in the rearview before turning out, just in time to see a woman handing him money.

Good luck, buddy. I meant it this time.

I'll see him again, no doubt. Maybe I'll look at those drawings again. But I won't give the fucker a dime.

I'm going to get Orion to sleep and tidy up, then get back into the studio to finish a strange little table I'm sending to Boskone on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Suicide is rarely painless

Before I forget, I want to thank Andrea Blythe, Carl Anderson, Ben Garrison and DarkMoon for posting links to the site. This is how we grow.
And to remind you that you're always invited to add your thoughts to mine. We're in this together, and not for very long at that.

Orion is watching a Cibo Matto video and singing along. Sugar water. His toddler life is different enough from mine that I almost believe mine actually was black and white.

Earlier I got a phone message from Draven who was sitting in the rain somewhere in Illinois and fairly incohesive. There was another message from him after that one, even more jumbled, apologizing for the first one. I emailed him and reminded him about that all-important no drinking and dialing thing. And that he's my friend and I love him anyway. He lost a brother, who lost himself and ended it. His pain lives on, right there in Draven. TaDa.

My father was forty three when I was born. By the time I was ten, he seemed like an old man to me, as did everyone else over twenty. Did you know that most of us have the same number of heartbeats per lifetime? Elephants, finches, mice, people. I didn't know that, back then, but I went through a phase where I believed that every step I saved my dad would prolong his life a little. I was terrified of losing him. I was always jumping up to get things for him. I never told him why. He lived to seventy six. My mother died young, before she got her first wrinkle. She didn't kill herself, but she thought about it, a lot. She practically carried Death in her handbag, always checking to make sure he was still in there, with her lipstick and tissues.

I never met my father's mother, but I was told she was pretty, that people called her 'Pet' and that she sketched lovely pictures. I was told that one Monday she did the washing as usual and took it outside and hung it all up in the sunshine. It was a beautiful breezy day and she put the basket and pins neatly on the steps and, still in her apron, walked the length of the yard and stepped into the river and breathed it right in. My dad was five when that happened. He told me that she was wearing a yellow dress with little daisies on it. He must've been about three and a half feet tall. He would have known those little daisies pretty well. They looked a lot darker, wet.

I'm not convinced that people who suicide want to. Possibly, when someone is labeled as having failed an attempt a suicide, what they actually did was succeed in stopping themselves from committing an act they were drawn to by illness. Or they were rescued. Either way. Good on them.

Orion wants to dance. It sounds like a good idea to me.


Mrs. Yonce's first grade class. That would be me, front row, third from the right. We were about to get on a train for a class trip. We'd just heard the whistle. I still remember every kid's name, who picked their noses, who stole Edward's crayons, who set the cloakroom on fire and which one, 24 years later, was dead, because he thought he couldn't take it anymore.Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 05, 2005

pencil drawing 2004

Hey---Lots of people seem to be accessing this drawing, even months later, in September. If you're here----it would be really, really cool if you send me a comment to tell me what brought you. Thanks!!!

HEY LITTLE BUCCAROOS Part 3 conclusion

Hey guys. I was going to wait until tomorrow to post the last installment of the NG story, officially titled:
First Incident Concerning The Influence Of Neil, nearly. (about half if you're following me)

I decided that I want to talk about something tomorrow, that can't wait until Monday. Maybe eventually I'll know why---maybe you'll tell me---but for now I just know.

Part III

"Your wishes? " The viola voice said
I glanced at Neil. His eyes were closed.
"Sometime this century, please. " Said the viola voice.
"OH!!" I gawked at the cat. Hmmm…

I wished.

The cat pulled a coin from a pocket in his fur and flipped it to me. It landed at my feet.
Now I stared at the coin, attempting to connect this with my wish.
‘"You got my wish." Neil Gaiman said.
"How do you know? "
" Because that", he pointed to the coin, "is plainly my wish"
Now I gawked at Neil Gaiman. He wore a black Stetson, a long black duster, black boots with spurs and the biggest belt buckle I’d ever seen. He took off the hat, spat, and put it back on. And said, "For fuck’s sake, what did you wish?"

