Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stop the Escalation in Iraq

Stop the Escalation in Iraq

Wes Clark has put this new ad from Vote Vets on his MySpace page. Powerful stuff.

Steampunk... Lightsabers?

Steampunk Lightsabers
Um... Why does this tickle me and make my brain hurt at the same time? Somehow I both want one, and want to hide my head in shame for the impulse. Generation X should be stepping up to the plate right now, as the first generation to grow up fully indoctrinated into the digital lifestyle, and leading the world. I mean think about it, we're full adults now, old enough to run for Senate and the presidency, and a lot of us have a little prosperity, skill, and connections from that dot com thingee a few years back. (Not me, of course, but I'm generalizing.) We are the perfect bridge generation between the boomers and Generation Y, or whatever they are called, because while we are fully fluent in computers, cell phones, and the like, we still remember the analog world, and a time when you could (or at least our dads and uncles could) actually work on your own car.
Instead, we make and buy steampunk lightsabers...
Still, they're pretty freaking cool...
more about the top one here
and the bottom one here

Monday, January 29, 2007

Vespa Touring

Vespa Touring

Ok, I can't rant about touring without reminding folks that not can you tour on a scooter, there are some definite upsides to the endeavor. Check this collection of articles from Scooter Lounge if you don't believe me.

Sisters are Touring it for Themselves

Sisters are Touring it for Themselves

If you are stuck inside your home and a cage by the fickle nature of weather and mechanical issues, now is great time to live vicariously through the adventures of others. Old Bags on Bikes, is a site documenting six ladies grand tour of North America on Harleys. As they say, "3 countries, 31 states, 31 days."
It's a fun and inspiring read.

B.B. King released from Hospital

B.B. King released from Hospital

Oh, Thank God!

When I heard that Mr. King had been hospitalized recently, I got a little scared. He's not a young man, and diabetes can be rough at any age. Plus we all know that the Blues are God's favorite type of music...

Blues legend BB King has been discharged from hospital in Texas after a bout of flu, and his management says he is "back to his old self".
The 81-year-old had a fever after contracting flu and was admitted to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston on Friday.
He had to cancel two concerts in the city, but will now play as scheduled in Fort Worth, Texas on Tuesday.
King, who is diabetic, was reported to be otherwise in good health. ...
King was "feeling fabulous", she said.

Under Construction

OK, so I upgraded to the new version of Blogger a while back, but left many things the same in the actual look of the blog, because I'd put a lot of work into tweaking my template the way I wanted it.
Well, I've finally bitten the bullet and changed to one of the new Blogger templates. I miss my old Gecko and Fly template, but this one will allow for a lot more tweaking, and I finally get to use the title banner I made a while back. (Hurray!)
So I apologize for the mess; I should have all my links back up soon, as well as more improvements in functionality, as well as the overall look of blog.

Please feel free to leave feedback on the redesign; I'm open to hints and tips about hacking and customizing as well.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Heh, Heh...

I am:
Samuel R. "Chip" Delany
Few have had such broad commercial success with aggressively experimental prose techniques.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Cory Doctrow is Heinlein and Warren Ellis is Asimov... and the most modest and humble Dragon is cooler than either, 'cause I'm Delany...

I'll be the study, basking in the joy of being a legend in my own mind...

DIY Steampunk Scanner

Datamancer has done it again with this fantasically modded flatbed scanner. This thing is gorgeous!

The scanner sits inside a sheetmetal framework with the book built around it. The covers and spine were made from pieces of a huge, oversized clipboard I had. I was having difficulty finding bookbinding leather in small enough quantities and high enough qualities, so I ended up dissecting a large envelope satchel thing my aunt gave me which she had kicking around in her basement. This explains the long stitch seam down the edge of the cover, but that will not be found on any future versions. The scanner then got a decorative cardboard shell (the white side of an old art pad cover) and I used gold bridal ribbon to fake the gold page gilding.

via Brass Goggles

Saturday, January 27, 2007

File Under: But Is It Art?

File Under: But Is It Art?

Neat video of Slovenian street artist Janez Jevnikar, creating spray paint art. He uses a lot of MacGyveresque free-hand shielding techniques, which could come in handy for airbrush artists, graf writers, and the like. His website is here.

via Make! Blog

Meet the new Rebels, Same as the old Rebels...

Meet the new Rebels, Same as the old Rebels...

The wonderful Phillipine blogger over at Who Rides a Vespa, has a great post up profiling Mikey Teutul of American Chopper. He's got a couple of commercials embedded which feature Mikey's affection for Vespas, and kinda cast him as the black sheep among black sheep. It's like a two-wheeler's inside joke, which by now, most of America is in on. These ads quite tickled my fancy, as I spent a lot of time in early adolescence hanging out with old school bikers, with these inked and hirisute gentlemen providing solid if unconvential male role models during those difficult years.

Jes and I have been on a Northern Exposure kick lately; we just got the fifth season on DVD, and last night I watched the episode where Ruth-Anne borrows Chris's Harley and rides with a group of outlaw bikers. Or perhaps I should say former outlaw bikers, as one of the best scenes in the episode features these middle-aged men discussing how Harleys have become a status symbol for the affluent middle class into which they have unwittingly been assimilated. That assimilation which they discussed thirteen years ago, has of course, only intensified. And that's OK.

Cultures and subcultures are fluid, organic, dynamic entities. And our over analyized, over marketed, media saturated culture absorbs subculture at a blinding pace now. True rebels, if there is such a thing, are prized prey for freelance "cool-hunters." Of course none of this is news, or original insight from yours truly. Still quite a bit of the joy of rebellion consists of feeling like you are on the inside, the bond of the outsider, the "you and me against the world" sensation. Also, there is great joy to be found in the activity folks in the SCA call "freaking the mundanes."

