(no subject)

This is basically a writing diary where I write all kinds of stuff that will be immensely boring to anyone who stumbles across it.

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

Tiny, Imperfect Polymer Clay...Somethings, Plus Design vs. Happenstance



I’m not even gonna dignify these things with a genus name since they look absolutely nothing like what I had in my mind’s eye.

I suppose they could pass as hibiscus if hibiscus flowers had fleshy stems and tripart alternating with quadripart leaves.

These are the last tiny, imperfect polymer clay flowers I will create for a while.

In keeping with the Prime Directive—You must use everything you create!—they will be going into that first retablo (which will probably be a mess, but hey! Learning curve, blah, blah, blah), but I will probably stash them in a flower cart at the very back of the retablo where no one will look at them.

It did occur to me as I was staring at them mournfully (just prior to popping them into the oven for baking) that maybe I was limiting myself by sticking with real flora. That maybe I should give myself permission to make imaginary flowers!

But I like representational art. I’d prefer my fantasy elements to be introduced through design rather than happenstance.

Though, true: a highly stylized traditional art form like Peruvian retablos will never be representational art.

Still.

I got quite excited thinking about those imaginary flowers and all the other imaginary things I’m gonna try to put outside my head!

In addition to the political retablos I’m planning on making when I get a little good—the homeless tent encampment under I-80; the flight of the migrants across the Sonoma desert complete with snakes, scorpions, and ICE agents—maybe I could do a Cordwainer Smith retablo. He is my favorite science fiction writer. For many, many reasons.

I’d also like to do Station Eleven and The City & the City retablos—although that last would be very difficult: How do you translate China Mieville’s conceit—people who are legally forbidden to see what is there to see?—into a visual representation?

Also, I think I am gonna go with ¼-inch wood for the first retablo box.

It’s flimsier.

But easier to work with, I suspect.

###

Not much other news to report.

I did not speak to a single other human soul yesterday. (Fond though I am of L, her conversational repertoire is limited to food, counter stain removal techniques, the adventures of her Arizona cousins once they stashed their spouses in assisted living, and her hatred of Donald Trump. These are not topics that inspire me to dialogue.)

It was a bright, sunshiney, blue-sky day, but when I stepped out of my car at the tromping trailhead, the wind was high, and it was cold.

Fuck this, I thought.

And drove home.

Also—

This is something Neighbor Ed first brought to my attention:

“So, you know, a weird thing happened after I got my first vaccination,” he said.

“And that was…?”

“Well. The bursitis in my shoulder cleared up. Like immediately. I’d been dealing with the pain for a couple of weeks. But within 20 minutes of that shot—the pain was gone.”

Huh.

Then The Daily Mail printed a story about how a bunch of different people were experiencing symptom remediation after their first shots.

I know, I know. The Daily Mail! Not a peer-reviewed science journal! 😊

Still. The Daily Mail does not make shit up. It’s a news aggregator.

I searched and searched for the original source of this story.

But in vain.

However…

I’ve had one lesion from the autoimmune disease that’s been on my leg for four years.

And when I was showering last night, I noticed—it’s half-way disappeared.

It's been six days since my first shot.

Very strange. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Tiny, Imperfect Polymer Clay Tulips: Take 2



Okay, so these tulips turned out much better than the other tulips.

I think because I actually observed a tulip before I made them!

It’s remarkable how little I actually see when I look at something. When I observed the flower, I thought, “R-r-r-right. The tipped end of the petal is the one that’s close to the stem. And the flowerheads are oversized, so the stems bend.”

I was tempted to have an epiphany.

To consecrate myself: Henceforth when I look at something, I will really see it.

But, you know. Too goddam much work.

###

Gorgeous day yesterday!

The ice scrim is melting from the streams:



The Canada geese are thinking about making whoopee:



I hiked till my legs were sore—some indeterminate distance greater than five miles but probably less than eight.

Afterwards, I decided to drive to Rhinebeck.

For no particular reason except that I like Rhinebeck, I haven’t been to Rhinebeck in months and months, and they have a real art supply store in Rhinebeck.

I spent a very happy half hour in the art supply store wandering around massive displays of oil paints with names like cadmium chartreuse and cobalt violet, and decided after that next reincarnation as a veterinarian in 1930s Yorkshire, I will come back as Caravaggio, painting in his cave—reincarnations are like that, you know: They jump and skip through us mere mortals’ hapless and incomplete notions of time.

I ended up buying a few pastels.



(I never use pastels, but these were just so square and cute, and look! They have little numbers incised into them!).

