Thursday, October 01, 2015

Space Schizophrenia

Does anyone ever think about how aliens are portrayed?

There is The Day the Earth Stood Still where a powerful alien armed with a handful of diamonds (not found on this planet) is shot at and wounded as he was about to offer a present from the galactic worlds from whence the alien came. The whole point of the movie/story is that now that Earth has split the atom and is about to venture into space they must make a choice to abide by the galactic rules or have Gort, the silent, massive and somewhat enigmatic robot cop blast them into atoms or at the very least chain humans to the planet Earth so that they may not venture forth and spread their violence and chaos into the galaxy at large.

Contrast that theme with the many others that followed where Martians attacked the Earth to subjugate its peoples only to fall prey to the common cold, spreading chaos, fear, and devastation in their wake beneath the beams of their tripod war machines. Then there are the myriad species that have conquered the Earth and subjugated its peoples from L. Ron Hubbard's overlords to Independence Day when the alien invaders once again succumb to a virus, but this time a computer virus uploaded to their central computer which is much like a hive mind, or at least interconnected and thus vulnerable.

It bothers me that on the one hand humans are seen as violent and without equal in their ability to spread chaos and devastation throughout a peacefully settled galaxy that must be contained, or at the very least taught to control their very human and equally violent impulses, while on the other hand we are constantly at the mercy of warlike monsters that want to bomb our planet with radioactive meteorites (Star Blazers) or take over and enslave the people for some 4th dimension farmers we cannot see who have been busily remodeling our DNA in favor of planetary water that favors estrogen and females to the more warlike males so that we may be more easily herded like cattle (Invasion: Earth).

Oh, there are still Vulcans making first contact to bring us into Starfleet and the world of warp travel and spaceships that double as condos for adventuring scientists and adventurers like the Star Trek galaxy of TV shows. There still remains, however, that oh, so schizophrenic mind set that we are either beings living on a backwater planet that must be subjugated or a dangerous violent stew brewing chaos for a peaceful galaxy. Which is it?

I think it all comes down to one thing: what sells the most because after all the end product is to be consumed by the viewer. Our movies and stories are as divided as our fictional fare and our politics and all must be placated, or at least mollified by a product that will suit -- and sell. The same type of program will not suit the far left still believing that communism will work (evidently only having read the perfect society set forth by Karl Marx) and continuing to pooh-pooh George Orwell's Animal Farm on the realities -- and misappropriation of applied communism.  There are the far right who, much like the ostrich, prefer to hide their heads in the sand until the world is forced to capitulate and come back to its stone age senses when lifetimes were shorter and every day a struggle to survive. There are the ecologists who forget that ancient humans help to extinguish many species of animals in fashioning cloaks of bird feathers of only one specific kind of bird or engaged in driving entire herds of buffalo off steep cliffs, not to satisfy their hunger and store up food for the winter, but so that the buffalo would not communicate with other herds of buffalo that the two-legged animals brandishing the sticks with sharp points were dangerous and should be run over in a stampede for safety -- for the buffalo.

Maybe the dichotomy between what we hope for -- a peaceful galaxy where all life lives together in harmony and plenty -- and the reality that the galaxy is a dangerous place with beings far more violent and intent on inflicting torture on species beginning their first forays into the vastness of space is the way it was meant to be. We are creatures beset by fears of what is and what may be and yet still believe in magic and the innocence of youth. Oh, there are those who will defile the innocent and the youth in the name of purity and religion and expediency, but show me another race of beings that have not done the same.

We remain fearful and expect violence while nurturing the tiny guttering spark of hope just as Pandora did when the gods gave her that box from which she loosed all the ills -- and the hopes -- of mankind. How can we expect less thousands of years later in our furnished and overflowing homes while still wedded to the fear? After all, there are still thinking plants mutated by a meteor storm into huge walking (or root dragging) monsters that see humans as food, especially the ones blinded by the meteor shower that jump started their DNA and evolution and spores and ancient astronauts thawed from Arctic ice that thrive on human blood and dragons and orcs and the all pervasive bacteria that some mad scientist cooked up in a lab and imparted grandiose dreams of taking over to guard against and battle. And then there are zombies. There are always zombies.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Face Study

It seems I cannot put my hands correctly on the keyboard sometimes and get the most awful gobbledygook of letters and garbage spilling from the ends of my fingers onto the screen. It's not like I cannot feel the bumps on J and F, but I don't take the time to focus on the tips of my index fingers so I can settle my fingers correctly. Always in a rush -- or seemingly so. SO much to do. So little time to do it in. And it's a work night and I still haven't slept yet, unless you count the occasional doze while I watch random videos and think about the art work staring at me from my desk. And so it goe.