"I wished to be a cowboy."

"WHAT?! You wasted a perfectly good wish on--on being a cowboy?! Are you mad? Just how many chances do you get to have a wish granted?"

"How many chances do I get to be a cowboy?"

Neil’s coin lay on the ground at my feet. It had a figure on it, a clown sort of thing. I picked it up and stashed it in my purse.
"So, what did you wish for then? I asked.
"The sculpture," he said.
"Oh, really? You blew your wish on a sculpture? Just how many wishes do you get?"
"A few.," he tipped up his hat with a finger, "that’s my cat."
There was no sign of the harlequin cat.
We walked back the way we’d come. Cowboy Neil was obviously trying to figure out what got crossed up and I couldn’t get to the bar fast enough. We exchanged numbers and hugs.
"Promise we never do this again?" I said into his ear.
"Okay" he said in mine.
I headed to the banquet and Cowboy Neil walked off toward a waiting SUNSET CAB, spurs jingling.
"Adios, Cowboy!" I said
"Vaya con dias" called Cowboy Neil, over his shoulder, in my Southern drawl.
That fairly well sums up my first Neil Gaiman encounter.
Now I know who he is.

That cat of his.
Explains a lot.

It's Saturday. Be careful out there, among the crazies...



Part Two
(In retrospect, I suspect he really didn’t hear me, but now will insist he did.)
What he said was: "I really like this one," and pointed to a particular sculpture.
"Thank you."
"But it wasn’t for sale, I see."
"Why not?"
"Because he," I said, gesturing to the sculpture, who was a ‘he’, "said he can’t be sold.."
"Hmm…" "Well, that’s a very good reason."
He asked, "What does this mean?" pointing at the title. I explained some things and he truly listened.. I liked this fellow right off---he was good people, an old soul.
Then he told me about some of his stories and the why of them. The stories sounded important. (They are.)
It was getting late, so I told him I was sorry I couldn’t sell him the sculpture.
He looked at his watch.
"Come with me---we won’t be long", he said. He took off across the hall with me nearly running to keep up, through a door to a corridor that went down and down, past the kitchen through the door to outside.
We were in the alley between two buildings, cut off at one end by a tall wooden fence. Quiet, no traffic noise, but then this was the business district on Sunday evening.
Neil squinted at the fence. It was twilight--- when the light gets real funny. The streetlights hummed, but weren’t on yet.
A white cat appeared from nowhere, and paced along the top of the fence to the end, where it met the building, and vanished.
I gasped. Neil did not.
An identical cat appeared where the first had, paced to the end and again, vanished. Then another, and another.
I gaped at the empty spot. Neil cleared his throat. The streetlights flickered on.
A harlequin cat, he was white on one side, nose to tail. His other side was near black, invisible in the dark.
He looked at us with green eyes in that half-white, half-black face.
I could only stare and think this was odd enough to be a dream, or a flashback.
Then the cat spoke. Okay then, a nightmare. His voice was sort of like a viola inside my head.

Alright then, time to head to the studio and make art. Remember to brush your teeth and always check under your bed.

This episode brought to you by RATBAG

Friday, February 04, 2005


Fiddler's Green asked me to write something for their program book about Neil, so I decided to write about the first time we met. I thought, since lots of you are visiting from his journal, you might enjoy it. It's too long for one post, so I'll start now, and finish it up in the next, or maybe three.
So, get comfy, I'm gonna tell you a story.

