Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Needle Case

This is my needlecase that I made, based on the pattern from Stitch and Bitch. My needles were lying everywhere, and kept getting lost. I wish I had done this earlier, before my cat chewed up some of my needles. It turned out pretty well, considering that it's my first sewing project, other than hemming up pants. The sewing machine I used was literally from the fifties and kept breaking down while I used it. It took me twice as long, because I kept having to fix it. So, I'm happy with how the case turned out, even if the seams don't look that even, and the thread's all knotted up in some places. I guess this will be the last finished project for 2005!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What Looks Like Graffiti Could Really Be an Ad

What Looks Like Graffiti Could Really Be an Ad

I think the idea of graffiti style advertising is really disturbing. It's part of corporate America latching onto anything that's real and trying to ruin it with ads and brands. It's like they are trying to trick us, so someone thinks a real person painted the ads, or made the song, or whatever, and instead it's all part of some ad campaign to get our money and take over our lives. I hate it that the corporations feel like they need to advertise even more, when ads are all over the place in every surface of our lives, and now they need to go further and disguise their ads to infiltrate any non commercial area. The whole trend of trying to push ads into a lifestyle is completely disturbing. They just make some stupid product, and they want us to turn into our lives, where all the music we hear, the clothes we wear and every part of our reality is tainted by brands. All the stuff that's sponsered by a brand name is always worse, whether it's paintings, music, or whatever, because they are just cranking it out to get a profit. I wish that those companies would just stay away from that kind of stuff and not try to disguise themselves to infiltrate into underground movements, it's really sickening.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Rauschenberg Collage Art

I saw this article on Rauschenberg, and it was interesting to see where some of the current art ideas came from. I've seen this type of stuff before, where it's a collage with random things added in and the overall painting is like modern art. I don't normally like this type of art, because it seems too random and besides the impact of the colors and textures, I don't see what else there is to it. Here is an example of one that I liked, because it seemed more interesting than some of the other ones. I like the presentation of it too. The rest of the pictures I saw seemed too random, and unfinished. I like artwork that in more in between a detailed realistic painting of a pastoral scene and completely postmodern work, where there is a giant red square or random colors.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Progress on Mariah

I've been working on the Mariah sweater from Knitty, and have it almost halfway done. I have another sleeve to do, then I can attach all the parts, and I think the rest of it is knit at the same time. I like the cabled sleeves a lot, and this is the most complicated sweater I've knit so far. The pattern isn't really all that difficult, though. The only part I don't like is the stockinette stitch. It's too tedious, but it does go a lot quicker, so that's good. I also like this yarn a lot better than other stuff I've used. It's Patons merino wool and the color is peacock. It's has more green in it than the picture shows. All I need to do now is decide what I want to do for the collar, since I don't want a hood.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Watercolor Scenes

These are two paintings I've recently finished. The desert one was done with layering bits of aluminum foil in gesso, then painting over it. I wanted to do more with collages and painting, since that seems more interesting to me. You can create textures and atmosphere that's different from a normal painting.
The farmer is a painting I started a while ago, then didn't finish. The basic proportions of the guy aren't exactly right, because the orginal drawing doesn't look right. I need to practice drawing people from life more, but that is difficult to do, unless you can take a figure drawing class. Also, I need to find a better system of colors for skin tones, so they look more normal. But I've noticed that if you have a really stong orginal drawing of the person, you can use almost any color and it looks believable. So I guess drawing skills are as important to a painting than which specific colors you use. Whenever I finish a painting, I feel that there is some composition or idea that I just barely started in the painting, and I need to push it further to get there. I never feel that a painting is completely finished and is the limit of what I want to express. I guess that lets me have a goal that I'm trying to reach. I think the main thing I need to do is improve my drawing skills, and that is the least interesting thing to me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

See My Vest

I just finished this vest, based on the Knitty pattern. I used Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride, which was okay. I still don't like that yarn much, but I seem to have a lot of it for some reason. It's too hairy or something and it's itchy. I also think it's too thick to work with the patterns I want to make. I think DK weight yarn might be more flattering. Also, the vest could fit a little closer, but other than that it turned out how I wanted it too. It was a lot easier to make than a sweater. I think the sleeves are what cause me so many problems, in how my sweaters fit. If they aren't just right, then they make the sweaters hang wrong. But this pattern was straightforward and it was quick to knit.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Art Musings

I thought of something concerning my artwork. I’ve been looking at the artist’s magazines and stuff that seems to be geared towards middle-aged people who want to paint landscapes and traditional art. I couldn't find stuff people my own age were doing, but now I think they just aren’t doing that traditional stuff and are designing stuff with recycled materials, or are doing nontraditional things. It's hard to find people doing stuff like that when you aren't going to art school or something. I just can’t find the people who aren’t doing mainstream stuff, because it wouldn’t be easily found. I don’t want to do that type of thing either, like landscapes, American flags, floral still lifes, or studies of houses. I want to do things that are more about me, with my own symbolism, or about social ideas, and the world. Painting a pretty picture of a house with a swing in the front isn’t interesting to me. It is much harder to get to things that actually matter to me, or to push the limits in a way I’ve never done before, or seen before. A lot of the stuff that I do still seems like I’ve done it before, and I can’t seem to think of a way out. It’s frustrating because it makes me not want to do anything, so it doesn’t seem like I’m improving. I expect my work to be up to a more professional level, and it always seems to stay on the amateur status. I was thinking I might change media again. I still want to do acrylic collages, and push that a little more, but I might try oil painting again.

