A whimper then a bang

These metaphorical fig leaves should cover the brain, that’s the obscene organ

That’s how the world ends. The party seems to be over for humanity. The reckless expenditure of our potential. We could have been creating an Eden. Instead we’ve squandered the wealth the Earth has given us. We creep toward our just doom.

I saw a photo yesterday. On the front page of the NYT. A young family dead at a checkpoint where safe passage was promised. Yes Ukraine. I must learn to look away. I am too old now and maybe that’s for the best. My instinct is to go and fight. Tens of thousands of veterans younger than me will go to Ukraine. The hairless ape has learned so much but nothing about living in peace. Our response to killing is more killing. But how to look away?

I have a friend who covered wars as a correspondent for many decades. I told him about my reaction to the photo. I ask him if someone who is exposed to the carnage as an observer only, a non combatant, develops a callus view, an emotional shield. He didn’t he said. He suffers what he calls empathy overload. He said he was returning to his garden. I will avoid putting any more salt in his wounds, the “news”. His garden is along a river in a valley in the Andes. Mine must be for now a plan on paper. Spring is close though and my thoughts need to leave eastern Europe. Any fighting I do needs to be with weeds and ticks. Nature heals.

The new 24 inch Huion 4K tablet is a lot more useful with the arm I just received and installed. The Huion is at the upper limit in weight for the arm, 15 pounds. There are tensioning adjustments and they have brought things into balance. I can have landscape or portrait orientations, depending on the subject. Still need to find all the controls for rotating the video but its good already. Always a lot to learn. I got the little keyboard dial too. The KD-100 made by Huion. They are phasing it out I think so it was bundled into the deal to get rid of it. It worked for a while but I think the driver stumbled and then the buy me buy me unzip started screaming and refusing to work. When I get the free one working I will try the driver again. Its always something but considering the complexity of all this at all levels….surprising it works at all. I mean, really, there are a billion transistors in the processor! A thousand million little field effect devices, FET’s, the invention that made this stuff possible albeit incredibly difficult.

The new 4k tablet with an arm that lets me position it anywhere.

I can sketch with this thing. With the little 13 inch Wacom one I couldn’t. Or, it didn’t feel right. I would sketch something on paper and scan it, then work on it in GIMP. GIMP is the open source graphics program I use. Strange how NOT having the paper’s “tooth” makes a tablet feel strange. I got used (over 60+ years of drawing) to a drag on the stylus, pencil or pen. Paper at the point of contact is like the floor of a pine forest, lots of fibers matted and a little rough. This stylus on plastic is slick, the friction is missing. Maybe somebody offers a film overlay that restores the feel of paper, the “tooth”. Or I could just get used to this.

Took a walk with a friend. We crossed town and walked among the fifty or so sail boats up on jacks waiting for spring. Not too much longer and they will be lifted and moved to the edge of the harbor and lowered in. At the height of summer Rockland’s harbor has maybe 75 sailboats at anchor. Many more come and go on the highway on trailers. I have one in the back yard. Maybe its days are over. I am certainly not sailing it again. Too old to step that mast as I did twenty years ago. It was fun. I can always ingratiate myself with a local and go out on their boat. I can pay for a cruise on one of the schooners that sail with tourists out of Rockport, Rockland and Camden. Did that years ago, great fun. Sailing the Penobscot Bay in a hundred year old two master, hauled over, scuttles awash….can’t beat it.

We walked without talking about the war. We avoided the subject. Then over wine back at his house it came up. Nothing in this country (USA) isn’t polarized politically. I heard an argument that the USA provoked the Russians. My friend is old enough to have a gut fear of a nuclear war. I am too. I am not sure younger people have it in their gut, that fear, a rational fear. But after a while, as with the virus, I’m tempted to say….f*ck it, bring it on, lets get it over with. Easy for me to say, I’m old. My movie has run most of its length. the credits are about to scroll up the screen. I don’t loose many years. But the kids do – so I am scared for them I guess. I looked up Einstein on Wiki, on his attitude re nuclear weapons. He said if he had known the Germans were nowhere near creating a bomb he would not have recommended to president Roosevelt that the USA start a program to develop one. I think he, like Oppenheimer and unlike Teller, regretted the development of these terrible devices. Human nature is plenty perverse already, these nasty gadgets just make it worse, deadly in fact.



ignorance really is bliss

Impossibility of not thinking of the impossible…difficult to contemplate

Are there any “small” nukes? We may find out

I have nothing against mushrooms. Clouds of mushroom spores are also OK, outside, but clouds of irrigated dust from a 1500 foot airburst, no thanks.