And a couple of brushes. And an Exacto knife because you can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many Exacto knives.

The man behind the counter gave me a 35% discount.

“I like you,” he said shrugging. “One of the privileges of ownership is that you can give arbitrary discounts.”

Afterwards I went to the world’s best chocolate shop, which is called Krause’s Chocolates, and loaded up on hazelnut truffles.

So, you know, all in all, a good day.

Though I’m still sick to death of the larger world around me. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

RIP Five Years After



Figured out what it is about Halt and Catch Fire that captures my attention.

It’s because Lee Pace, the actor who plays the enigmatic Joe MacMillan, looks strikingly like Jayson Rome. Their voices even sound alike.

Jayson Rome was a technology whiz who left his job at S&P Capital to become a math teacher at New Roots. He was RTT’s math teacher. He was very kind to me at a time in my life when very few people were being kind to me, and RTT was absolutely out of control, and I was struggling very hard.

He was probably the handsomest man I have ever laid eyes on. And he had a fascinating intellectual history; he was very, very smart. Of course, that was part of why I found him so interesting, but the nature of my interest wasn’t a crush so much as it was a question I couldn’t shake: Where do I know you from?

In 2015, he abruptly walked away from the New Roots job.

Moved back to New York City. Became a VP at Morgan Stanley.

In 2016, he jumped from an 8th floor suite of the Country Inn & Suites in Long Island City. Died instantly.

I was haunted by his death. I actually made a trip into the city to burn sage in front of the Country Inn & Suites a week or so after his suicide. Which was weird and almost creepy because like I say, I didn’t really know him, and while No Man is an Island, blah, blah, blah, thousands of people commit suicide every day, and I don’t care. And I’ve known other people who’ve committed suicide. Some of them moved me, but some of them didn’t, so it’s not like I feel any great anguish over that particular methodology for morbidity.

I still feel a compulsion to learn the why behind the act. Like the story behind it would explain something important.

But, of course, I never will.

###

No other real news to report.

Must finish the gecko piece. (Geckos are pretty cool.)

Think I will have another shot at making tiny polymer clay tulips before I move on to the task of making tiny polymer clay daffodils.

Should begin laying out this year’s garden.

It’s supposed to be very warm today, so I will go tromping.

I feel kinda sad. It’s loneliness, I suspect. But when the phone rings, and I recognize the number, I don’t pick it up because I don’t want to talk to anyone. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Tiny, Imperfect Polymer Clay Tulips Plus a Brontosaurus With a Dial-Up Modem



Turns out making tiny polymer clay tulips is much, much harder than making tiny polymer clay roses.

It’s the shape of the petals—which I seem to have gotten wrong—as well as the way the petals overlap. Plus the leaves should bend more from the stalks.

Also, the colors I wanted were only in Sculpey, and Sculpey, an oil-based clay, is much gluier and therefore difficult to work with than Fimo, a mineral-based clay.

Nevertheless, I present them here so that when I’m in that Alzheimer’s home and enraging my keepers by my insistence on sitting in a corner, drooling, and turning out perfect, tiny polymer clay tulip after perfect, tiny polymer clay tulip, they’ll be able to look back and see where the story began.

###

The secret to growing old gracefully, I suspect, is to stay cheerful about one’s own irrelevance.

I had two conversations yesterday about sexual harassment with people who are considerably younger than me.

Unsurprisingly, their attitudes about it are far more draconian than my own.

I don’t fault guys for hitting on women so long as those guys can take, “No,” for an answer.

Of course, a pattern of hitting on the same woman constitutes sexual harassment.

But the initial approach?

Nuh-uh.

Nor does it matter to me if the come-on happens in a workplace. Where else do you meet real live people as a grown-up if you don’t go to church, or belong to a bowling league, or hang out in bars, or have friends who give dinner parties? I’ve always thought that culling romantic or sexual prospects from a pool of real live people had it all over reading a profile on OKStoopid or swiping left on Tinder.

I was a very, very early Internet adopter, but I didn’t grow up with the Internet, and I still don’t consider the experiences I have there as even remotely akin to the experiences I have in real life. I have many friends I initially met online, but those friendships have been vetted in real time by hanging out.

So, the Internet?

Adjunct to real live life! Not parallel track.

But, of course, I also know that attitudes like mine are the attitudes a brontosaurus with a Dell computer and a dial-up modem might have had two days before the asteroid hit.

It doesn’t matter what I think.

My era of ascendancy is gone, bay-bee, gone.

Attitudes are fashioned by the people who control the narrative.