Mundanes are, in SCA parlance, normal folks. "Freaking the mundanes" entails showing up unannounced at a public place in full Medieval drag. Making a beer run for an SCA event that is in full swing, for instance. There is something of the trickster in the rebel, and a touch of the holy fool as well. But once your subculture has become assimilated, that trickster edge becomes dulled. The WTF factor of a green mohawk disappates when you see it every day on TV.

And you are stuck with the Dragon, protesting "I was Country, when Country wasn't cool," as well as "I was Punk-Rock, when Punk-Rock wasn't cool."


And so it goes...

I guess what is interesting to me in all this is that I see scooter culture as being roughly where biker culture was in the late 80's and early 90's, on the verge of being integrated into the whole of pop culture. It seems like at this point every local newspaper and tv station has had a story on the new scooter boom. The old-school scooterists, the folks who were around before Vespas were reintroduced state-side, sound a lot like old school bikers, the folks who were around before Harley-Davidson's corporate rebirth in the 80's. And the average American is basically unaware of all of this.

But at least for the time being, you can be fairly certain of evoking a "kids-these-days" reaction from an old school biker by pulling up on a tricked vintage Vespa. And I take some pleasure in knowing that if I can't freak the mundanes, well, at least I can freak the freaks...

For another take on this through the eyes of television advertising check out this new BBC America ad that 2Stroke Buzz has linked to.

A Girl Like Me

Media That Matters Film Festival: 6

A great documentary on the self-image of African-American children in the beginning of the 21st century, compared to the middle of the 20th.

This broke my green scaly heart.

Simple and powerful. It's only like seven minutes long, so check it out when you get a break.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bienvenue à/Willkommen zu/Benvenuto a/Welcome to Amerivespa 2007!

Bienvenue à/Willkommen zu/Benvenuto a/Welcome to Amerivespa 2007!

AmeriVespa has updated their page with some info on this years rally in Seattle.
The Dragon will see you there.

Sci-Fi Scootering Rock-a-Billy

Sci-Fi Scootering Rock-a-Billy

Yee-Haw, y'all!

Now could be better than a pretty lady singing about scooters? A pretty lady singing about scooters in outerspace to a rock-a-billy beat, that's what!

Check out the track Outerspace Motorspace Scooter Machine. It's yummy, and low-fat as well.

via Scooter Swag

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Out Your Backdoor: Aero Cars and Motos: Time to Save Gas and Have Fun!

Out Your Backdoor: Aero Cars and Motos: Time to Save Gas and Have Fun!

Oh Make Blog! Oh how I love thee! You are almost as hip and sexy as sweet Jes... almost.

Seriously, the Make Blog has a small bit about the above page on Out Your Backdoor, which is about the coolest scooter related page I've stumbled upon in months. It's a long rant on streamlining vehicles for greatly improved gas mileage, with a lot of focus on motorcycles and scooters. Or as the author calls them Motos and FF (for foot forward.) Lots of links, and lots of yummy eye-candy.

A lot of the author's thinking revolves around marrying concepts from recumbinent bicycles to motorized vehicles. He also talks about Craig Vetter quite a bit, who's Harley sportster hacked into a scooter I've ranted about before. Apparently the ingenious Mr. Vetter also makes fiberglass shells for streamlining scooters, enabling a machine that used to get 60 to 80 mpg to easily maximize fuel efficiency to 300 mpg, with the current record (using the Vetter High Mileage Streamlined Fairing) being 477 mpg!

My head is reeling. The Vetter High Mileage Streamlined Fairing weighs 30 lbs as is, though modifications for a particular scoot are necessary, and costs $1300, not including shipping. Now that's a bit steep for the typical bloke out there with just a daily rider, but definitely doable for the obsessed scooterist with a stable of scoots in various states of functionality. If I had a shop and a little more disposable income, I'd certainly be thinking about picking up a $500 early 90's Honda Elite and tweaking it out with one of these. (A visualization of the Vetter fairing on a Helix is below)

Or... better yet, coming up with something of my own...

If any of these ideas or pictures stimulate you, you should really check out the link at the top of this post, I've just scratched the surface of all the cool stuff on there.

Monday, January 22, 2007

DIY Hillbilly Hippie Hobbit Hole

A Low Impact Woodland Home

Maybe that last post has got me on a Mother Earth News mindset, but I think this site is amazing. This house was built in 1000-1500 man hours for 3000 lbs in Wales. Low impact, low cost, very nice. The whole site is worth digging into, for stories about the construction which was done by a young couple whilst managing two toddlers!

Some key points of the design and construction:

  • Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  • Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  • Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
  • Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
  • Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  • Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
  • Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
  • Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
  • Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring...)
  • Woodburner for heating - renewable and locally plentiful
  • Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
  • Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
  • Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
  • Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
  • Water by gravity from nearby spring
  • Compost toilet
  • Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.

via the Make Blog

Hillbilly Steampunk DIY Fridge Cold Smoker

cold smoking - Community Forums

Through some weird peculiarity of Google, somebody recently hit this site looking for diy fridge cold smoker. This sounded so cool, I had to see what the Google results were, and found this little jewel. The smoker described at the end, sounds like a hillbilly steampunk salmon smoking dream.

08-22-04, 12:29 PM

Posts: n/a
cold smoking
I'm looking for"cold smking" tips for an electrical smoker.

01-14-05, 08:47 PM

Location: Battle Ground, WA
Posts: 479
keep the heat away from your meat.. I built a cold smoker in Las Vegas, using an old refrigerator and a block b-b-q unit.. put the b-b-q over about 10' from the frig and used stove pipe to run the smoke into the lower side of the frig... then used another piece of the stove pipe to make a chimney with an adjustable vent in it.. to regulate the amount of heat I got up the lower pipe.. inserting a meat thermo through the front door gave me a great reading of the interior temp and I could keep it well below the kippering stage.. plus the racks in the frig were terrific for the meats.. also used a homemade (looked like an old timey outhouse) shed up in the islands.. dug a big hole next to it and dropped a 55gal drum down in it with a chimney pipe going under ground over into the bottom of the shed.. the shed of course was so drafty, you couldn't build up any heat, so that was no worry, and it caked up with smoke really fast using a lot of alder wood... it worked terrific and with its little crooked chimney on top was rather cute too..