It was the last couple of hours of a convention somewhere, many years ago. I was in the art show, packing sculpture and eyeing my suitcase, which was bound to explode at any given second. It was crammed with my stuff, new books and a dozen little gifts. The first one hooks you, you know. You get a souvenir for Pearl-- you get one for Tulula.. I decided to leave them for the art staff. I’d argued rather fiercely to get space here, by rows of panels with paintings, instead of back there, between a service door and waste can, and eventually, they’d been reasonable.
A staffer rustled by (she was wearing taffeta) and rapped me sharply on the shoulder. Really it was more like one of those knuckle digs Mom did in church.
She said, importantly, "Neil Gaiman is looking for you." She neither glanced my way nor broke stride.
You must understand, I had no internet connection, a toddler, a job writing cryo/bio protocol and sculpted instead of sleeping. Reading was from a backlog of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly.
Okay, this Neil Gaiman fellow sounded important. I paused. But not important enough for Ms. Taffeta to stop, or even slow down, really. I went back to packing.
Just then, a collector brought me a banquet ticket. I groaned inwardly, with a fair idea of how crumpled the one dress in my suitcase was and I had a long flight ahead, but I was more hungry than annoyed, and grateful for the ticket.
I came out of the restroom trying to smooth my skirt with my hands. A fellow artist said, "Neil Gaiman is looking for you."
As I extracted shoes from the exploded contents of my suitcase, someone new gave me a little shove..
" Neil Gaiman is looking for you!" She went by so fast there was Doppler effect . I was getting really annoyed now—she’d made me lose my balance and rock backwards, landing in a very undignified position on my butt.
I thought, sort of aloud, "I am never going to get all that shit back in there."
I said, fairly aloud, "Who the fuck is Neil Gaiman? "
"Hello," said a voice, directly behind me. " I’m Neil Gaiman." He offered his hand and with extreme grace, pretended he hadn’t heard me.
That's it for today. I must get into the studio and make some art, or else. Eat your Wheaties, keep your eye to the sky and your ear to the ground...

This episode brought to you by

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Food, sort of

I just realized that I haven't eaten anything for hours. I've been working on Lost and Found today, which, unrelated to that, has been a rotten, rotten day. I need food, and quiet, and something to read. Harlan Ellison makes me work, a little, but oh, is he ever worth it. He is rainbow trout stuffed with pecans and mushrooms, cooked in a shanty yards from the river--complex and potentially dangerous. Stephen King is mashed potatoes with gravy, perfect homemade gravy. Both are brilliant. I keep thinking about that passage in Stephen King's Storm of the Century:
"This is a cash and carry world. You pay as you go. Sometimes it's a little, mostly it's a lot and once in awhile, it's everything you've got."

So, okay, things are not good, but they could be worse...

I'm really looking forward to telling you more about Lost and Found. I can't now, but I will soon. I'm here, working with all these varied elements. I know that they belong here, but how? I look at them from a reductionist point of view. I know these elements, I created them, I understand them, therefore I understand the whole piece.
Of course that doesn't work. The ordering matters. You can know everything there is to know about the ingredients, but that doesn't describe the cake. It's the dynamic.

I've had the journal going for a couple of weeks now. I want to thank Neil Gaiman and Caitlin Kiernan and Tom Abba for sending many, many people over, and all you live journalists who keep connecting everything together. And Ravyn, webmaster genius and saint, somewhere, under the evil. It's the dynamic.
And lastly, for Dr. Abba, his students, and the police: I found that I like the hot chocolate better with the little dried marshmallows on the side. They taste like Lucky Charms.

Lost and Found is a sculpture I did for an upcoming book project by the same name.(I'm pretty sure I've mentioned earlier in the journal). It is a mix of sculpture, painting, kinetics (a couple of the figures "do things") and photography. The sculpture reflects(well, I hope it does) the nature of the whole project, In that the book will approach one subject from many different angles using many media. Posted by Hello

We're posting him 'officially' on the site as I type this. Thought you'd like this pic, though. Posted by Hello

H. P. Lovecraft and the CBLDF

If you're wondering why I support the CBLDF with the author rats, here is the scoop: When I did the first one, the Neil Gaiman is a RAT (I never tire of saying that), Rat, it was our agreement. After all, Neil is a champion for the cause. When I created the E. A. Poe and now, the H. P. Lovecraft Rat, try as I might, I couldn't reach either to ask what their favorite causes are. So, I chose for them. I'm fairly confident they approve. I'm a firm believer that some of us really need to get going and make some changes, create some 'particle interference' in the wave patterns of sleeping puppets and sheep. I believe that in order to affect any sort of change, we must begin by speaking out.
The right to Speak Out, is (in case you haven't noticed) being sneakily spirited away, little by little. PAY ATTENTION!
I figure, comics is as good a medium as any for speaking out, some do it extremely well, so there you are.
The next author I am honoring with Ratdom is still breathing as I type this, so may choose something else. In the meantime, if you're not familiar with CBLDFCBLDF, inform yourselves.
Thanks, as always, for reading. I'm counting on you guys to stay frosty.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"Broken record" and "give out"