I swore to the imaginary shrink that I would find more constructive things to focus my mind on. Yes! for example, this new tablet. A Huion 24 inch 4k. I like it. I started out with the Wacom One, a good tablet to start with….but, small. Icons the size of flee bikinis. This is like a drawing board. The stylus and surface are such that I can sketch as I do on paper. Not the same but really close. I also got their KD100 which helps a lot though I’ve just accepted the defaults for now. It’s a keypad with a dial, all programmable.

This moment is like the virus two years back all over again. Oh Ma God, we’re all gonna die. A lot of us did I guess….but I managed to arrive at the here and now. So imagine my shock to find I was just as subject to the whims of fate now as I was then! Shouldn’t fate be biased in my favor? what did I ever do to fate?

Oh, I’ve been suppressing this, its just so nasty. But, maybe better to face the music and look at it. I direct your memory or web search to the German Wings co pilot who locked the pilot in the john and flew the plane into the side of a mountain. The mountain where he first learned to fly in gliders. A symbolic suicide murder. He invited 150 others to join him. Well, just recast the role with Putin as co pilot. Absolute authority to launch. The murder suicide thing isn’t uncommon. The passengers in this analogy, who are flying into a mountain are you, me, and maybe 50 million others. I told you this was a nasty thought…but when one man has that power….the wrong man. Like I said kiss your ass goodbye.

They thought they were going home. They were going home. We are all headed home.

Strange how one war overlaps another. I was four years in Germany in the US Air Force. I worked on the instruments on the big transport aircraft. The base I worked at was outside of Frankfurt am Main (not to be confused with Frankfurt am Oder) Not far away was a huge base called Ramstein. It’s been in the news in connection with the war in Ukraine. NATO member Poland proposed a way to get two dozen Russian built fighters into the hands of the Ukrainians. They offered to fly the fighters to Ramstein. This if the USA would “back fill” their Air Force with F-16 replacements. The MIG-29, NATO reporting name, “Fulcrum”, would be useful against the aggressor. DOD is being buffeted by the political winds demanding “something” be done. The MIG is a good candidate because the Ukrainians are familiar with it. These fighters are not like passenger cars – drive one and you’ll know how to drive another in a few seconds. The DOD said the proposal was non tenable, a non starter, impractical. It is. The ground support element is critical and not simple. Where would you get the weapons?, the rockets, missiles, bombs? The brilliant Russian Army has made a shooting gallery of its armor and supply column outside Kiev but, even sitting ducks need a bullet each. As one of the many generals interviewed on media said, the anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder fired weapons are what is needed.

This aircraft unfortunately isn’t going to help Ukraine much in the present situation

Empathy Overloaded

War as content, murder as drama entertainment

There is something about having drawn since infancy that makes it an emotional outlet. It is therapy to make a picture of the pain or trauma. Something new is seeing so much via the electronic media of this age. The millions of cameras. Until the networks are all down.

Woke to another day. Bet I am not the only person to think of the movie “Groundhog Day” as I leave the dreams and kingdom of Morpheus. The thought that things are repeating is hard to avoid. The HF radio tells me the ionosphere is still a bit mucky but there are signals. A group of amateurs who meet on the air are active. This in Morse Code, international Morse code. The painter who came up with the system over 150 years ago could not have imagined where it is now. Amateurs hundreds of miles apart sharing their plans for the day over coffee thru dits and dahs. That ancient wireless language is nearly all I listen to as I have my first coffee of the new day. They are just about always old like me. Young people don’t have much patience for learning Morse code. So it becomes just another craft kept alive as an avocation. It was revolutionary once. Continental Morse code sounds like a series of clicks. That’s the system that grew alongside the rail road. Very few people can send and receive Continental Morse (the clicks) in their heads. I work to get up to 40 WPM sending and receiving International Morse. At that speed its hard to write the letters and numbers fast enough so an operator learns to visualize. Letters form words which form sentences. Nothing critical now comes over the ether in Morse. Once it was critical to commercial and military activity. Morse code is also called CW for Continuous Wave. That a hundred years ago distinguished it from “Spark” the first form of wireless. Now, with computers the size of a fingernail running communications, signals are smeared across the radio spectrum. The evolution is getting a short hand notation, the “generation”. The thing now is 5G. Yes, that’s the same system driving people nuts and making pollinators lose their way to the pollen. Maybe that’s why I don’t pollinate any of the pretty flowers I encounter. I should get out there with a sign. Down with 5G….lets all go back to international Morse code.