More meditations on painting

Not much is striking me lately in Scooter News, Alternative Energy, Steampunk, or any of the other random things the Dragon normally focuses on. As I've mentioned, a lot lately, I'm putting most of my energies into painting.
On that topic, I owe apologies to Janet and David, and to Mom. I am still working on the paintings, and your patience will be rewarded.

So anyway, in a recent search I came across this discussion in a forum on Alex Grey's website about Salvador Dali, who's 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship I have been rereading. This one post in particular, is a great summation of some of the lessons to be gleaned from this obtuse and agust tome. It's so awesome that I'm gonna post the whole message.

Posted: 2004-10-20 07:48
In the book I mentioned above, he goes into what the ants mean, as well as the crutches, and other things.

But to Dali, and this is the case with most Master's is that to be a Master you have to think like a Master, and live like a Master according to what you think a Master is.
If you say to yourself that you will never be like the Masters, then you would be correct, you will never be like the Masters. But if you think, and above that, know you are a Master, then your Body will follow your mind.
Also, you most likely will not be a Master in the way Dali was, or Raphael, or Van Gogh, because they were each Masters in different ways. You will be a Master in your own way, and only that way. You will never paint like Dali, and nor should you desire to. A Master paints the way they see the world, and we each do not see the world the way Dali did, but we see it in our own ways.
Do not diefy Masters into a realm you feel you cannot achieve, because there is no rason that you can not be as great or even better artist than they were.
The difference is knowing you are and not thinking you are.
Even if you are not a Master in the true sense of the world, you must see yourself as a Master well before that time. Why? Because you mind points the direction for your body to follow.
If you desire to be a Master, listen to your soul, and then paint what it tells you.
Keith Dragon

Friday, January 19, 2007

Garlic Card

Garlic Card

No it's not a credit card for gourmets and chefs. It's a well... just read the description below.
Sometimes it's the simplest ideas... Though, now that I've been introduced to the concept, I think I'd just MacGyver it, and use an old bank card or something...

Here's a simple solution to one of cooking's most vexing problems -- how simply to grate garlic into pureé without painstaking effort or agonizing clean-up. Faced with this same problem, noted Swedish chef Herman Rasmuson one day took out a credit card and began rubbing a clove of garlic against the embossed lettering. Voila! In almost no time, he had turned the clove into a uniform paste. Then, fortuitously, he decided to wash the card (not wanting to fragrance his wallet with a permanent garlic aroma), and was amazed how easily the card cleaned with just a warm-water rinsing. From there, the concept for GarlicCard was born.
Then he honed the GarlicCard into a compact yet sturdy utensil, subtly distinguished by the rows of finely embossed Gs and Cs that comprise its grating surface. Today, the GarlicCard is an award-winning design, including the Netherlands' Gift Fair 2005 prize for most innovative consumer product, and is used by professional chefs and home cooks worldwide.
Thanks to Neatorama

MAKE: Blog: DIY Refrigerator workbench

MAKE: Blog: DIY Refrigerator workbench

This has a lot of potential, particularly if it would be possible to follow the advice of one of the commentors and

Don't forget to use the fridge compressor to Make a compressed-air source for your workbench! Need to remove it before turning the fridge over, and have an HVAC tech remove the freon. You'll need to add an oil trap and an oiling port. But you'll wind up with a virtually silent air source for low-volume air tools, like airbrushes or paint sprayers.
Integrate some sort of siphoning off ventilation, and you've got an all-in-one airbrush studio, though, granted, it won't be very portable...

Simple Butternut Squash Tart - 101 Cookbooks

Simple Butternut Squash Tart - 101 Cookbooks

Not much in the way of commentary here, except this sounds extremely tasty. And if you think about it, this is really just a basic idea, which could be tweaked quite a bit, depending on your needs, and what you might have on hand.

You can make this in a pan or free form, one big one, or multiple smaller ones. I had caramelized onions left over from a previous recipe so I used them in the ricotta - don't be afraid to experiment with seasonal ingredients. You could even sweeten up the ricotta a bit when summer comes around and do a stone fruit or berry version. I very rarely use puff pastry, but when I do, I look for Dufour, it is made with real butter and is outrageously delicious. Other brands are made with shortening/partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Fictionalized Artist Statement

Fictionalized Artist Statement

This artist statement is a work of fiction, any resemblance between characters, situations, or authors is purely coincidental. No artists were harmed in the recording of this statement.

My studio is a door.
I, the self that is now writing, enters it and a different I, the I who paints steps out the other side. Sometimes he watches me as I peer out of the mirror, studiously watching him work. Sometimes he paints me watching him. The artifacts of this phenomena I title "self-portraits," frequently appending a subtitle that I think is witty or seems insightful at the time. Sadly it is often this linguistic framing that the viewers most heed. My audience, for his audience is dead and unborn.

Once he was my servant. His brush did my bidding. Indeed, I have phantom memories of the feel of thick colors being caressed into blending, like a dream about a nearly forgotten lover. He is silent, speaking only with his brush, only when behind the podium of the easel. This, I was prepared for and could handle. The strange speech of value and space, hue and illumination, I was fluent in, as long as I had my normal language of thought available the rest of the time. The daily chatter of words, analyzing reality in terms of thesaurus and dictionary.

Soon however, I was slipping into his strange spatial awareness elsewhere, obsessing, reading, and researching this craft that so defines him. He took that data of the greatest interest to him as his own, and mocked me as a dilettante. I now believe him to be perversely enamored with immortality. There is little I can do to frame his work as marketable, and he will not capitulate concerning his art. He is only interested in that which extends the longevity of the body and soul of his work.

I fight him.
I have tried to placate him with other dialects of visual speech, photography, the glistening newness of digital media. It is no use. They only incite him, make him mope, pout, and rage for the studio all the more.