I am just frustrated by how I can’t get the right colors in watercolor. It might have to do with the student grade paint I’m using, but it just doesn’t seem rich enough and I can’t get the shadows and tones right. Oil paint might be good for a painting I can work on for a while and get more details. Watercolor seems too difficult to layer, at least for me. But then oil paint is more expensive and I can’t store tons of canvases in my bedroom. I think I will try it though, just for a break from the watercolor.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mariah Sleeve Done

I finished the sleeve of Mariah, now I just have the rest of the sweater to knit. I read the pattern wrong in the beginning, so it doesn't look exactly like it should, but oh well. I really like the Celtic cables; since it is always changing, it didn't get tedious to knit. Also, I am going to try to put a collar on it, instead of the hood. I just have to figure out how to change the neckline.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bicycle Living

The Bicycle Diaries - Is it possible to live in America without a car?

I thought this article was funny, because it is true how difficult it is to ride your bike everywhere, and it doesn't need to be. Except one thing is different, the author mostly rode for fitness and to save money, and my whole family always rode our bikes everywhere, even to different cities (or suburbs within the city, actually.) We didn't have a car, so it was either that or we walked. Riding everywhere would be okay, except that in a lot of places, the city isn't designed for bikes. When I visited Chicago, I was surprised to see that there weren't bike lanes or sidewalks, or even clearly defined road lanes. That was the only time I felt like it was really dangerous to ride my bike. Also, I was visiting during the summer. I can't imagine riding a bike through three feet of snow!
It would be better if more people rode, because then you wouldn't be the only bike against a sea of cars, with drivers screaming insults at you. In other countries, cars have to drive with a lot more bikes and pedestrians, with fewer traffic signals, and it seems a lot more difficult for the driver. Here, everything is more difficult for the pedestrian, and drivers really take it for granted. It's amazing how much the car dominates everything here, so people are surprised if you don't own a car, and can still survive.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


I've been working on collages lately, with watercolor. They can open up a whole different level with watercolor or acrylic. I try to think about how they would work with the overall painting, so I don't just randomly add extra paper. I try to add the extra paper to create a different mood or add something that I couldn't with normal watercolor. I also did a collage with only magazine paper. It's like fitting together a puzzle, because you use images to work together in different ways. Next, I think I want to use different paper from magazines, except only use the color. The bits of color could form a different picture. That seems to be more difficult.

I also started a new knitting project, Mariah, from Knitty. So far, I like the cables, and it isn't too difficult once I got used to following the pattern. I think this is going to be the most challenging sweater I've done so far. Another thing is that I figured out that my guage has changed since I first started knitting. It's gotten looser, and usually is the same as the recommended one for a pattern. So that shows that I improved.

Novel Finally Done

My NaNoWrimo novel is done, at least the rough draft part of it. It was interesting trying to write something that long, that quickly. I had to write about 80 pages, and the plot got wrapped up too soon, so the last 20 or so pages weren't all that great. I've always assumed that since I read a lot and can analyze a book, that I could also write well. It's harder than I thought because at every point, I have to decide how the characters react to situations, what the environments are and everything. I think everyone should at least try to write a short story, so they can good writers that much more. It's strange that everyone buys music, movies, and books, and just consume them so quickly. Most people, if you haven't done something don't realize how much work the person put into something.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Winter Mittens

These are fingerless gloves with a mitten shell attached that I just finished. The pattern is from Knitty. It was a good pattern, except some parts seemed unclear, so I quit following it for the fingers and just knitted small tubes. They turned out kind of lopsided, but it's not noticeable. You were supposed to put the stitches on holders and then pick up stitches and it seemed really awkward to do that, so I didn't. Also, the pattern was way too big, so I had to knit it twice and change it the second time. Other than that, I think they turned out pretty good. The yarn was a Knitpicks sock yarn, which I liked, because it's soft.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Buy Nothing Day

Today is Buy Nothing Day, which is to counter the holiday consumerism. I don't really get why today is supposed to be such a big shopping day. I wonder when it happened, that you're supposed to go out and buy a bunch of presents today. I don't like the whole consumerist part of Christmas. The idea of giving people small gifts seems good, but now it just seems to be a consumerist frenzy. The whole period around Christmas doesn't seem much different from other times, people are just buying more presents than they do normally. People buy tvs, electronics, and whatever during the rest of the year, and now they just buy more of them.

It would be different if they saved up to buy things during this time of year, and it became something special, because you wouldn't get nice things, except for one time a year. But people are getting those same things all year round, they just get more piled on top of it. I just think people have an overconsumption problem, where they have too much. It reminds me of the last Christmas I spent with my family, and there was this little girl there, who was related by marriage or something. I had never met her before. But, the amount of presents she got was ridiculous. When she opened them, she just tossed them aside and just went on to the next one. She had so many, it was like nothing was good enough, and she just wanted to know what was next. I guess most kids are like that, or can get spoiled like that, but it isn't good, and I think people should try to control their consumption of products.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I've been working on the NaNo novel and am only about 2000 words behind. I took four days off at some point and it really set me back. I like writing it, even though the writing isn't all that great. I think I can see why some authors start adding in characters and have the action come from their point of view, like omnipresence. It gets boring to write from the same character. Or maybe my character is just boring.