Is there anything else happening that can divert my attention? Yes, there is the new space telescope. It is still named after James Webb. I say still because an attempt was made by the Woken SS to have the name changed. Seems Mister Webb used a hurtful word or slapped a woman on the butt. Something unforgivable. What that has to do with astronomy is beyond me. I do think all people, of any sex, deserve and should receive respect. I don’t think giving this telescope another name will advance human rights. Its so human – this ignoring of the cosmos in favor of obsessing about (vs fixing) shortcomings of human nature. Isn’t knowing a little about where we are, the universe, a worthy goal?

An amazing instrument now a million miles from Earth

In my life I’ve read lots of science fiction. I saw Star Wars on the first day of release before any buzz about it. Also saw Kubric’s 2001 in its first week. Following astronomy as it advances our understanding is a continuation of that. Science without the fiction has the same alure for me now as it did when I was ten years old. The difficulties of doing this, of building an observatory in space is lost on most people. Also the reason for doing it. Why not just continue staring at our feet? Don’t look up. The sky is full of stars and if you perceive your own insignificance you’ll loose the arrogance most of us have. We are not only nothing we are less than nothing. Nothing towers above us. Best to be modest and learn without empty boasting. To do so is as silly as an amoeba with an inflated ego.

Between paragraphs and photos I admit to sneaking a look at the war news. I have a bunch of Geiger counter heads, the tubes and their high voltage supply. Irony is the tubes are Russian. I got a couple dozen years ago on eBay. On an oscilloscope they show the pulses caused by alpha particles but there is no sound and no counting. I need to design and maybe program another little circuit to generate clicks. Right now its a baseline quiet of 37 clicks per minute. At 5,000 feet high in the Andes it was 62 counts per minute. Up high there is less atmosphere to filter out the “cosmic” rays. That is the indirect source of what the Geiger tubes are seeing. If there were fallout drifting over us, falling here in the woods, the count could go up to thousands, or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands per seconds. For that you need to divide the roar of clicks by those factors 10x 100x 10000x etc. Or I could just kiss my ass good bye. I can do that, now that the Covid lock down helped me loose weight. I think I could (kiss my ass goodbye), but, I might just wave to it. We’re close. It would understand. I ASSume it’ll understand. In the end it don’t matter does it?

Not really, unless simple human qualities like empathy and altruism are also degraded by leaded gas….

Ya, I know, I promised I wouldn’t look at the war or this toad in a suit.

The Dutch Wife (et al)

The medfly solution used in California comes to mind

On the long voyages to and from the Spice Islands Dutch sailors would cuddle with sewn and stuffed “dolls”. On arrival they’d trade STD’s with the locals, load the ship with spice, and head back. They might have had a seamstress in port overhaul their fabric sweetie for the return trip. Nowadays the Dutch wife is a rubber maid. Full size and damn heavy, they say, but with anatomical proportions undreamed of by those lonely salty sons of Nederland.

This is an experiment in direct to audio. It makes oblique references to some of the graphic but don’t try too hard to make sense of it

The young person with the paint might be my homage to the “Yellow Kid” a very early newspaper cartoon

Santa gives more expensive gifts to the families of the wealthy. why is that?

If you got it then flaunt it I say

In keeping with their personal philosophy I am willing to entertain offers of cash to stop riding this “Tax The Rich” hobby horse. Anyway, its just me kissing up to that hot Latina from NYC.

I must have been really zonked when I did this

This graphic is on the same old theme. The style, if it could be called a style, might appeal to some. Anyway, it’s all “grist for the mill”….something they said two hundred years ago. God I’m old. Thanks for asking…..seventy six and counting.

And still more new graphics

I do these for a local “Samizdat” Weekly called the “Buzz”. Toner is expensive so B&W is favored (and effective too)

Not sure what the message is. Sure, tax the rich, but maybe also the puzzle of getting at their well hidden stashes. In the case of Russian Oligarchs recently in the news, take ALL of the money. Hey, that works too. Lets goad Bill Gates into invading some country. Nah, His column of heavy armor would be trucks full of cash and it would be welcomed.

This is old enough to be inspired by the idiot savant formerly resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in DC

I might mention the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, Lucifer, old Nick, but the creature that inspired this cartoon sickens me to name. If you don’t know who I am referring to God bless you, you have managed to shut out this nasty era. Wish I could.

I think the contrary argument snuck into this. Well it is a shakedown.