I am his mask.
He is the will.
He makes his grandiloquent philosophical treatises in pigment. He knows what he is doing. I know, I watch him constantly, as he slaves for hours with canvas and oils. It is my job to tell the world what he is doing. I am horrible at it. We don't really talk, just the small talk of workers passing each other at the changing of the shifts. I try to guide him, as one might guide oneself in a dream, leaving notes and suggestions for him on the work table and mirror, post-its on palette and easel.
It doesn't matter; there is no talking to him. He doesn't care for theory, unless it can be used as a weapon against me, against words.

How can I represent him? I speak the language of words and grammar, lines placed according to oh, so many rules, on the page. He abhors line, like some artist's abhor black, Line to him is one of the most heinous abominations of human thought. He blends and smudges line to soften it's harshness. There is no line in his world, only densely compacted mists flowing into one another. He wants me to believe that there can be a world of humans with out line.
It is a madness he proves to me with every new painting. A madness I can no longer resist.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Scooter notes.

Sorry Scooter-fans, it's a bad time of year for scooter writing. Scooter news has slowed, weather and mechanical issues have been conspiring against my personal scooting.
For various reasons, painting has taken priority over scooter restoration and blogging.
Meanwhile, Steve over at Scooter in the Sticks has been wrestling with mechanical issues, and the lack of a functional scoot also. His meditations on these problems, is definitely worth reading, and happily the struggles have reached a happy concluscion.
If you're looking for harrowing tales from the freeway fray, Combat Commuter, has been posting some good winter scootering adventure tales. Great stuff, if like me you are currently stuck using four wheels.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Current show at Roq la Rue

I should be painting, I know...

instead I am surfing about painting... which requires an even more highly tuned BS detector than surfing about scooters, politics, or even what the Freemasons are really up to...

So any way I happened upon this...

Jean-Pierre Roy's small urban scapes of destruction are stunning. They manage to be haunting, disturbing, and yet somehow lyrically beautiful.
Jean-Pierre Roy paints epic apocalyptic scenes seen from the air, featuring twisted metal, shattered landscapes, and decimated buildings. His style is almost photo realistic, with just enough surrealistic qualities to lend the paintings an almost science fiction feel. He meshes the grandeur and beauty of nature with the destructive nature of man upon the world and himself, attempting to create a pivotal moment in time that allows the viewer to engage with the ideas rather than recoil instinctively from images of destruction and war. However, even in the darkest wreckage are suggestions of enduring life, such as tiny flocks of birds or enigmatic and beckoning little lights.
I don't know about that, but I REALLY like these paintings. They are far more engaging then say a photograph or news footage of the same scene would be. Somehow how the palette, which does seem to nod towards Sci-Fi cover art of the 60's and 70's and could easily be described as otherworldly, somehow this surreal color scheme causes the viewer to grasp the reality of scene in a deeper way than would be possible with straight film.
But that's just me...
Above is Nothing Earthly Now. 12" x 36"

Below is The Road Towards Better Things. 12" x 12"

Interesting collection of Victorian sketches

I just happened upon this collection of sketches by William Henry Charlton, a Victorian gentleman artist. That's a self portrait of him, naturally, to the left.

I find his sketches quite nice, most of those on this site are from circa 1900, and center around a busy British port of the era. In ways I am fascinated by his subject matter as a cultural and historical artifact.

But I have to add that his technique in these is frequently stunning. The pen and inks, in particular, are quite fresh. Clean and bold, what a great steampunk comic could be set in these scenes...
... SINE has digitised a set of images which focus on North Shields, primarily the Fish Quay area, in the early nineteen hundreds. By this time Charlton was in his fifties and a mature artist. The works selected vary enormously in speed and quality of execution and medium used. Charlton experimented with charcoal, graphite, pen and ink and watercolour and often combined the use of different media in one sketch. The fact that Charlton revisited North Shields many times during the span of a decade or more serves as testament to the vibrancy of this busy, working port and the inspiration he drew from it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday Morning Jukebox Sermon

Sorry it has been so long between posts.
I intended to go dark after posting about RAW's demise, but of course, found a few links that I had to post to, before I did.
So, I've been doing some personal organizing, which I'll share some thoughts about soon.
And I've been preparing for Mage's birthday party, which was last night.
I grabbed a few hours of sleep, after hanging out on the porch with Mage all night, in the cold smoker's section of the house. Of course we had some Irish whiskey to help warm us up...

Anyway, it's the morning after the night before the morning after, and I find myself keeping the fire going, armed only with really wet wood we split last week. Every one else is asleep, and Sky used his last few calories, before sleep, stoking up the fire, spewing in a drunken mantra about how he had to make sure the house was warm enough for the girls, who are not here. It was endearing, maybe you had to be there...
So... Anyway... I'm sitting here stoking the woodstove, and listening to MP3s offa John Burgess's ipod. It's set to repeat through his admittedly small, but quality, Country playlist. And he has on it, besides the rare and amazing workingman's blues Oney by Johnny Cash; has the classic Waylon Jennings version of Luckenbach, Texas. But damn, the Dragon must say, as a working class reptile, Oney is rare treasure. But next on John's play list is Waylon....

Which somehow, ironically perhaps... inspires poetry

Ode to Luckenbach at Dawn

A little piece of the zen heart of American country.
If is a genuine tonic to the soul,
dissolving hours of gridlock traffic wrestling
in a few slide guitar bars...

Half-way through the song you have shed
your cares, your worries, and you are
seriously considering how this
successful life we're livin'
got us feudin' like the Hatfields and McCoys...

Maybe it is time
we got back to the basics of love

And we could use that warm and friendly voice
like an appropriate uncle,
of Willie comin' in a just the right moment...

It's just a country song, by a coupla no good,
pot-smoking, pill-popping
Country and Western Stars.
But it offers me redemption,
like no hymn ever did...

Available for a few quarters,
at any local Waffle House....