I took this picture at the coast, and it's actually looking out onto a bay. The area where this was near was a touristy street. It always seems like the tourist areas are the worst. They all seem to have candy shops, leather shops, jem and polished rocks, or something like that, and t-shirt shops. The only people are usually older retirees. I don't know why people want to go to tourist places when they travel somewhere. You don't see the actual place you're going, but instead a themepark type version of the place, which is more like being at the mall. Everything is filtered and turned into products.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Characters

I am currently working on this fingerless glove, which is almost done. I had to change the pattern, because the designer only put one size on it, and that turned out to be gigantic. It's done with sock yarn, which is tedious, because it takes so long. But I like the colors.

My NaNo novel is still several days behind, and I'll have to write five pages a day for the rest of the time to catch up. I figured out a subplot, which took up some time. Otherwise the conclusion would have come too fast, and the character would be wrapping up the ending for half of the novel. One thing is that it's difficult to tell if the characters have different personalities. Sometimes it seems like they all have the same characteristics, unless I push them to become almost stereotypes. I've heard that you should show the character's personality through their reactions or thoughts, instead of just telling the reader. That is definately more difficult, because you have to construct the situation, then think of how that type of person would react. I think that to write good characters, you have to know a lot about psychology, and different personalities. It would be hard to write for a character really different from yourself. At this point, I'm not even trying any of the more subtle points of characters and psychology. I'm just trying to write anything so I can get up to 50, 000 words by Nov. 30.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Novel and the Ocean

I recently went to the coast for a day, and went to a marina. I went to the ocean too, except I couldn't stay there long. It's so harsh, because it's always windy and cold, even during the summer. The Pacific Ocean, at least where I am doesn't make you want to swim in it, or even go near it. I imagined going out on a boat in the ocean, and it doesn't seem fun at all. I've also been to Florida and swam in that ocean and it's strange how different it is. The Florida ocean is warm and calm, and you can see through to the bottom. I didn't really want to go near the Oregon ocean, because it seems so much more dangerous.
I've also been working on the NaNo novel, which is difficult. I'm about 5000 words behind, so I have to write ten pages in the next two days. My story doesn't seem interesting enough, so I think over these next ten pages, I have to introduce a subplot. I want to keep the focus on the main character, though. I generally don't like it when there are a bunch of different characters and you get all their perspectives, so the reader knows things the characters don't. It seems more interesting to get the perspective of one character, because they don't know everything, and the events are skewed towards what they think. I think if you write a sweeping epic, it works to have a global view of lots of different characters, but not in a short novel. I've read books where the author will suddenly introduce a new character, and you're forced to read about them for a while, when I care more about the original character. That's something I don't really want to do in my novel.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Thirty Day Novel

I saw the web page for writing a novel in thirty days and thought it was interesting. I've wanted to see if I could write for a while now, since I've read a lot of books, I thought it would be easier to write a book. Also, I like to see what other people are writing at the same time. It's harder than I thought, since it's difficult to write natural sounding dialogue. The timing of the action has to be right, and it hard to know when to move the action along or go into more detail. I think I have the problem of making the male characters sound too much like women. It's hard to know how to make them sound like men, without making them completely macho and stereotypical. So far though, the plot is turning out different than I thought it would, which is good. The story is about a woman who goes back to her hometown to confront her father and deal with her past, but meets someone unexpected on the trip there. That's what it is so far. I'm not sure where to take the story next, and according to the thirty day schedule, I have to write about 40 pages by the end of this week.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fat Activists

America's Waistline - The politics of fat. By Laura Kipnis
I disagree with fat activists who say they are perfectly normal, and there isn't an obesity epidemic. According to some of them, that is just their body type. I think that it is true that most people aren't naturally thin, with a thin frame. But there's a difference between someone who has a larger frame and is stocky and someone who weighs over 300 pounds. I think the fat activists could say that is their natural body type, if there aren't all the problems with diet and exercise. I really doubt that there were extremely obese people a few hundred years ago, or during a time when everyone didn't drive everywhere and eat fast food all the time. They seem more of a causuality in a time of an overabundance of fast food and extreme marketing of a fattening lifestyle. Most of the fat people I've met may have a different body type, but they also don't exercise at all and eat fast food all the time. The fat activists claim that it's perfectly healthy to be obese, but if you can barely walk up a flight of stairs, how can that be healthy?
On the over hand, I do think that how they live their life is their business. It is really presumptuous to tell someone else how to care for their own body. If people want to smoke and eat fast food every day, they should be allowed to. But they shouldn't claim that they can't help it when they become unhealthy, or say they have a different body type, and it's out of their control. I guess that's what bothers me about fat activists, is that they act like they can't do anything about their obesity. But unless you have a thyroid disorder, you must have eaten a lot of junk food or been totally inactive, in order to gain 100 or 200 pounds. It's like having an addiction and claiming it's completely out of your control, and that it's your natural state of being. It's giving up in difficult circumstances. I guess they can do that, but I don't like that the fat activists are trying to say that obesity is totally normal and healthy. It's like saying that your addiction completely controls you, and you give in and don't even try to improve yourself.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Lapsed Drawing Skills