The MATH hat was free. It was from the nomination campaign for Andrew Yang. His supporters raised the money to buy me a hat. They spent it on other things too. Like spreading the message of his plan for a minimum income for everybody. A virus was the unlikely instigator for an experiment. The government did send everyone money. That may have helped a lot. It got me a nice new Nikon Z5 with a 24-200mm F4/6.3 and this new 24″ 4k Huion tablet. Thank you Andrew! They stole your idea but it all worked out in the end.

You’d think those super powers would learn!

If you live long enough you see things repeat. Not youth, that ends. What you see again and again is the stupidity. It seems to be innate.

A bunch of new graphics

My sister and daughter inspired this

This very human reaction to the firehose of information, bad mostly, is normal. In fact it is natural beyond just our species. In the Electric Power industry its called “load shedding”.

Maybe it was better to die of the plague six hundred years ago. they didn’t have 24/7 news to up the pain

Actionable information. That’s what we need. If we can’t do anything to reduce the trauma with the info that induces the trauma….and one isn’t a masochist….enuf is more than enuf

An excessive ratio of rich to poor is a sign of a sick society

I do have trouble being absolute on this. On the one hand they worked the system to get that money. On the other if half their money went for medical care for all and for hospitals and the like – they’d still be rich.

This was inspired by the mega yachts being lured to Rockland Maine

Rockland was a working harbor. Still is to some extent. But, like other ports in touristy states, it feels the need to attract the rich. The idea is that their crumbs might help feed the locals. It’s been like that on the Maine coast for a hundred years with the rich from away and their summer mansions.

Hobby Horse Dressage

For a stuffed horse and a young girl the world is a magical place

The Finns are an interesting people. They have a language that to me is as obscure as Chinese or Arabic. One Finn I remember in Ecuador sat while I drew his portrait. We sat opposite each other at a table in Charlito’s bar and grill. The table was a battlefield of dead soldiers. That’s slang for empty bottles. Never try to keep up with a Finn in emptying bottles. My subject would be chatting away, in Finnish, I guess. It could have been heavily accented English. Either way it was unintelligible to me. Too bad, I might have ask him about one of Finland’s recent exports, Hobby Horse Dressage. It is officially a sport and gaining popularity world wide. in Finland, where it first surfaced only a decade ago, there are an estimated 10,000 “Stick Horse” enthusiasts. For a long time I couldn’t watch it without incontrollable spasms of laughter. Something about it was so captivating, so poignantly unreal, such emotional depth. Here were adolescent girls prancing around a gym floor holding the reigns of a “hobby horse”. A sewn and decorated fabric horse’s head mounted on a stick. The girls would emulate the dressage riders who compete on real horses. They would keep themselves stiffly erect from the waist up. Their faces holding serious expressions. Eyes fixed. Their lower half pranced and leaped and cavorted as a horse would. Equally serious judges viewed each rider and took notes. The girls were competing with events that mirrored the sport they had appropriated and made their own. Specifically, Dressage, the art of riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, and balance. Also jumping, both low and high barriers, called puissance. The winner beams smiles to supporters and family. The looser shed tears and is consoled. For sheer fun, and training for competition, girls will “ride” alone or in groups, through the woods. Its role playing and that might be the root of its visual quality, the reality they were participating in was invisible to the camera yet in their minds they rode a living animal. Young girls love horses. I don’t know why, but they do. Keeping a horse isn’t cheap. Its needs are for food, shelter, medical care and exercise. All expensive. My first thought on encountering this movement was sympathy. This was the only way these girls could participate. Real horses were not possible. So they created work arounds, the wooden stick with a horse’s head. Everything else was REAL. The emotion, the audience’s reaction, the judges keen observation. There are even Veterinarians at some events giving advice on equestrian medicine. They’ve invented something new. It took just a little bit of suspended disbelief. The horse becomes real when everyone believes. At these events everyone does believe, and with passion. The excitement among “tween” girls has spread around the world. An industry producing the Hobby Horse for enthusiasts has sprung up too. On the Irish Etsy website, where crafters offer their work, 500 items are listed for the sport. One young horse maker in Finland is selling custom stick-horses for 100 to 300 Euros each. A pair were requested by the government in Helsinki as gifts to the royal children of Prince William. It is amazing how things, ideas, can be interconnected in history and culture. The word hobby for example. Stamp collecting is a hobby. Ham radio is a hobby as is model railroading. The word hobby is derived from the first “hobby horse” which appeared in the early 1800’s. It was much as the current stick-horses are but it had a wheel at the lower end of the stick. It was named after an extinct Irish animal. The name first in French, the “Haubini” became, “Hobbeye”, then it took on the spelling we know. The meaning of “hobby” for avocation was derived from this first stick-horse! A hobby was a non professional activity. Riding a “hobby horse” also came to mean speaking on a favorite subject.