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Letter to Wesley Clark

Letter to Wesley Clark

thirtyplus has posted a great letter, begging Wesley Clark to run for president in 2008, that captures the opinions of myself, and many other Clarkies.

I have never met you; it is likely that I never will. But having studied your positions, your record of military and political service, and seen many televised speeches and interviews with you, I can say with absolute certainty that you inspire more trust and confidence in me than any political or public figure I have ever seen.
I believe you are one of the great warriors of the modern age; and as a true warrior, your thoughts are not of conquest and power, but of peace, discipline and justice. True warriors understand that deadly force is a horrible power; and although I grew up during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and was exposed every night to the video-game-like images of "precision" and "surgical" bombings, my own training in the martial arts has instilled in me a deep abhorrence of lethal violence, and the understanding that there is rarely, if ever, anything "surgical" or "clean" about its application – nor are there any situations where it is the "only" option.
I believe that you, among all the politicians who have a chance to lead our country into the future, understand this most intimately and fully.
The current war the country is engaged in is ruinous – both to the nation of Iraq, the region of the Middle East, and the United States of America. If our country is to ever return to its envied position of chief among the superpowers, our extrication from this horrific war must be handled with diplomatic skill and acumen. I believe you, of all the potential Presidential candidates, possess the greatest measures of those skills.

Robert Anton Wilson, RIP

Robert Anton Wilson, RIP

It's a sad day for free-thinkers, spiritual slackers, intellectual pranksters, and coffee shop philosophers. Robert Anton Wilson has left us, and moved on to whatever comes after this, if indeed anything does. He was probably my one true hero. A smart mouthed wiseguy constantly reminding us of the joyful absurdity of our beliefs, our preconceptions, our institutions, and our selves. Like a Zen master, he reminded us that any idea, theory or belief, is merely a tool, a net used to catch fish. Once you have your fish, you have no need for the net.

Searching Google News, it seems that the mainstream media have yet to notice his passing. Maybe they are just gunshy, since they'd already gotten it wrong once.

According to reliable sources, I died on February 22, 1994 — George Washington’s birthday. I felt nothing special or shocking at the time, and believed that I still sat at my word processor working on a novel called Bride of Illuminatus. At lunch-time, however, when I checked my voice mail, I found that Tim Leary and a dozen other friends had already called to ask to speak to me, or — if they still believed in Reliable Sources — to offer support and condolences to my grieving family. I quickly gathered that news of my tragic end had appeared on the Internet in the form of an obituary from the Los Angeles Times: “Noted science-fiction author Robert Anton Wilson was found dead in his home yesterday, apparently the victim of a heart attack. Mr. Wilson, 63, was discovered by his wife, Arlen.
“Mr. Wilson was the author of numerous books… He was noted for his libertarian viewpoints, love of technology and off the wall humor. Mr. Wilson is survived by his wife and two children.” -
From Cosmic Trigger III: My Life after Death

The news of his passing is all over the internet, however, as hipster geeks mourn him, and shout his praises.

R.U. Sirius:

Robert Anton Wilson taught us all that “the universe contains a maybe.” So maybe there is an afterlife, and maybe Bob’s consciousness is hovering around all of us who were touched by his words and his presence all these years. And if that’s the case, I’m sure he’d like to see you do something strange and irreverent — and yet beautiful –- in his honor.

Reason Magazine Online:

He was my gateway to Welles and Chandler, to Leary and Fuller, to Pound and Reich, to conspiracy theory and libertarianism, and to all the ideas and experiences, intellectual, aesthetic, and actual, that rolled from those varied and fascinating entryways into art, ideas, and living. I hope I can do good by the principles he helped imbue in me. He excelled as both novelist and essayist; he was a noble steward of the ideas he espoused, a brilliant and passionate popularizer, and the characters and scenarios and approaches to fiction of his novels reward constant reading with constant pleasure and insight--he was a pop-Pynchon of sorts in his sprawling, comic-serious approach to Big Crazy Ideas, who got a thousandth of the respect and delivered a thousand times the joy and humanity.
I, and many others, will continue to read his work with both intellectual and aesthetic pleasure from now and on into the limitless human future he helped so many of us to see. If anyone deserved to reach techno-immortality, it was him. That's what's making me saddest right now. The best of him remains, and will always.
That all said, two words should suffice. as Pound said of Eliot on his passing (and I know this because I read Robert Anton Wilson): Read him.

From Bob's last blog post, Saturday, January 6, 2007, Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night:

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.
Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.

Bob, thanks for the laughs, the ideas, the love. You are already missed. It has been said that it is an ill wind that blows no minds. Well, Bob, you old windbag, by that standard, you were a mighty yet fair breeze. You were a zephyr which launched many of our ships, as well as lifting innumerable kites. FNORD.

RAW Quotes
RAW Site

The RAW Site is playing "Danny Boy." Fitting.

Logisitical Announcement

Anybody in the Olympia area interested in starting a Dharma Punx Meditation/Discussion Group?
I think I can hook up a centralized meeting location, and would be willing to take on some-but-not-all of the focalizer responsibilities if I was sure there was some interest out there.
Any interested parties can contact me at honkytonkdragon at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Steam Trek

Steam Trek

Yes, somebody has mashed up Steampunk with Star Trek, and created a sort of play-by-e-mail online role playing game.
Trying to stay on top of time management prevents me from jumping into an online game right now, but somebody out there is dying to know about this, I'm sure.
If you try it, let me know what you think.

Mac Tablet

With Mac World and CES going on this week, the internet is all abuzz with ginormous TVs and the iphone. Run of the mill techno-gadgets are not really my niche, so I'm not gonna comment on most of these, but this is one sweet little number that might have slipped under your radar.

Other World Computing, long a great source for upgrades for Macs, has partnered with Axiotron to produce these modded Mac Books, which are lovingly transformed into a Mac slate-formated tablet. OS X already has the best handwriting recognition software built in, and these puppies are upgraded with a Wacom digitizer, so this really has the potential to be a portable digital sketching solution. Of course the promotional materials are touting these as being highly useful for business applications, which is a little out of my field of expertise. But for digital artists, who frequently prefer Macs to PCs, this could be a god-send.