I have been trying to draw in my sketchbook every day. I realized that it had been months since I had been doing that regularly. Although, in reality, I never spent time drawing every day. I tend to think that it isn't worth the time spent on a sketchbook drawing, since it's not a finished product that will last. But that puts too much pressure on each finished piece, since I have learn the skills while I'm doing the finished product. A lot of my work doesn't come out right because I didn't spend the time to plan it. I want to be able to draw better, so I can paint better. I think that no matter what the idea is, you have to have some decent drawing skills to carry it out.
Also, now that the time has changed, I'm not looking forward to the 4:30 sunsets. That's too short of a day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

River Art

I saw this when I was riding my bike and it seemed interesting. It reminded me of the artist who uses natural surroundings to create art, Andy Goldsworthy. I wonder how many people did this, and when. I like seeing random stuff like this, that shows someone is doing something different. Most people, including myself, just go from one place to another, seeming to be on a strict schedule. This shows that someone stopped to look around and change their environment, and create something unexpected.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Exercising Routinely

A couple days ago, I rejoined the gym. I had still been working out, but not as often. I want to get a lot more fit aerobically. That seems to be my biggest weakness. I see people running who look almost comfortable, and they're barely out of breath. Every time I run, it's extremely difficult, and I feel like I'm gasping for air. But maybe those people had been excercising all through high school and beyond. After childhood, I became a lot more inactive, until a couple years ago. I know that must make a difference, if a person has been excercising solidly for ten or more years straight. Anyway, going to the gym just makes it easier to get into a routine.
I've also been working on a vest, but I miscalculated the guage, so it turned out ten inches too big. I still seem to have a lot of problems with calculating the guage and having the sweater fit normally. I wonder if anyone knits something and it turns out perfectly the first time. Every item I knit that I want to wear, I have to redo two or three times. It's frustrating enough that it makes me want to stop knitting for awhile. I think for now, I'll just work on a scarf, so there's no guage problem.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The ESA Act

There is a revision to the Endangered Species Act that's trying to weaken it, and it already passed the House. It is supposed to give property owners more rights, more than the animals. It creates loopholes so politicians can decide what is considered enough scientific evidence to save a species. It would end up being none, because developers can make more money that way. I hope it's not passed in the Senate, but I think it will. I don't have any hope for this administration doing much for the environment. Some people seem to only want a barren field, with animals or plants in the way, so they can develop or mine, or do whatever. They won't be satisfied until every piece of land is totally developed, and there are no animals to get in the way, except domesticated ones. Then every corner of the world is totally controlled and basically polluted, since development always weakens and pollutes the land.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Financial Advice from Rich People

I found a financial blog that was irritating. It reminds me of most of the financial advice I hear, which is geared towards the same income level. In some ways, it makes sense, because you have enough money to actually buy a house, yacht, save for retirement, or whatever, and manage your money. Low income people just have to scrape by, basically balancing the budget month to month. There isn't anything for future investments, or ways to trim the budget. So much of the financial advice seems to include, going out to dinner one less time a week and not buying as many $3.00 lattes, since everyone spends hundreds on a month on those things.
Anyway, the people who wrote this blog probably have good tips for people at their income level, but it still was annoying. I don't know how these people, who all seem to make about $50,000 a year, have any problem saving money. It's ridiculous that they even have a column about saving money. Something is seriously wrong when you make that much money and still don't have enough. One person said they spent $1000 a month just on going out. I don't understand even spending that much. Are they flying to Italy every month? Are they paying for hundreds of people's dinner? I don't get it. That's what my whole family lived on when I was growing up. People who raise a whole family on minimum wage should be the ones writing about how to save money, not some upper class people. It makes me mad because some of these people are my age, yet they make more than anyone in my family ever did or will. It just goes to show that there is a definate class system, since they probably grew up in that economic zone, and spending that much money is natural. I really believe that makes a difference, since I literally didn't know of anyone making that kind of money when I was growing up, and it seemed about as attainable as becoming a famous Hollywood actor. To these women, it's as if they think everyone makes that kind of money, since a lot of their tips seem to correspond to that belief. The whole thing makes me angry. They seriously should have poor people write a column about saving money.

Republicans Conserving?

President Calls for Less Driving to Conserve Gas - New York Times

I can't believe that Bush is telling people to conserve. He is waiting until the last minute, since people should have been conserving for the last thirty years. Since oil is finite, wouldn't it make sense to conserve the whole time? But in the conservative and economists minds, the supply amount doesn't matter, it's only the prices that tell people whether they should conserve. Maybe if so many people hadn't bought SUVs, then we'd have more in reserves. But Bush isn't trying to start more public transportation or conservation programs to drastically cut back on people's use. He is basically just suggesting cutting back. I just wish this attitude was a given in our government, because I know that in a little while, they'll be selling SUVs and not mentioning conservation at all. But maybe not, since hybrids and solar energy panels are becoming more popular.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