I can hear the thunder outside and the dead needles on the pine trees across the way are brown and drooping as the rain begins pattering on the tin chimneys that poke up like burnt out candles on the roof of the house. I have no idea why so many chimneys were needed, but maybe the restaurant that this structure once held needed all those exhaust holes because they had so many cooking areas or were venting the steam and heat from the thousands of patrons polluting the air with their talk and eating and complaints. One never knows when one lives in a converted building.

I have been working out with the colored pencils and refining my techniques, although it will take a whole lot more time and oceans of practice before my skills equal what is inside my head. I'm getting there, but slowly. Think ant crawling on giant mountain starting halfway (okay, only a quarter of the way) up the slope. At least that is how it seems to me.

In order to get better with drawing and coloring the different features of people, I thought it best to work on the ones that give me the most trouble. Noses, mouths, and noses.

I have found while reading extensively in colored pencil studies and watching videos on drawing that many artists begin with the eyes. Why not, I think? After all, the eyes are the first thing we focus on and good eye contact is what all psychiatrists focus on when interviewing patients acting disturbed in some way. People who cannot or will not maintain good eye contact are those with problems that need, and should be, addressed. Many artists begin their paintings with the eyes, whether it be people or animals. The eyes are the windows to the soul and provide a good focal point to expand upon. I've always thought that way even when drawing. The only time I didn't focus on the eyes was while doing quick study sketches in 1- and 5-minute increments. I was quite good at roughing in the figure and attitude and still managed to imbue the lines with personality. Of course that was 40 years ago, more than 20 of which I didn't draw at all. I could also draw one of my hands (usually not the one holding the pencil, pen, etc.) without moving the pencil from the paper or looking at what I was drawing. Feeling my way through the curves, angles, and details of the hand with the tip of the pencil on the paper. It was a frequent exercise in Mr. Wood's art class when I was in the 9th grade.

Don't know if I can still do it because I haven't practiced lately. I haven't practiced much of anything come to that, except for noses, two of which are drawn above. It took me a while to get the proportions and colors right, and they're still not what I would consider finished by any means. They're a beginning.

Okay, not a lot of noses, but every nose counts -- even though I picked them.

I found an old (very old) photograph my of great aunt Ann in my desk drawer and decided to give it a shot. It's a sepia toned photograph with color added later (not by me) and it seemed a good subject at the time. The jaw is too square and I haven't quite gotten the proportions just right (might as well add chins to the list of anatomy to work on), but it's a beginning.

The colors are still faint, only 4 or 5 layers at this point, but I'm getting there. I even worked on it a little more after I took this photograph. As I said before, a slow process, but a beginning.

Much of the portrait is a suggestion of color and line. The chin is too far from the lips and the lips aren't quite right. The hair is a studied mass of curls upon curls and her hair is much darker. Yes, she's wearing a sable coat with what looks like copper buttons covered in verdigris. (That would be oxidation.)  My rendering makes her look so much younger, but that is because I've not worked on for more than 4 or 5 hours.

I can see my mother in her features and in her eyes, which are hazel. The hair line, the eyebrows, and the line of the face and ears are just like my mother's, but they would since the lady in the picture is Mom's aunt, one of her father's sisters. I can see the Eastern European peasant stock in the features and the line of the jaw, as well as the thick dark hair that is so much like Mom's. Even the lips remind me of Mom's.

I have found that as I draw it's as if I can feel the lines of the face, the heaviness of the jaw, the texture of the skin. When I sketched Connor the first time, I felt the lines of my ex-husband's face and the set of his features. So much for my ex-mother-in-law'ss claims that his grandfather (my ex-husband) was probably not my son David Scott's father. Betty, my ex-mother-in-law went around telling her friends and random strangers that I was pregnant with only god knew who's child because I slept around (okay, she said whored around). Too bad David Scott was born looking just like pictures of his father when he was born and growing up. Imagine that.

And he took my virginity, something only I could know for sure and he could be fairly certain of. I had no doubt and neither did my ex-husband Dave. Only his mother lived in the land of Denial about my son's paternity and her son's culpability in the implantation of his seed in my just deflowered passages.

Anyway, I do feel the curves and lines and angles of the faces I draw, especially when I know the subjects so well. I knew my Great Aunt Ann fairly well, and she lived with us during the latter months and years of her life when Alzheimer's had her in its unrelenting, debilitating grip. She was a woman of means and creative talents (from what we could tell from her stash of artistic endeavors in stitchery) and style. She had a lot of style, and could indulge her stylish clothes and hats -- and vintage costume jewelry good enough to stand in for copies of a king's ransom of jewels and settings. She also had some pearls, but I don't know what happened to them. They likely ended up in one of the numerous plastic bags of jewelry my mother bought and carried with her everywhere.