And the people who control the narrative now?

They're young.

I'm old. I'm over.

###

As an interesting sidebar to the above: [personal profile] poliphilo brought up the diaries of Chips Cannon this morning. They’re being excerpted in The Daily Mail. Cannon was an MP in the 1930s, a social climber par excellence, whose chief claim to modern attention is that he was an obsessive diarist who met practically all the headers and footnotes in that historical epoch.

On one of his carefree driving trips through pre-war Germany, he wrote:

The [labor] camps looked tidy, even gay, and the boys, all about 18, looked like the ordinary German peasant boy, fair, healthy and sunburned. They are taught the preliminary military drills, gardening, etc, and their health and strength are built up. They were all smiling and clean.

Chips Cannon was a great admirer of Adolph Hitler. And laughably naive. The inmates he saw were Nazi loyalists, drafted for the occasion. Shades of the Danish Red Cross’s tour of the Terezin concentration camp.

But the forgotten fact is that practically everyone in the British aristocratic class was a great admirer of Adolph Hitler. (The one notable exception was Winston Churchill.) And quite a few members of the middle and lower classes were great admirers as well.

Today, of course, such admiration is unimaginable, but in the narrative of the time, it made perfect sense: Adolph Hitler was going to save the world from Joseph Stalin.

In terms of genocide, Hitler and Stalin run neck and neck. In fact, Stalin might have a slight edge.

So, I don’t think you can really say the narrative changed because Hitler was the greater monster.

No, the narrative changed because Hitler declared war on the Allies but the Allies won.

It’s never about the facts. It’s always about the stories. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Tiny, Imperfect Polymer Clay Roses plus RANT!



It rained all day yesterday, so I spent my time reading The Mirror & the Light, watching Halt and Catch Fire, writing about geckos for My New Favorite Client (he’s putting together an online animal encyclopedia), selflessly preparing taxes for the indigent and Turbo Tax-disenfranchised of greater Dutchess County, and making tiny polymer clay roses.

I wouldn’t say the tiny polymer clay roses turned out great.

But they’re not bad, considering it was my first time making them, and I don’t own any of the recommended tools.

Polymer clay is a bit like pie crust: The less you touch it, the better it turns out.

###

Today—the first day of meteorological spring, tra-la!—promises to be an equally damp and dreary day.

But it is warm. Temps in the 40°s.

I’m not in a bad mood, but I gotta say—the world outside my own thoughts increasingly reminds me of a badly mannered child, acting out to get my attention.

This is primarily because American media is so fuckin’ bad.

There are real things taking place in the world that merit my attention and concern, but these things do not get reported upon by the American press.

Instead, it’s all the menace that is eeee-vil Trump and lascivious Andrew Cuomo, and Harry and Meghan’s selfless retreat from the Royal meanies, and the Grammies, and I mean, who gives a fuck?

Democrats are beating the eeee-vil Trump meme to death because the Democratic/Republican duopoly only continues to exist if the two parties pretend to be deeply polarized. The real truth is that they share common goals: to keep you poor, themselves rich, and to stamp out any third-party opposition. Trump is kinda the Democratic Party’s Emmanuel Goldstein.

Andrew Cuomo tried to kiss someone. He didn’t succeed in kissing her; he tried. In what universe is that sexual harassment?

I wish the British government would just install the corgis as Heads of State.

And nobody cares about celebrities anymore.

I hope it stops raining!

I could certainly use the exercise. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Overpopulation Gives Way to Infertility

Long dream, most of which I can’t remember, except toward the end of it, I was standing in front of a curio cabinet made entirely of glass and filled with the most beautiful kitsch, all hand-selected by moi.

Wow!” I said to myself. “You must have good taste after all because this stuff is amazing!”

###

I’ve been flashing on that argument I got into with Jack Ramsay just before the Great Covid Shutdown.

He’s a doctor. He seemed to believe containment was possible.

I’m not a doctor. I was an emergency room nurse. I knew containment was not possible.

“The question shouldn’t be, ‘How many people will die if they contract Covid-19?’” I’d said to him. “The question should be, ‘How much longer would those people have lived had they not contracted Covid-19?’”

Jack Ramsay hit the ceiling!

I was the most amoral, unethical person ever to draw breath upon this planet! (“Those people” apparently is some woke code for minorities. Who knew? Not me: I was using it as a grammatical referent.) I was a racist, an ageist, and probably a sexist! He was sputtering!

He’s never spoken to me again.

But I still think my question was a perfectly legitimate reframing.