'The Lovely Bones' & Heaven

I just finished the book 'The Lovely Bones'. At first, I wasn't interested in reading it because it sounded too depressing. A girl is killed and watches her family deal with her death, from heaven. It actually was better than I thought, because the story focused more on how the people around her dealt with her death. It could have turned into a detective story or a manhunt for the killer. But, within the story, her killer doesn't even matter, since it won't bring back the girl to punish him. It's more how her family fractures and then has to come together again, without her. The thing I didn't like was the concept of heaven. It works for the story, because we get some idea of what the girl is like, and can look into different character's thoughts.
But I have a problem with the general idea of heaven as a place where you keep your identity, and your family eventually joins you, with their own identities. Everything you want is available, and you spend eternity as yourself. It makes life seem pointless. If you get to spent eternity as yourself, with everyone you know, then what is the point of life? After you get to know some people you can be in heaven with, why keep living? Everything's better there and eventually everyone you know will join you. Also, if you are yourself for eternity, what would you do? If everything is instantly available, it makes desire pointless. If we were exactly the same in heaven, we would be driven insane, since we have eternity to spend doing nothing. The novelty of having anything would wear off after a while.
I really don't see how people trully believe in the idea of heaven as an actual place you spend as a normal conscious human. It makes more sense as a place where you merge and have no consciousness, and it's nothing like life. That makes life the most important thing, since there is nothing like it. I guess it's a lot more scary to think like that, and I can see why people would prefer to think of heaven as a place that's not much different from earth. I can't convince myself to believe that, so I just try not to think about it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Knitting in Autumn

These are my two latest knitting projects. The hat is cabled, even though it's hard to tell because of the striping. I was looking for a pattern that is for a hat knit in the round, but without cables. I wanted to make one with Noro Silk Garden, because I really like that yarn. It's self striping and the yarn is really soft. I guess I could use this pattern and just not do the cables. The other project is going to be a vest, using all my leftover yarn. So far it's working, but I really changed the pattern, so I hope it'll fit. The colors might not work that well, though. Maybe if I made the stripes thinner, it wouldn't look like it's from the seventies. I really want to try a different kind of yarn, but I can't for a while. I can't get any more until I use up what I have, and for some reason, I seem to have a lot of yellow and pink wool yarn. There's not much I can make with those two colors, since they are my least favorite.

Friday, September 23, 2005

No Graphic Novel

I used pastels on this drawing. It was meant to be a flat, mosaic-like picture of a cornucopia. I think it turned out like I planned. I've been trying to work on a graphic novel, but it's harder than I expected. I'm not that good at drawing completely from memory and making it look professional. I noticed that especially when I draw people from memory, I tend to fall back on my preconcieved ideas from junior high. I know that's a common thing. You draw the face or body as how you think it looks, without paying attention to how it actually is. One example is putting the eyes at the top of the head, because that's where our attention usually goes. But they are in the center of the head in reality. So, the people I'm drawing look cartoonish and odd, but when I draw from life, they look more or less realistic. So it's kind of frustrating trying to draw specific scenes totally from my imagination. I guess that's good, though, because it's challenging.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New York Graffiti Art

I saw this movie recently, 'Style Wars'. It's about the graffiti movement that started in the early eighties in New York. It documents people who go down into the subways at night and create these huge murals. After a while the city, the mayor, and the subway system owners get really upset, and see it as a serious crime. The documentary interviews all these people who ride the subway, and they all are outraged and feel the artwork is horrible. They don't see it as artwork, but as the same as someone just randomly spraying all over, like a squiggly line or something. In fact one guy says that if these kids who do the graffiti have so much energy, they ought to be given a mop, and they can just go mop up the city. As if they are just randomly spraying all over, like a nervous tic or something. I thought that was one of the most insulting things in the whole movie.
These are a few examples of the New York subway art. The one on the upper left is from 1981 and is done by one of the best known graffiti artists during that beginning time period. You can really see how wrong it was for the public to hate it so much. Some people truly preferred a blank, gray concrete wall. I just have to wonder at what is wrong with them, that they don't appreciate art or beauty. I feel as strongly about the ads that are everywhere now. They seem more offensive and dangerous than this does. People are definately not outraged at ads appearing everywhere, because that's approved and institutionalized. I think it's the idea that people are doing something on their own that's creating a noticable difference, because everyone can see the murals, and that's the problem. The businesses who create ads have to right to cover everything with ads, because they are the leaders of this country. But marginalized, poor kids who aren't paying into the system, or getting approved by the authorities should never have a public space to say anything they want. The seems to be the reason why the city and those average people are so outraged by the graffiti.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Dreams in our Brains

I have been thinking about dreams lately. It’s strange how there are complete stories that go on every night, if you can only remember them. Something I’ve noticed is how the feelings in dreams seemed tied to body position, while you’re sleeping. You can sometimes remember your dream, if you can get into the same body position as when you were sleeping. I’ve heard that some people never remember their dreams, and are unaware of even having any. There does seem to be a prevaling attitude that they are new age nonsense, and are not important. But then that’s like saying most art is nonsense, since dreams seem to be untapped or unfocused creativity. Of course, a lot of people do believe all art is basically worthless, except maybe to profit off of.

