Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I am in Portland now, and I have an internet connection. It fantastic. I really love the city already (of course it helps that the weather the last few days has been unseasonably gorgeous).

But I love it. I love my new apartment and my neighborhood and all the parks. There's an indie comic convention in I think two weeks, and one of my favorite comic artists will be there. I will try to go because it'll probably be awesome.

Then at the end of the month is a national ceramics expo, which will be really cool, plus maybe I'll run into my old Prof there.

I learned about the Ceramics Expo from a brochure someone left at the table outside the really good Bubble Tea place in the cool (relatively speaking) strip mall.

There was also a very friendly (but not in a creepy way) guy named Nick who runs the Karate school at said strip mall. He assured me that the sushi place next door was really good, and got me to sign up for a free karate lesson next Saturday.

I'm kind of an easy mark frankly. I try not to talk at all the the guys at mall kiosks because while I won't buy anything they shove at me, I look like a sucker and they usually refuse to let me leave. I'm just too polite. My last few encounters have made me less polite though. Sorry, no thanks, walk on by, shrugging off occasionally outrageous attempts to call me back.

But Nick was very nice, and I have nothing better to do. A free self-defence lesson sounds fun. I'd like to learn some self-defence. My total knowledge of the subject now is what I learned from watching Miss Congeniality, and a short lecture I went to in highschool where we were urged to jab at an attackrs eyes with our keys. If not the eyes, then go for the solar plexis because a guy on drugs might not even feel it if knee him in the crotch, but if you jab them in the diaphram they won't be able to breath and you can get the hell away.

I don't know whether I'll ever be able to afford actual lessons but it certainly can't hurt to test drive one.

I'm pretty much settled in now. There is still some stuff to put away, and the dog is having separation issues again, which is a pain in the ass. We had gotten over it entirely at the old house, but since the move she can't stand to be left alone all over again. I know how to fix it, but it takes time and neighbors tend not to be very understanding about yappy dogs, especially small ones. But. We're working on it.

But since I've goten here I've been all fired up about art projects. I finally began work on a painting that I've been meaning to start since December, and I worked on another project that has been spinning it's wheels for a couple years now. Part of this may have been a combination of boredom (from having no TV or internet) and procrastination about unpacking, but mostly I think it's that I finally have my own space. There is lots of room to work here and I can fill my space how I choose. I really like it, and I'm excited to see what I can accomplish.

Also, an UPDATE: on the positive reinforcement front! It hasn't been very long, but I really think some of this new enthusiasm has to do with the fact that I'm not constantly putting myself down anymore. It is a little inconvenient because my negative feedback has always been written down, so I've been writing my affirmations as well, so the charcoal sketch for my huge painting has little notes on it like "This is great!" and "Almost perfect!" This is especially problematic as the piece is about the atomic bomb.

Except that I might go ahead and leave them in, just for contrast. I'm a little hesitant about this piece because it's not so much about "The Atomic Bomb" as it is about my recent (last summer) trip to The Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas.

I won't go into the entire rehash of that trip, but it is a really really cool museum. The only problem I had with it was this weird cheerleadery vibe it gave off. There were a couple movies with guys who worked at the Yucca Flats testing facility for 30 or 40 years and they had the attitude that dropping the bomb at the time was the right decision. In retrospect, knowing what we know about its effects, it was still the right decision. We should never have stopped testing, we'd drop another one tomorrow if "we had to."

Now the guys who worked desperately through WWII and throughout the Cold War on these weapons are certainly entitled to their opinions, and they are coming from a much different perspective than I am. I don't even remember the Cold War, though I was born before the end of it. I've never had to know what the fastest route to my local bomb shelter is. But this pro-bomb attitude pervaded the entire exhibit, even the parts talking about all the innocent bystanders (sometimes literally) who were harmed by the tests, let alone the devestating and ongoing affects on Japan.

My painting is something of a self portrait. It depicts a figure standing with her back turned to a nuclear blast, with a hand raised to sheild her eyes. The title will be "Keep Your Back Turned Until The Shockwave Has Passed."

The tests in Nevada (where they were moved after the accidental radiation poisoning of a bunch of Pacific Islanders hundreds of miles away from the original South Pacific test sites) became a tourist attraction. People would stand a "safe" seven miles away from the blast. You had to either put on sunglasses or turn your back, until the shockwave passed.

It just blows my mind. There's a part of the museum where you can experience a simulated atomic blast. They blow wind at you, and it's loud but not loud enough to say, damage the hearing of the average museum patron. The white out is not searing light, it's just a white screen.

And I still thought it was terrifying. I think both my mother and I came out of that theater in tears. It's horrific enough that the government subjected our own service people to it, essentially to see what would happen to them, but these tourists were all civilians.

I also saw some footage of (I think) Nagasaki imediately after the blast. The main target had been (I think) a naval base that had housed something like 10 or 20 thousand troops. In the footage it was just a guy walking around a big empty field, marking out what used to be the perimeter. You just had to take his word that we were looking at anything.

You could see from the angles of char and the skew of windows where the blast had come from on the surviving structures. It was recently declassified film made by the war department, and devestatingly hard to watch.

Sorry, this has gone on a bit too long, like I always do when I talk about this museum trip, but the pervasion of Atomic Bomb imagery throughout our culture, and its history is a subject that is endlessly fascinating and chilling to me. It's terrifying, but also, so cool. It's because I'm a sci-fi geek. I mean, it all ties in with the Space Program, and Ray Bradbury, and pretty much every single one of my favorite B horror or science fiction films. Scarier in reality than it ever could be on film.

My fear with my painting is that the viewer will miss the layers of meaning that exist to me, and see it as yet another sensationalized image of a mushroom cloud. To my thinking, it is the shockwave, not the mushroom that is of significance to the painting, but the mushroom cloud is still in there. But dwelling on potential interpreations of your art works is never a good idea.

One woman I went to art school with was endlessly tortured by that subject. She had a dream of creating work with a universal audience, people from all social classes, all walks of life, from all around the world, would see and be moved by her artwork, and they would interpret it exactly the way she wanted them to.

Some people in the class became quite upset, even angry, when I suggested that such a thing was not only impossible, but that it was rather an offensive notion. That everyone had their own unique frame of reference whether the artist liked it or not. Quite a few of the more starry eyed students had visions of creating art that would move...well they didn't come out and say it, but low income, trailer trash, white bread, inner city, whatever 'afflicted' peoples were out there suffering from lack of art and culture and deep thinking. I suggested that maybe those people found art they liked and that moved them, and maybe it was in a museum, or maybe it was on daytime TV and that each was valid.

They didn't like that idea, but I didn't like their condescension. I make art to please myself chiefly, but with the hope that it will please others. I don't believe I'm bestowing a gift on anyone (except occassionally my mother). I don't expect them to be deeply moved (in a breathy voice). If anyone was ever deeply moved by my work I would feel humbled and grateful, but it's nothing that I except from my audience as my due.

Anyway, this started out as a cheery quick little post about how much I'm enjoying Portland now. It has rather outgrown that. Daresay it has become something of a monster. But now it is getting close to 2 am and I need to go to bed (not to mention give my wrists a break since I have yet to find and unpack my wrist rest thingy). I feel like something of this magnitude needs a snappy signoff. So I am stealing one from Messrs. Fry and Laurie.

Soupy Twist.

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