I caught just a snippit of a blog yesterday where someone speculated that the expression 'broken record' would be obsolete in a short number of years. Don't count on it. "You sound like a broken record"means you're repeating yourself, because that's what cracked records---the hard ones, before floppy vinyl ones---did. The needle would jump over the crack back into the same groove, over and over, repeating, repeating, repeating.
I hear people use ancient sayings all the time without knowing what they mean or where they came from. Case in point: "Saved by the bell". I'm not writing it tonight because I am
"give out." Look it up---it's a fun one.

I've been creating for weeks now. Time to put something back in. I'm empty and too tired to tell the difference between depression and exhaustion.
Eating, reading, sleeping, a bit.

Article prompting "Apes and Words"

I'm told the link to the article didn't work for everyone. Sorry about that! Here is the text of the article, written by Cornelia Dean for the New York Times
I just read it through again . In the timeless words of our man Ash, "Primitive screwheads."
yeeesh. Probably doesn't help that I'm just finishing up Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd.
Reading the article again made me extremely antsy. I don't know whether to make another cup of coffee (decaf this time) or go outside and hoot like an ape and piss in the front yard.
Dr. John Frandsen, a retired zoologist, was at a dinner for teachers in Birmingham, Ala., recently when he met a young woman who had just begun work as a biology teacher in a small school district in the state. Their conversation turned to evolution.
"She confided that she simply ignored evolution because she knew she'd get in trouble with the principal if word got about that she was teaching it," he recalled. "She told me other teachers were doing the same thing."
Though the teaching of evolution makes the news when officials propose, as they did in Georgia, that evolution disclaimers be affixed to science textbooks, or that creationism be taught along with evolution in biology classes, stories like the one Dr. Frandsen tells are more common.
In districts around the country, even when evolution is in the curriculum it may not be in the classroom, according to researchers who follow the issue.
Teaching guides and textbooks may meet the approval of biologists, but superintendents or principals discourage teachers from discussing it. Or teachers themselves avoid the topic, fearing protests from fundamentalists in their communities.
"The most common remark I've heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, an evangelical Christian and a member of Alabama's curriculum review board who advocates the teaching of evolution. Teachers are afraid to raise the issue, he said in an e-mail message, and they are afraid to discuss the issue in public.
Dr. Frandsen, former chairman of the committee on science and public policy of the Alabama Academy of Science, said in an interview that this fear made it impossible to say precisely how many teachers avoid the topic.
Getty Images
Three skulls show different stages of evolution: gorilla, ape, and modern human. There is no credible scientific challenge to evolution, but a 2001 survey found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed that humans developed from earlier species of animals.
"You're not going to hear about it," he said. "And for political reasons nobody will do a survey among randomly selected public school children and parents to ask just what is being taught in science classes."
But he said he believed the practice of avoiding the topic was widespread, particularly in districts where many people adhere to fundamentalist faiths.
"You can imagine how difficult it would be to teach evolution as the standards prescribe in ever so many little towns, not only in Alabama but in the rest of the South, the Midwest - all over," Dr. Frandsen said.
Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said she heard "all the time" from teachers who did not teach evolution "because it's just too much trouble."
"Or their principals tell them, 'We just don't have time to teach everything so let's leave out the things that will cause us problems,' " she said.
Sometimes, Dr. Scott said, parents will ask that their children be allowed to "opt out" of any discussion of evolution and principals lean on teachers to agree.
Even where evolution is taught, teachers may be hesitant to give it full weight. Ron Bier, a biology teacher at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, said that evolution underlies many of the central ideas of biology and that it is crucial for students to understand it. But he avoids controversy, he said, by teaching it not as "a unit," but by introducing the concept here and there throughout the year. "I put out my little bits and pieces wherever I can," he said.
He noted that his high school, in a college town, has many students whose parents are professors who have no problem with the teaching of evolution. But many other students come from families that may not accept the idea, he said, "and that holds me back to some extent."
"I don't force things," Mr. Bier added. "I don't argue with students about it."
In this, he is typical of many science teachers, according to a report by the Fordham Foundation, which studies educational issues and backs programs like charter schools and vouchers.
Some teachers avoid the subject altogether, Dr. Lawrence S. Lerner, a physicist and historian of science, wrote in the report. Others give it very short shrift or discuss it without using "the E word," relying instead on what Dr. Lerner characterized as incorrect or misleading phrases, like "change over time."
Dr. Gerald Wheeler, a physicist who heads the National Science Teachers Association, said many members of his organization "fly under the radar" of fundamentalists by introducing evolution as controversial, which scientifically it is not, or by noting that many people do not accept it, caveats not normally offered for other parts of the science curriculum.
Dr. Wheeler said the science teachers' organization hears "constantly" from science teachers who want the organization's backing. "What they are asking for is 'Can you support me?' " he said, and the help they seek "is more political; it's not pedagogical."
There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that all living things evolved from common ancestors, that evolution on earth has been going on for billions of years and that evolution can be and has been tested and confirmed by the methods of science. But in a 2001 survey, the National Science Foundation found that only 53 percent of Americans agreed with the statement "human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."
And this was good news to the foundation. It was the first time one of its regular surveys showed a majority of Americans had accepted the idea. According to the foundation report, polls consistently show that a plurality of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, and about two-thirds believe that this belief should be taught along with evolution in public schools.
These findings set the United States apart from all other industrialized nations, said Dr. Jon Miller, director of the Center for Biomedical Communications at Northwestern University, who has studied public attitudes toward science. Americans, he said, have been evenly divided for years on the question of evolution, with about 45 percent accepting it, 45 percent rejecting it and the rest undecided.
In other industrialized countries, Dr. Miller said, 80 percent or more typically accept evolution, most of the others say they are not sure and very few people reject the idea outright.