I made a couple of stabs at illustrating this, both seem to work ok

Arturo the Beggar RIP

Arturo the beggar of Vilcabamba in the south of Ecuador

The news that Arturo had died reached me last week. He was found along the road between Malacatos and Vilcabamba in southern Ecuador. I knew him and didn’t know him. He was a beggar. When I lived in Vilcabamba I thought of him as the dean of beggars. He was that in the sacred valley. He lived on the edge of Malacatos but did his begging in Vilcabamba, that’s where the money was. To get there he commuted on foot, walking ten KM each way. That’s twelve miles daily. On arrival he ate a simple meal at the Juice Factory. Breakfast was bowl of soup and cup of coffee. It was given gratis on the steps in front of the restaurant. As he sipped soup he squinted and surveyed the scene, the church and park at the center of town . I imagined he’d developed a sixth sense over time. A sense telling him how the day’s takings would go. The taxi stand next to the park gave clues. Were they busy? Often there’d be flocks of European tourists on the church steps. If there were he’d grab his stick and run toward them. He threw his stick to the ground as he ran, lest it seem threatening to anyone. Arturo knew fresh visitors had coins and would start his day properly. What did the visitors see running toward them? Did they see an emaciated old man? Did they part with their dollars imagining Arturo was starving? They might have thought that, he was thin and light, but he wasn’t starving. He was healthier than you or I. Exercise, clean air and water, moderate diet of fresh natural food. Thin as a rail but all the healthier for it. He was so light he seemed to float. He ran as might a lithe ballet dancer flitting across a stage. When several groups of potential alms givers stood in the square he flitted among them. Then I thought of a humming bird, a blur moving between flowers. This was Arturo’s show. A presentation with costume and chorography. His set, the plaza – fountain and church were backdrop. There were other beggars in Vilcabamba. One who’s name escapes me now was a bit pushy. He would poke at potential donors. There was a Kichua (native) woman and her three children. She only begged when she wasn’t sewing intricately embroidered rectangles of cloth. These she sold from the sidewalk. The kids played nearby. I always had my sketching kit with me and would give the kids paper and pencils. Children love to draw, it seems universal. There were other artists, con artists, hustlers. They ask for money too, but only after a build up, a story. These tricksters worked the square until they hooked a fish, often for thousands of dollars, then they disappeared. But Arturo could be counted on. He took his profession seriously. As with many things cultural beggars can be a litmus. So many tourists and retired expats felt guilty for being rich. Not rich where they came from, the USA or Canada or Europe, but rich by Ecuadorian standards. To Arturo they were like direct deposit. They always had a dollar coin ready for him on market day. He had supporters who gave him clothing. But it didn’t take long before the dusty path he daily trod gave his togs the patina appropriate for a beggar. The same week the Queen of England came down with Covid, Arturo left the main road and stepped onto a path to the afterlife. Nature doesn’t respect any hierarchy. The beggar or Queen fare as do you or I.

Every Bully needs a nuke

These days every bully needs nukes

What’s worse than being beaten senseless by a big bully? Watching the beating, weapon in hand but doing nothing to stop it. Well, nearly nothing. Nothing useful. Nothing that will save the victim. It’s like being “pistol whipped”. Come to the victim’s aid and you’ll be shot dead. Today’s bully needs to have nuclear weapons and use murder/suicide as a threat. I have no choice but to watch you injure and kill, maim and impoverish innocents. Any move to stop you would bring much more death. The inexorable logic of our nuclear MADness leads to this helplessness. Unless we find a way. There is only so much dumb luck available and we’ve used a lot getting 77 years into the nuclear age unscathed. In my old age I sometimes wonder if living is just running out the clock. Letting the arrow of time fly. Counting ticks toward the game’s end. It would be ironic (everything is anymore) if another clock was moving toward our collective end. Is my clock a minute slow? Is my clock giving me a false idea that its not so late after all? The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has a clock. A famous clock with hands frozen at 100 seconds before midnight. That metaphoric midnight would be the end of the day for our civilization. I’d like to be guilty of touting gloom and doom without cause. I’m not. The man who controls the majority of the world’s nuclear warheads has twice in the last few days threatened to use them. If you’ve read this far, imagine in your head, the credits rolling and Dame Vera Lynn singing “We’ll meet again”. This was the ending of the 1964 Kubrick film, “Doctor Strangelove”.  The meeting she alluded to was to be in the afterlife. Good luck.