I also think it’s odd that dreams usually are ordered into a coherent story, with all these parts generally fitting together. If the main purpose of dreams is to process information you saw during the day, wouldn’t it just be random bits of pictures or thoughts? I’ve heard that we organize dreams into stories because our brains are wired to arrange incoherent events or ideas into a coherent form, and that’s why dreams seem to be complete stories. It’s still interesting that we even dream at all. Maybe it’s because our brains are active all the time, even during sleep. They are almost as active during sleep as when we’re awake. I used to think that they shut down, or sleep, like our bodies, with almost no activity. But if they did do that, I guess we wouldn’t be alive. I guess I’ve been thinking about brains a lot lately, mainly because it’s so interesting, and that so much of it is still unknown.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Brain & All That

I was listening to this audio book about the brain, and I thought a few things were interesting. One was how the fear response starts, or how a phobia can start. It is a part of the brain that isn’t in the frontal lobe, but I don’t remember exactly what it’s called. It’s a smaller, more primitive part. It takes a broader look at a situation, and creates a fear response for everything similar to the feared object or situation. If being in a car accident was a fearful, traumatic event, then afterwards, hearing a car, when you aren’t in one, or seeing a car that looks similar to the one you were driving, triggers fear. It helps you avoid anything like a car accident in the future, even though it gets connected to all these other details. You can’t rationalize the fear response, because it’s in a different part of the brain, and is mainly an involuntary reaction. I think that’s interesting because it’s like two parts of your mind are struggling against each other, because you want to override the fear towards the general triggers that start the phobia. And there isn’t a way to do that.

Another interesting part was about autistics and how they are unable to read people and their emotional states. Most people can pick up on subtle variations in facial expressions, and know basically what the person’s emotional state is. Autistics aren’t focused on reading those subtle cues. Other people read those cues without really being aware of it. I guess the cues are coming so fast or they are processed on a different level than our conscious mind, so we aren’t deliberately trying to read the person’s emotional state most of the time. If autistics were to function more normally, they would have to learn to read people consciously, by memorizing what the facial expressions of a certain emotion look like. It makes me aware of how many things are going on in the brain that we aren’t conscious of, which seems to be the majority.

I’ve heard from people that even driving becomes like that, they are just going through the motions, like it’s happening in an automatic part of their brain. I’ve had that with walking, when I suddenly realize that I’m home already, without necessarily remembering how I got there. All the automatic functions our body does normally to keep us alive happen unconsciously, and even ones I wouldn’t have thought of like fear and social interactions. It surprises me sometimes that it all works so effectively and we usually don’t see any of these background processes working badly or sporadically.

Fantastically New Knitting Projects

I’ve started a couple of new knitting projects. One is a vest using up some of my leftover yarn, and the other is a basic cabled hat. The vest is one where I have to significantly change the pattern, so hopefully it will turn out okay. One thing I realized is that I like listening to audio books while I knit. Before, I was watching TV, but I can’t stand watching it most of the time, because it's so annoying. So, the audio books are much better. Another thing I’m trying is brioche knitting with two colors. It looks like one color is woven into the other, but the finished result looks different than just changing colors every other stitch. So far, I can make it look like it’s supposed to on one side, but the colors are supposed to be reversed on the opposite side, and that hasn’t worked yet. I’m glad it’ll be fall soon, so I can wear my knitted stuff!

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Improved Artistic Idea

I decided to start a graphic novel, but I have to come up with the story. I’ve done some drawings about my dreams, so I thought maybe I could illustrate some of my more intense dreams. Some of them seem almost like an action movie, where I’m quickly trying to figure out or find something, while bloodthirsty people are chasing me. I think some of the stories could be interesting, if I develop the plots more. I want to make a change in my artwork, because it just isn’t working for me. I feel like I’m redoing the same ideas, and this might break me out of the routine. I was thinking about Robert Crumb’s comic books, and how he used his drawing to define the psychedelic era. I also like how he used humor to work through some of his own issues. I never really thought of graphic novels too much before, because I’d only seen those fantasy and sci-fi type comics, and I don’t like those. But they can be about anything, and don’t even have to look like a cartoon. I thought it might help with composition, because I would want the layout to look different than a regular cartoon, with white word bubbles and regular panels.
This is a picture of the nearby river at sunset, with trees in the background. It's done in crayon, so it was difficult to blend the reflected light of the sun into the water. I do like how bright crayons can be, and how cheap. I like them a lot better than pencils, even though it sometimes feels strange using kid's crayons. Anyway, I think I might sketch out some of the pages of the graphic novel in crayon, to see how the composition is. But first, I have to write the actual story.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thoughts on Media Images

I noticed some discussions of the Dove advertising campaign. I think the ads started this summer, and although I haven't really seen them around in my city, I've heard more about the reactions to them.

I am surprised by how upset some people got because of the models. One was Roeper, from Ebert & Roeper, and the others seemed to be mostly male journalists. They were largely disgusted by the models, and said they were fat and promoted obesity. For one thing, I don’t know what his definition of obesity is; it must include everyone except those extremely thin models. Also, I’m surprised by how angry some of the reactions are, with people spray painting insults on billboards of the models. I didn’t think people took these ad campaigns so seriously. I would think everyone is so sick of seeing models and all the airbrushed media people, that they would be glad to see something slightly different for a change. For me, all those people start to blur together, and are so airbrushed and perfected, that they don’t even seem beautiful anymore. They seem like what they are, fake-looking products used to promote other products. So I was surprised that people, mainly men, seem outraged that the women aren’t ultra thin airbrushed models of perfection. They can’t seem to let go of the idea of women as the ultimate commodities. If a woman isn’t absolutely perfect, she must be worthless, because she has only her looks to compete with and the men can have the highest standards possible. I’m sure most of the men complaining were nowhere near as good looking as the women they claim are ugly. If they, mainly Roeper, were solely judged on looks, they’d never get a date with any of the “obese” women, much less with some supermodel.