The digitizer has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, half of what you would get with a graphire pad, and a quarter of the sensitivity of an Intuos or Cintiq. But you are getting a really good active area, and eliminating a layer of seperation between you and your image. For many digital graphics applications this thing would be perfect.

This kind of after market mod of course, negates any Apple warranty, so OWC is including their own 1 year warranty, which can be upgraded to 3 years.

So uh, anybody over at OWC or Axiotron need a oil portrait of the wife and kids? I'll trade two for the top-end model... Seriously.... Anyone?

And so begins the draft... get General Clark to run.

Still no official word from Wes Clark on whether or not he will seek the country's highest office, but the Clarkies have begun the draft movement in earnest. Karen Hittinger has started a fund raising page for Clark on ActBlue, "the online clearinghouse for Democratic action."

Your humble Dragon, is especially humble in the financial realm currently, so for what it's worth, I've started my own fund-raising page for Clark, which you can find here. (As a caveat, should Clark not run, funds will go to the DNC.)

PacNW Biodiesel Passenger Shuttle

PacNW Biodiesel Passenger Shuttle

Not much more to say than the title. SharedRoute has started a biodiesel fueled passenger shuttle that runs from Portland to Oly to Seattle and back on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Portland to Seattle costs $30, and the shuttles have spaces for four bikes. I have a feeling Olympia riders, being the middle might find the bike slots filled when they get on, though you can make reservations, maybe you can make reservations for your bike? Probably not, since the bikes ride for free. Anyway this is a great idea, click the title link to find out more about schedules and fares.

"You don't learn Italian, you live Italian."

"You don't learn Italian, you live Italian."

Milhouse takes Lisa for a spin on his Vespa. (Now I'm really confused in my quest to locate Springfield... what state allows 8-10 year olds to operate a scooter? Even a 49cc?)
Geek boys take note, this little jaunt earns Milhouse a kiss from Lisa. Vespas, helping geeks talk to girls since 1947...

Thanks to the Philadelphia Scooters blog.

A short guide to scooter touring

A short guide to scooter touring

Harvey Binder over at Midwest Scooter Enthusiast has a great post up on the basics of touring by Scooter. Yes, it can be done, and even done enjoyably. Heck, a day out on quiet country roads on a 150cc scooter just might turn into the most fun you've ever had with internal combustion engines...

So you've got yourself a decent scooter. Its been a reliable and fun way to get around. You've always wondered what it would be like to ride somewhere a little further away from home. Somewhere which would take a little planning in order to get there. You've got the touring bug.
No matter what cubic displacement your machine is, it can be done. You can have all the fun you're looking for with the machine you've already got. Its a matter of accepting the conditions of the situation. You have to begin somewhere and there's no better way than to just get out there and ride what you already have.

The Mother of All DIY Links

The Mother of All DIY Links

Seriously, a HUGE page of links to DIY articles from Mother Earth News, that publishing institution that introduced your humble Dragon to such wonderful things as wind power, passive solar hot water heating, and composting. These links go to articles from January 1970 to the present. This my friends, is elementary, secondary, undergrad, and graduate learning in DIY, all on one extremely long HTML document.

Here's just a sample from back when the Dragon was chiselin' outta the shell with a chitinous egg-tooth:

Oil Story - November, 1971
Here's what Organic Merchants have to say about the process of refining oil, and what consumers should know about vegetable oil, and its nutrients.
Vinegar Is Vinegar - November, 1971
According to Beatrice Trum Hunter, there are many varieties of this easily-made, tangy, fermented liquid-and within rather wide limits-homemade vinegar can be just what you want it to be.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - November, 1971
Michael Blake on the Indian history of the American West. Dee Brown's book is the first detailed chronicle of the destruction of a people, its saga is so complete in its grisliness, its horrors of inhumanity, and its sweeping injustice.
The Countryside Print Shop - November, 1971
One notable sister journal of Mother is a friendly little magazine called COUNTRYSIDE published by Jerry Belanger up in Marshall, Wisconsin. Started in 1969 for the same reason of helping spread information on life styles that are more in harmony with the better interests of the planet on which we live.
The Braided Rug Go-Round - November, 1971
The most important ingredient of a braided rug- outside of your labor and love - is the recycled fabric from which it's made of.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Geeks in Space

Geeks in Space

Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Mobile, and the upcoming Virgin Galactic (offering zero-g space flight to the unwashed masses, at least the unwashed who can drop $200k on a two hour orbital jaunt) is looking to launch Stephen Hawking into the stratosphere. Obviously, a huge puplicity stunt disguised as an indulgence of the fancy of one the world's greatest minds, but amazingly cool none-the-less. Good luck to both of you, the Dragon hopes it works out. In a related matter, the Dragon will happily accept a +1 press pass on Virgin Galactic, in exchange for which he will write an extremely thorough and glowing review of the service... eh? Eh?

Hawking, 65, has said he hopes to travel on British businessman Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic service, which is scheduled to launch in 2009. The service will charge space tourists about $200,000for a two-hour suborbital trip some 87 miles above the Earth.
Branson was keen to help the scientist realize his dream of space flight, Virgin Galactic spokesman Stephen Attenborough said Monday.
"Richard is very determined that if we can possibly make this happen, then it should," Attenborough said.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Beaver Trilogy

Jes and I were listening to an old podcast of This American Life this evening, themed on reruns, and they talked about the Beaver Trilogy. I'd seen a link to this on Digg awhile back, but didn't have the full story, and didn't make it past the first segment on YouTube. But the story on This American Life was so compelling, that I had to find the whole thing again.