"In Japan, something like 96 percent accept evolution," he said. Even in socially conservative, predominantly Catholic countries like Poland, perhaps 75 percent of people surveyed accept evolution, he said. "It has not been a Catholic issue or an Asian issue," he said.
Indeed, two popes, Pius XII in 1950 and John Paul II in 1996, have endorsed the idea that evolution and religion can coexist. "I have yet to meet a Catholic school teacher who skips evolution," Dr. Scott said.
Dr. Gerald D. Skoog, a former dean of the College of Education at Texas Tech University and a former president of the science teachers' organization, said that in some classrooms, the teaching of evolution was hampered by the beliefs of the teachers themselves, who are creationists or supporters of the teaching of creationism.
"Data from various studies in various states over an extended period of time indicate that about one-third of biology teachers support the teaching of creationism or 'intelligent design,' " Dr. Skoog said.
Advocates for the teaching of evolution provide teachers or school officials who are challenged on it with information to help them make the case that evolution is completely accepted as a bedrock idea of science. Organizations like the science teachers' association, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science provide position papers and other information on the subject. The National Association of Biology Teachers devoted a two-day meeting to the subject last summer, Dr. Skoog said.
Other advocates of teaching evolution are making the case that a person can believe both in God and the scientific method. "People have been told by some evangelical Christians and by some scientists, that you have to choose." Dr. Scott said. "That is just wrong."
While plenty of scientists reject religion - the eminent evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins famously likens it to a disease - many others do not. In fact, when a researcher from the University of Georgia surveyed scientists' attitudes toward religion several years ago, he found their positions virtually unchanged from an identical survey in the early years of the 20th century. About 40 percent of scientists said not just that they believed in God, but in a God who communicates with people and to whom one may pray "in expectation of receiving an answer."
Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said he thought the great variety of religious groups in the United States led to competition for congregants. This marketplace environment, he said, contributes to the politicization of issues like evolution among religious groups.
He said the teaching of evolution was portrayed not as scientific instruction but as "an assault of the secular elite on the values of God-fearing people." As a result, he said, politicians don't want to touch it. "Everybody discovers the wisdom of federalism here very quickly," he said. "Leave it at the state or the local level."
But several experts say scientists are feeling increasing pressure to make their case, in part, Dr. Miller said, because scriptural literalists are moving beyond evolution to challenge the teaching of geology and physics on issues like the age of the earth and the origin of the universe.
"They have now decided the Big Bang has to be wrong," he said. "There are now a lot of people who are insisting that that be called only a theory without evidence and so on, and now the physicists are getting mad about this."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Apes and words