Another thing about the campaign from the other side, that is the women who support seeing larger models, is that having normal size models is just another way to sell the product. Even though they claim it’s groundbreaking, it just shows how the industry changes based only on what sells. If everyone were suddenly attracted to models who weighed 250 pounds, that’s who would sell the product. They use super thin beautiful women because both men and women respond to them the most. Women have a template they can aspire to be like, and men are attracted to them. The company is uses women’s insecurities against them to sell products, and in this case, makes it seem like a campaign for the good of society. I assumed no one really believes that Dove has any other reason for the ads, except to sell products. But so many people acted like the ads infringed on their rights to see unnaturally thin, beautiful women, that I thought they must really like ads, and like the negative affect they have on our society.

I think the all of the ads are insidious, because they turn our desires and fears against us, and brainwash us into the corporate culture. The journalists complaining about the ads, and the women supporting them, are announcing that they are completely dominated by the ad culture. After all, most everyone in the media has to be, or they couldn’t be there. Roeper and the journalists make their living responding to the media, which is basically driven by the advertising industry. I, for one, would prefer to see plain, ugly, or fat people than any model. I’m so sick of having the image of the perfected beautiful woman, or man, forced into my mind in every media outlet. Even the overly perfected men are obnoxious. The media holds the standards of beauty so strictly, that the people don’t even seem perfect anymore, and start to just look weird, because they all look the same. I think it’s that syndrome where if you meet a good looking person who you start to dislike, they seem less and less attractive. And a plain person with a much better personality starts to look better to you. That’s a big part of the problem, that the models and media people mostly have really annoying personalities. Even the models, because you know their only purpose in ads is to either make you feel bad about yourself, or tease you into buying some product.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Blue Jellyfish

Originally uploaded by deborah lattimore.
I saw this picture, and thought it was really well done. I especially like the colors of the jellyfish. It's so strange to think that there are millions of them in the ocean, since they look so other-worldly.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Swimming at Night

I recently took some swimming lessons, as a beginner. I never learned how to swim as a kid, even though it seemed like I went to the pool all the time. I guess I was just hanging out in the pool. I always wanted to learn, but never did. So, I decided to learn as an adult and swim for the exercise. The first thing I realized is that it would take more than six lessons to get good. Another thing is that it is much harder than I expected, and I mean more strenuous. I felt like I could hardly breathe, and that was mostly from the exercise. The other hard part was being comfortable breathing in a rhythm and having my face in the water. It felt so unnatural, like I couldn't get enough air. Part of it was because it felt so strenuous. It is odd taking lessons, because there were usually kids classes at the same time as mine. The kids were more advanced swimmers than I was, which is kind of embarrasing.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Problematic Sweater

I just finished this. It turned out a little too big, but I don't want to redo it. The neckline and shoulder area are supposed to be more fitted. Instead the shoulders seem to stiffly hang off my arms, and won't contour to my arm. It doesn't necessarily look like that, but I can feel it fitting wrong. So, I'll just live with it. Once I try a pattern, I don't normally like to knit it again. I figure I learned what I could from it. The whole design of the sweater seems less interesting, because I know how the finished product is. With this sweater's pattern, it didn't turn out how it should, so I'd benefit from redoing the pattern. The original pattern called for a felted flower to be sewn onto the front, which I might do for another sweater, or a bag. One thing I discovered is that I've used the same type of yarn for every sweater I'd knit, Brown Sheep wool & mohair. I don't even like that yarn all that much, it is just the cheapest one available at the yarn store. The sweaters always turn out too bulky and seem stiff, and I think maybe it's because of the yarn. On my next sweater, I want to try either cotton or alpaca yarn. They might drape better, and would be a change.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Surreal Scene

Originally uploaded by sphilange.
This is an example of sketches in crayon that I've been doing. I like using them, because they are really bright, and cover a lot of area. Pencils get really tedious, and I prefer working with color.

Thomas Kinkade & Recycled Art

I have been doing sketches in crayon, just to put less pressure on the sketches. Sometimes I get too caught up in making my artwork look a certain way, like a preconceived notion, that I end redoing the same idea. It is difficult to completely break out of your current way of creating artwork, and find a new idea. I think that is the hardest part actually, and it shows the difference between true artists and graphic designers, or someone who just uses the same template for a painting. Thomas Kinkade is like that, and I really don’t like his work. But he isn’t an artist, he‘s a commercial designer, or businessman, who counts on using the same American flag, misty forests, porch swings, and other stereotypical themes in every painting. In a way, that is good, since he makes money, and I know it’s much harder to make money selling cutting edge, completely original work.
I notice there’s a lot of artwork and designers who are focused on using recycled materials in their work. That seems really interesting to me, because it’s using creativity in a raw form, to find new ways to look at the materials and find an innovative use for them. One idea I saw is using a laundry detergent bottle and turning it into a lamp. Another is using those plywood pallets, which you see in alleys, and turning them into lawn chairs, picnic baskets, and beds. There is already so much stuff that’s been made there will have to come a point where it becomes cheaper to recycle something that already exists, than to manufacture something from scratch. I want to get into doing more artwork with recycling materials, because it is so open. Painting a regular painting is limited, because all it can do is hang on the wall, but if I made sculpture or something more interactive or useful, it would be a way to break out of my usual way of creating art.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Food Addictions

I have been exercising regularly now for about 2 years now, and have gotten in a lot better shape and lost weight. Before that I was just doing the bare minimum, because I didn’t think it was that important. But, now I realize how vigilant I have to be just to stay healthy. Nothing is more important, since the quality of our lives is the basis of everything else. I feel wrong now if I don’t exercise, just like eating too much junk food. I was going to the gym, but haven’t for a while. I miss going though, because it felt psychologically as if I exercised correctly. When I exercise on my own, it doesn’t seem as valid, because I’m not using machines, I guess.