The Beaver Trilogy, for those of you who don't know, consists of three films, the first a combination of serendipitous filming and documentary of Groovin' Gary in 1979. The second two films are docudramas inspired by the first, but filmed years later by the same director, Trent Harris. The second stars a very young Sean Penn in 1981. The third stars an also very young Crispin Glover and was filmed in 1985.

The whole thing kinda reminds me of Napolean Dynamite, but much more existential.The fact that the director kept coming back to this same subject, that this experience was one he felt continuously drawn to, is really fascinating. There are elements of creativity as therapy, as well as Nietzche's concept of the Eternal Return. Actually, I find Napolean Dynamite a better source of one liner allusions than a film. But this work as a whole... this is a gem. If you have the patience to watch all these parts (which are linked in the correct order below) you should check out the podcast of This American Life, it's the one from 12/11/2006, # 226, and it's available for free in the podcast section of the itunes store.

But you know, the Dragon's got a soft spot in his scaly ol' heart, for quirky, good natured small town folks, who just really don't fit. Groovin' Gary, my glass is raised to you.

Beaver Trilogy (Beaver Kid) - pt 1
Beaver Trilogy (Beaver Kid) - pt 2
Beaver Trilogy (Beaver Kid) - pt 3
Beaver Trilogy (Beaver Kid) - pt 4
Beaver Trilogy (Beaver Kid 2) - pt 1
Beaver Trilogy (Beaver Kid 2) - pt 2
Beaver Trilogy (Beaver Kid 2) - pt 3
Beaver Trilogy (The Orkly Kid) - pt 1
Beaver Trilogy (The Orkly Kid) - pt 2
Beaver Trilogy (The Orkly Kid) - pt 3
Beaver Trilogy (The Orkly Kid) - pt 4

"Man, this town's enough to drive a guy nuts!"

Friday, January 05, 2007

DIY envelopes

DIY Envelopes

Here's another great link from LifeHacker, a simple how-to on making your own envelopes. This has so many applications both practical and artistic.

The Usable Home

The Usable Home

I just ran across a link to this old LifeHacker post with some good hints on making your living space more "workable." Will definitely be thinking about these as we try to fit a small painting studio and small woodworking shop into our little love-nest.

Make task-based centers
As per this
previous post on Lifehacker, place all the items you need to complete a task in an area sectioned off for that activity - like a computer repair center, a bill-paying center, a gift-wrapping center. Having all the tools at hand in a certain space helps you get the job done without having to work any harder.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

DIY Scooter Lap Apron

DIY Scooter Lap Apron

Don't know how I missed this before, but around this time last year Crystal over at Girlbike, had a post on making your own lap apron, and some other DIY customizations.

David sent me a photo of his winter scooter setup, which includes handlebar mitts, home-made lap apron, and scooter trailer. The handlebar mitts are Arctic Cat brand altered to fit his Honda Metropolitan: David made a hole for the Met mirrors with a pencil soldering iron in the ripstop nylon. Take off your mirrors, slip on the mitts, screw the mirrors back on through the hole and your hands will stay warm while riding.

Aha! So that's how you do it. I got a pair of those atv handlebar mitts last year, but couldn't figure out how to get them to work with the Venice's mirrors. That makes a lot of sense, I guess I 'll be trying it soon. Click the title link for the lap apron tips.

Visual Thinker Studio Setups

Jes and I have been doing some cleaning and organization around the house lately. I'm painting a lot more so, we're trying to create good functional space for that. We are also trying to plan ahead for some space for her to do some small-scale wood work, since she has a slick dremel-style tool and engraving gun on their way. Mind you, our space is peculiar to say the least, so I think eventually we will be implementing some real indiviualistic solutions to workspace issues.

Anyway all this had me cruising the internet, looking for examples of how other folks have setup their studios.

This is a subject that has always fascinated me. I love visiting other painters', photographers' work spaces. Recently, when visiting Jes's parents, I had the pleasure of walking through her father's shop a few times. David builds racecar engines, and performs other feats of engineering and machining wizardry that are far beyond my meager mechanical skills to comprehend. But I could appreciate the functionality of his workspace. I could see how a mechanical mind could easily move a project from visualization to completion, by flowing it through the various workstations he has set up for the different processes in the workflow.

So while David's engine shop (which is such a misleading term, his shop is so clean and organized, it is more akin to a library than a stereotypical garage) was engaging to me, if somewhat foreign, stepping into another artist's studio is like stepping inside their head.

There are no classes in art school on how to set up a workspace. Some instructors might throw a few hints your way, but these are usually on very specific issues, such as where to place an easel or a mirror, or how to organize colors on your palette. In general, studio setup is a very idiosyncratic and individualized endeavor. Which is why I find it so intriguing.

I also think it is interesting that so many people in the blogosphere spend so much time thinking and talking about Getting-To-Done strategies, and the right way to keep notes (be it hipster-PDA, moleskin, or smartphone), but I don't see alot about creating and organizing workspaces. Maybe I'm just looking hard enough, I kinda get sick of all the office supply websites that come up in those searches.

On-My-Desk is a really cool blog, if like me, you are interested in how people organize their workspace. Each post on the blog is by a different artist, describing their studio setup. And of course there are lots of pictures. One thing that surprised me, though perhaps it shouldn't have, was the ubiquity of computer workstations next to the easels. This just kind of cements my attitude that media is really being transcended. The lines between painting, photography, and digital imaging are pretty much gone, if you want to be a purist about it. Photography, rather than killing painting, as was long predicted and assumed, has rather been assimilated by it, via digital techniques.

But that is of course, another rant...

Ummm....Flatfiles.... Yummy!

DIY Publishing

DIY Publishing

Microcosm Publishing has a new mini-guide out: Let's DIY: Tips and Tricks on Organizing Zine Workshops Microcosm Publishing
AT $1 somebody out there needs this.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Steampunk PDA

Steampunk PDA

Brass Goggles just hipped me to this great site for anachronistic gear, Jas Townsend & Son. This pocket notebook is made of brass and ivory, and is... well I'll just let the Townends tell ya:

It's the 18th century version of the PDA. Beautifully crafted here in the US. Based on an original that Jefferson owned. These are made of sturdy brass stock with 4 old ivory pages and a pencil. Use this for making notes in the field and just erase with a wet finger when you are done. Folds up into a nice small package 1-1/8 inches by 4-1/2 inches by 3/16 inch thick. No batteries needed.