The thing about pearls is that they lose their luster and their resilience if they are not worn next to the skin. Oh, well.

So, above are my latest forays back into the world of art and creating art. I still have a long way to go to base camp, but I am making my way forward and upward.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blood Moon and . . .

It is Sunday, September 27th, and tonight will be the best evening viewing this year. The moon is at its closest to Earth and there will be a Blood Moon, the last in a series of full lunar eclipses in a short period of time. So, really big moon eclipsed by the Earth so that it looks bloody. Contrary to Hollywood thought, the Blood Moon is nothing more exciting than a lunar eclipse like so many that have gone before.

This is not, however, any given Sunday or just the day when the moon goes into a full eclipse. It's the day I found out my granddaughters' grandmother and adoptive mother (by law) died last night. Karla was a good person and a good woman. She and her husband David stepped up to the plate and took care of my granddaughters, Alanna and Sierra, when their parents (that would be my son, David Scott, and his wife, Julie) did not because they were either drunk or high, or both in my son's case. For that, I will always remember and thank Karla and I will do my best to forgive the choices she made that led to the death of my grandson, Connor. I'm not good at holding grudges, but that little bit of information does tend to stick in my craw a bit.

Karla has done her best to take care of my granddaughters even while instilling in Alanna and Sierra an unhealthy love affair with the Disney princesses. Not the Disney princess love that I have always had for Snow White, Sleeping Beauty (Aurora), and Cinderella from my youth, but an unhealthy Disney World fueled consumer-driven PR campaign for the more modern day versions. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Once Upon a Time and the various citizens of Storybrooke, but the kind of rabid fascination that goes with dressing Alanna and Sierra in look-alike miniature versions of the Disney princesses is a bit over the top as far as I am concerned. That borders on the insane.

I will forgive Karla for her obsession with all things Disney, an obsession that would have delighted and possibly repelled Walt Disney if he were still alive and not a Walt-sicle in some warehouse where they store people-sicles for reanimation in the distant future, a future where Disney rules the Earth and all human colonized worlds.

Earlier this week I emailed Karla because it was my turn to fit Alanna and Sierra for Halloween this year. I was browsing through ghost, ghouls, demons, and evil witches to find the right costume since it's my turn at Halloween bat this year. Karla had last year to tart the girls up as Disney princesses -- again. I was looking forward to indulging my Halloween urges early. It was to that end I emailed Karla to remind her of our deal. I didn't expect what I got back. Her badly misspelled answer was that she was just getting out of the hospital and she had bone cancer. Bone cancer. Karla had breast cancer last year so the spread of the cancer to her bones so quickly was not good news. It wouldn't be good news if she had been an enemy instead of the parent of my granddaughters. I was stunned.

Since I had good luck this morning when I woke up and called Megan, mother of two more of my granddaughters, and got through, I decided to give Karla a call and see how she was doing. I took it in stride when her husband, Dave, answered the phone and then was gob-smacked when he told me Karla was dead. I was full of plans for Halloween and hit a brick wall at Mach 5 when he told me Karla died last night. My first thought while I struggled not to cry out loud was for the girls. They are young yet to understand their grandmother/adopted mother was dead, but a constant presence in their lives from birth is now gone. Dave told me he had lots of family and the girls would be cared for. I had no doubt.

The thing is, while I'm chagrined at my timing and the frivolous joy at picking out Halloween costumes for my granddaughters is a bit watered down now, I will actually miss Karla. She was no good at sending emails or keeping up with technology to email me pictures of Alanna and Sierra as they grow up, but she faithfully sent me pictures of both girls every time new pictures were taken. I have pictures of both girls in dance costumes and T-ball costumes and pictures of Easter outfits and school photos now that they are in school. There were no long letters -- or any letters -- but there were always pictures. If some of the pictures also contained evidence of her Disney princess obsession, I let it slide because my granddaughters looked adorable in their Disney finery.

I know that Dave will be better at sending pictures, 8 x 10 size pictures and not just wallet size along with the occasional 5 x 7, but I will still miss Karla's inexperience with all things computer and thank the happenstance that made her my counterpart (and a stalwart counterpart at that) in my granddaughters' lives. I will miss Karla.

Rest in peace, Karla, and thank you for loving and taking care of my granddaughters.

Karla is the one in the center. To the left is the girls' cousin and I don't know his name. Sticking out her tongue on the right is Sierra sitting beside her mother, Julie. Front and center is Alanna, my other granddaughter. I believe this was Easter this year. Next year the scene will be minus Karla.

That is all. Disperse.