###

Throughout most of my life, it’s been widely accepted that there are too many people on the planet.

This was the great liberal rallying cry of my young adulthood, popularized by Paul Ehrlich’s mega-bestseller, The Population Bomb.

Hey! Sounds reasonable to me!

And when you think about it, the whole climate change thesis is really a there’s-too-many-people-on-the-planet argument couched in less anthropocentric terms.

Of course, the U.S. economy runs on pyramid schemes that work best if the population keeps growing.

Case in point: Social security. Which only continues to function optimally if more people pay into it than take from it. (Well. Inflation helps, too.)

Another example: the gross domestic product. Economists say healthy GDPs must grow by 2 to 3% every year. How is that growth possible? Well, people must buy more things. This happens in one of two ways: either there must be more people to buy things, or you must artificially create demand so that a stagnant (or declining) population increases its number of purchases.

If you believe there are too many people on the planet, though, doesn’t it seem as though these periodic waves of infectious disease may not be a bad thing in the abstract because they’re Nature’s own way of culling the herd as it were?

I get that I’m starting to sound like a Nazi eugenicist here.

That’s not my intent.

###

In terms of the overall hysteria it aims to produce, 2021’s answer to The Population Bomb may be a book called Count Down by a Mount Sinai fertility doctor called Shanna Swan. Count Down explores the well-documented decrease in human fertility that’s transpired over the past half-century. (Haven’t read it yet, but I’m on the library waiting list.)

Many of that decrease’s proximal causes are linked to environmental factors, phthalates and other chemical compounds found in plastics, flame-retardants, stain removers, fast-food packaging, even paper plates.

But there are social factors, too, apparently. Swan references a decline in male sex drives—or, at least, heterosexual male sex drives. Erectile dysfunction is increasing; testosterone levels are decreasing. Of course, those things may be an effect of the environmental factors. But I rather suspect the overuse of sex as a sales technique used to pump up artificial demand plays a role here, too.

Swan speculates that by the year 2040, nearly half of all Americans will need to rely upon IVF in order to conceive.

It’s interesting to speculate what kind of an effect plunging fertility rates are going to have on human culture.

In the same way that 1984 and Brave New World—while not literal representations of the futures they imagined—have proven to be uncannily prophetic, The Handmaid’s Tale may prove to be prophetic. I can’t imagine abortion choice will be particularly prized or even tolerated in a society that’s rapidly losing population.

###

Not much other news to report. The day is grey but I will force myself to tromp anyway as a Trial of Virtue.

An anonymous angel on LJ gave me a recipe for potato plaster.

I made a fair amount of $$$ yesterday. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Normalizing the World

After I got the shot, the RN who gave it began delivering the canned lecture: Even though you’ve been vaccinated, you still have to mask, you still have to social distance, blah, blah, blah—

“Oh, I don’t intend to do any of that,” I said. “In fact, I think I’m going to start going up to random strangers and French kissing them.”

She stared at me in abject horror.

“That was a joke,” I explained helpfully.

But I guess in these painfully literal times, humor is the ultimate taboo.



Dutchess County Covid Vaccine Central is in the defunct Penney’s at the Poughkeepsie Galleria.

Malls interest me from an anthropological perspective. I always wonder what archeologists 2,000 years hence will make of malls when they crawl through the ruins underlying their vast cockroach colonies.

Humans worshipped a god called Capitalism, they will surmise. These were Capitalism’s temples.

Truly, I don’t see how malls survive the Covid fallout. At least half the retail spaces were empty and shuttered, including a number of anchor tenants. If you subtract store employees, there were maybe 25 people in the entire 1,100,000-square-foot structure.





My favorite mall store is always the incredibly wacky As Seen on TV. Retail outlets far more upscale have shuddered and died, but As Seen on TV continues to thrive. Veritably, it is a cockroach among retail outlets!







I didn’t know how I would react to the shot, so I gave myself the rest of the day off.

But I experienced absolutely no side effects whatsoever apart from a mild achiness at the injection site.

I made serious headway in The Mirror & the Light, which, in fact, is a very good novel. My inability to read it is not on Hilary Mantel; it’s entirely on me! For the past year, my concentration span has been maybe three minutes long at most.

I have a superstition about The Mirror & the Light.

I bought the novel—in hardcover!—exactly two days before the whole world went south.

When you finish this book, my magical self tells me, the whole world will go back to normal.

This morning, Hideous White Stuff is once again falling from the sky.