I'm curious about the stylus for this, is it a piece of graphite sheathed in brass? It looks like from the photos, the stylus slide through the curls of brass and locks the unit. Also, I'm hoping that by old ivory, they mean the ivory is recycled. Of course this doesn't seem like an intricate design, and Jes has a stash of old ivory keys from some old pianos which seem like they'd be just about the right size...

Liberal is not a Dirty Word.

And neither is conservative.

Of course it would be nice if we could use these words according to their true meanings, not the strange Orwellian Media-speak meanings that have come to be associated with them. Here's a nice little vid of Bill Maher and Wes Clark tilting at that pop-linguistic windmill.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bubba Sparxxx vs. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Bubba Sparxxx Versus Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

I just realized I've never posted a video of, or even mentioned, one of my favorite contemporary musical artists. I really can not emphasize enough, how much the Dragon loves me some Bubba. As the sagacious Mr. Eamon has commented, Bubba exemplifies how much of America has just moved past racism.
Bubba also represents what I grudgingly miss about the South: good music, good people, good food, and good times.
I was gonna blather about how the Cohen brothers seem to most succeed when they are focused on capturing the spirit of a region, and on how the South is such a mythic region, that they were forced to use a mythic plot. But I won't.
I imagine this video has been out forever. I've had the song for acoupla years. But living without cable, I haven't seen BET in years. Which is really a shame, 'cause it's good late night painting session TV. Standup comedy, and music videos. Really, what else do you want at 3:30 am on a Sunday?

Monday, January 01, 2007

DIY Wacom Cintiq

This is so SWEET! Bongofish has hacked an older Wacom Intuos 12" X 12" Pen Tablet and a 15" LCD screen, and constructed his own version of a Wacom Cintiq, a pressure sensitive pen tablet display.
These things are the holy grail for digital artists and graphic designers, Scott McLoud even sings their praises in Making Comics. Seriously, a Cintiq, a decent computer, and a copy of Manga Studio Pro, and you are really ready to rock the Comics world. Unforunately, they are priced accordingly, at $2500 they can feasibly cost more than the computer they're attached to. And for some reason Wacom seems to have a monoply on the things, though they've increased the size and features since the Cintiq was first released over 4 years ago, the price for a new one has remained the same. Not surprisingly, used ones suffer very little from depreciation, the oldest, smallest, most decrepit whilst still being functional one you might scare up on ebay is still gonna run you at least a grand.
Why Apple and Wacom don't get together and create an OS X tablet for artists, I'll never know. As things stand right now, you can get a really respectable tablet PC and some cool art software for what a new Cintiq will cost you. Granted your active surface will be smaller, and your levels of sensitivity will most likely be halved, but really... The crazy thing about this is that Wacom makes the digitizers for most tablet PCs.
Yes, this is a subject on which I've expended many hours of thought... I guess Bongo fish has as well. He has a 19 page chronicle of his adventure (which he insists is NOT a tutorial) and has a public forum available, for those who'd like to follow his ingenious example.

Now, let's see, if I built a nice wood case, I could come with a steampunk digital pochade box, using a Mac mini to power the thing... Hmmm...

Fare thee well, Al Held

I just discovered that Al Held, my favorite abstract artist, died a little over a year ago.

Unfortunately he didn't have a great web presence, and there are few quality pictures of his later works, which I find most engaging. The two paintings accompanying this post are from that era, and though I couldn't find much information on them, I'm guessing from the era, that these works are at least 8 to 10 feet tall and up to 30 feet wide.

I'm not an art critic. I'm just a paint monkey who likes to talk shop. The critics say Held is a minor note in American Art. He was a success, but not a stellar one, not a household name, by any means. Held fans think his black and white work from the sixties and seveties is his most important. I disagree. I love the rebelliousness of crafting abstract work that still plays with spatial awareness and volume. I love the shere overwhelming joy and beauty I percieve in these works. Thanks, Al.

Al Held was also interesting as a study in the transformation and persistence of artistic vision. He went through several phases in his artistic development, though there are transitional notes to be seen in the works at the beginning and end of these phases. This site shows some examples of his work from 1958 to 1991, though not in chronological order, but I think it will give you some sense of his evolution. His approaches and techniques changed, generally evolving organically, but looking over the entire arc of his career, it seems to me that there are themes of light and dark, and of the approach and retreat of objects in space, which he was constantly struggling with. One theme he was drawn to over and over, constantly trying to find new and better ways to illuminate it.

A streetwise New Yorker and Navy veteran, Mr. Held embodied a number of contradictions in his art and life. He was a high school dropout who became a professor at Yale University. He was well schooled in the classical tradition of Western art yet worked in an abstract style that suggested the time-warp universe of space flight. Without using computers, he brought a mathematical precision to the exuberant, loosely disciplined abstract expressionist style.

A 2003 review from the New York Sun said:

Mr. Held's paintings are as confounding stylistically as they are geometrically. They pit dumbness against sophistication, dipping into techno-culture yet coming back with synthetic treasure. Neat in execution but messy in the beholding, these hyperactive yet affectless works recall the phrase of Mr. Held's one-time studio neighbor Alex Katz: "Something hot done in a cool way." Only in his case the word "cool" must be replaced by "cold."
It is telling how, with Mr. Held, this phrase operates as a kind of conceptual palindrome: Inverted- "something cold done in a hot way" - it means pretty much the same thing, so wedded in his painting are form and content, means and motif. Mr. Held enslaves himself and viewer alike to a relentless precision and manic cheeriness.

I've also heard Held described as a "cool square."

Al Held, painter, born October 12 1928; died July 27 2005