You have narrowly escaped a rampaging sermon. I was all geared up to write one and after rereading the article I was going to rage about, I am so disgusted that I'm going to just point you to this article---- that you couldn't possibly have missed seeing -- and tell you to read it. Be afraid, be ashamed So, read it. It's fucking important. Children's educations (they're young--there's still hope, we haven't fucked them up yet ) can't be entrusted entirely to any school or system, no matter what the accreditation or astronomical tuition. I'm not suggesting there aren't fine, motivated teachers out there--- I know some of them personally. I'm saying that expecting an educational system to fulfill this function is complete lunacy.

Alliteration is a favorite game around here. We do sentences if we're floating in the pool, or waiting for pizza. While we're busy in the kitchen, or driving, we do words. The point of the game is to make the most ridiculous sentence possible, (earning a bow from the competitor with occasional peals of laughter) or some wordplay. Earlier when we played I tried to distract Aubrey with a really stupid kung-fu sort of dance while she was thinking of a 'sh' word. She looks at me and says, pointedly , "Shameless."
My favorite is when we choose an adjective or adverb, and apply it all through the day, to unsuspecting nouns and verbs each time we pass each other in the house. For instance: elated flossing, sinister potato, angry laundry.

Don't mistake this for any picture of domestic bliss, Sometimes we're snippy and tired and don't even want to look at each other, much less speak. I figure, if she's gonna go "out there" she'll be better off armed with a vocabulary.

For the coffee police 'cross the pond: Colombian again, with evaporated milk., and lots of it.

fridge Posted by Hello

Time Travel

Sometimes I emerge from the studio very, very tired, and astoundingly dirty. So I grab a cold water--sometimes a beer-- and go straight to the shower. It's these times when the shower becomes a think tank. Tonight I worked on remembering.
I'm from the deep South. I can play Chopin on piano, I can crochet and embroider, make dumplings from scratch, skin a catfish, dance the waltz, name the books of the Bible, shell peas, recite poetry and drop my 'r's at will. These things are like learning to ride a bicycle. They show up in my work--- mostly I discover them there later. Sometimes I put them there on purpose.
Then, there are memories, which are fewer, but more important. I can remember a lot, with effort. Relaxed from physical exhaustion,standing in a very small, private place filled with steam and the white noise of the water, I can "go in". I start in the kitchen--not the kitchen of the house where I spent my teens, where my parent's lived until they died--- the earlier one, when I was three, and six. I can see it. It is a shotgun house. The walls inside are narrow, horizontal boards and in the kitchen, painted a bright glossy yellow....I can see the radio up on the shelf and the chrome edge of the kitchen table at eye level. My mother made biscuits from scratch every day, even after the shock treatments. She could hear a song and play it on our piano. She decorated wedding cakes and wanted me to have curly hair so badly that she tortured me every Saturday night by twisting tiny sections of my hair into coils and securing them---very tightly---with a criss-cross of bobby pins. She was really, really good at math and was so frightened of tornados that whenever there was a thunderstorm she made us hide under our beds. This possibly explains why I watch lightning storms sprawled out on the grass of the golf course.

Anyway, remembering details.If you can learn to do it really well, it's time travel. It's the only way you're gonna go "backwards" anyway. At the least, it's a good, relaxing stretch for the brain. Ouch. Ahhhhhh.


Oh, and for Dr. Abba---Colombian, of course.