So, I have a real shot at normalizing the world. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Controlling the Narrative

Around 7pm last night, Neighbor Ed called from Dutchess County Covid Vaccine Central where he volunteers to do data collection and Mrs. Neighbor Ed—a Yale University-educated nurse practitioner—gives shots.

It was practically the end of the vaccination day.

And they had one dose of vaccine left over. One dose!

Did I want it?

Well, I kinda did, and I kinda didn’t. I’m not an anti-vaxxer or anything. But I keep thinking, Getting vaccinated doesn’t seem to change anything. You still have to mask; you still have to social distance. Life is still incredibly restricted according to the mandates of federal, state and county rules that are often at odds with one another but seem to be in cahoots in one essential regard: The less personal freedom I have, the better! So, what the hell is the point?

Nevertheless, I drove down to Dutchess County Covid Vaccine Central. Neighbor Ed is really determined to get me vaccinated, and I didn’t want to disappoint him.

I walked in the door, and Neighbor Ed rushed to greet me—I’m so sorry! The count was off!

No problem! I say. If anything, I felt a kind of relief.

But then, the head honchos had some kind of telepathic communication: There was a dose left!

So, I went through the registration process.

An essential point in the Dutchess County Covid Vaccine Central volunteer training, evidently, is putting patients at ease. I don’t think I’ve ever been complimented on my two-tone, red and black Converse sneakers so many times before in such a short period of time.

Plus I have the most beautiful first name on the face of the planet!

Anyway, I was standing in line with two other people for the final countdown when the count changed again!

“We only have two doses left,” said the lady nervously. “Would one of you volunteer to…?”

“Oh, sure,” I said.

After all, I’m in their system! They have to vaccinate me now—which they said they’d do first thing tomorrow, and tomorrow, of course, is today.

###

The other interesting thing that happened last night is that Ichabod butt-dialed me, and so, I got to eavesdrop on 10 minutes of a conversation he was having with some female person.

Their voices were blurry.

I was trying to imagine the circumstances.

This had to be some kind of Zoom date, right?

And then with amazing clarity, I heard Ichabod say, “My mother did a lot of drugs when she was young. So, she was really strict with me. Because she didn’t want me to ruin any opportunities. She said.”

Then it was back to blurry voices. So, I couldn’t tell whether Ichabod thought my strictness had been a good thing or a bad thing.

But, of course, I assumed he thought it had been a bad thing and started feeling really defensive.

Especially since he followed up the remarks about me with some blurry observations about his stepmother, MaryAnn, who’d been so much more tolerant—

Except that she hadn’t! I wanted to scream.

She threw Beau’s ass straight into rehab for the same behaviors she actively enabled and encouraged in her daughters a few years afterwards.

Can you say double standard?

No wonder, Beau was so fucked up.

No wonder, Beau is dead.

He was the sacrificial goat for your father’s family!

Fuckin' hypocrites.

I was really angry.

But then, I thought: What is the point of that? Offspring never see their parents as real human beings. Parents may delude themselves into feeling seen by their offspring, but that’s never the case: Offspring are always entertaining old grudges, looking forward to the inevitable vindication that will occur when the parents are dead, but they are still alive and in full control of the narrative. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.

Never Enough RETABLOS



Happy Birthday to my fabulous son Ichabod who justifies my existence on this planet because if he wasn’t around, hundreds of miscreants throughout Northern California would be losing out on advantageous plea bargains, and he wouldn’t be around if I hadn’t been around.

###

Only one of the woodshops I wrote to about outsourcing retablo boxes wrote back, and they quoted me a price of $72. Seventy-two smackeroos for what in the hands of an experienced carpenter would amount to 20 minutes of work? That’s not happening.

There’s an Etsy shop that makes kinda-sorta retablo boxes, but it makes them out of 1/8th inch plywood, which is simply too flimsy for my purposes.

My favorite retablo artist is called Claudio Jimenez Quispé. He makes the little worlds inside of the painted boxes out of a kind of potato plaster—cheaper than polymer clay by a long shot although, of course, you’d have to get the potato-to-plaster ratio right, and as retablo crafting is a secret art, handed down from grandfather to son in a long line of succession that began when the first Spanish conquistadore broke the neck of the last indigenous sun-god worshipper, Quispé is unlikely to share that potato-to-plaster ratio.

One could experiment, I suppose. But that could take 10 years.

Quispé’s work is spectacular. I particularly like the first one. A retablo of a retablo shop! And one of those retablos in the retablo shop might be a retablo of a retablo shop—and thus the infinite is approached by crawling through tinier and tinier tunnels…






Crossposted from Dreamwidth.