One thing I read in an Oprah magazine, for some unknown reason, was some secrets of hers to not gain weight. It was eating jello or nonfat yogurt, or something else equally unappetizing, and pretending to herself that it was as good as a sundae. That whole way of dieting seems really sad, because it’s denying yourself something that really isn’t that bad. Unless you eat one every day, it seems like a minor thing. The effort to keep yourself away from sundaes seems greater than the damage they do. It made me think that a lot of other women have an uncontrollable desire for the sundae or other food, so much so, that they have to go to extreme lengths to convince themselves that replacement food tastes good or is satisfying, when it isn’t. But I guess it is stronger than some people can control, since we are biologically programmed to crave fat, and to store it in case of a famine.


     I’ve been reading about Hurricane Katrina and had no idea it was so huge. I saw somewhere that it’s the worst storm ever to hit this country, and is creating the biggest emergency state. I hear about the hurricanes off and on, during the summer, but I never thought that much about how bad it really is. I’ve never lived anywhere that had such extreme weather, so it doesn’t seem as real to me. That’s not an excuse, but proximity does make a difference. It’s easy to distance yourself from a lot of the things you hear about in the news, since the news is mostly a bunch of crises. But now, hearing about how New Orleans and other areas are destroyed, I can see how terrible it must be. Now there are all these refugees trying to get out of the area, food and water shortages, and all the continuing problems. It’s a huge emergency, and it seems like it happened so suddenly.
     It shows how society and our lives seem stable and predictable, and then something uncontrollable happens, and everything changes. Everyone who owned houses, had a job, and was stable is now a refugee with nothing. It shows how tenuous our lives are, and it makes me appreciate that I haven’t been in any real emergency situations. Of course, I feel bad for those people who have to deal with that situation. It sounds like a war zone, almost. There’s looting, people are dead, and everything’s destroyed. I can’t really comprehend what it must be like.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Armadillo Dees
Originally uploaded by jeffclow.
I saw this picture and thought it was cool. Someone took the picture while the armadillo was in their backyard. I've never seen an one, and it seems strange that they are even around. There is so little wildlife around in the city, that sometimes even a squirrel seems like a novelty.

Biodiesel Fuels

I’ve been finding out about biodiesel fuel for cars. Apparently, there are regular pumping stations in my area, where you could get 100%, 80%, or 20% biodiesel, mixed with different amounts of regular diesel. I didn’t know that was available already. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil, and you can mix it with regular diesel at any percentage. It is clean burning, and around here, costs $3.00 a gallon, compared with $2.65 for gasoline. The only problem is that it only works for diesel engines. I don’t know if you can convert a gasoline engine to a diesel. You probably can, but it would be expensive.
The gas prices seem to be increasing every week now, and I’ve read that they are going to keep going up, due to the storm on the eastern coast. The government is releasing some oil reserves to make gas cheaper, but it won’t affect prices for a while. Part of me is glad, because I want people to reduce their dependence on cars, and increasing prices seem to be the only way. But, now that I have a car, I want the prices to get cheaper too. That’s why I wish I could afford to either convert my engine to a diesel, or that I could have a hybrid car.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Women's Accepted Emotions

I saw this article about women’s emotions in Hollywood. It was about how most actresses never show any more emotion than a few tears, or a basic pout to pass for anger. This seems true for society in general. From what I’ve seen, the expectation to be beautiful or pleasant overrides everything else. If women don’t have a certain expression on their face, people, mostly men, act offended. I’ve heard from other people that they’ve had total strangers come up and tell them to smile. That’s happened to me as well, and it is always irritating. It’s as if they can’t tolerate an emotion that isn’t happiness, and it’s specific to women. I can’t imagine a man going up to another man and telling him to smile. In fact, it seems almost effeminate for a man to be really visibly happy, while walking around on the street. But women have to keep their faces’ appearance in mind, even when displaying emotion, or especially, while not engaging in something. I think that these people feel compelled to tell a woman to smile, because they feel uncomfortable with realizing she actually has emotions, and it isn’t her sole purpose to be a hostess.

I’ve seen other things along this line, in magazines mostly. One article was about how to look sexy while lying in bed. It advised women to be aware of their body’s position, to look the most alluring. The positions would seem uncomfortable and unnecessary, unless posing for a picture. Another piece of advice was not to sleep with your face touching the pillow, because it causes wrinkles. Then it recommended that women wear tape on their wrinkles while sleeping, so they can’t frown and make the wrinkles deeper. Basically, a person could go insane trying to follow all this advice. The degree of self-consciousness seems almost pathological. You have to spend all your time positioning your body, keeping your face smiling, and essentially never being comfortable, because that would cause wrinkles or look non-sexy. Of course, not all women do this to that extreme. Except with dieting, clothing, make-up, anti-aging creams, implants, surgery, and so on, so some degree of extreme self-consciousness is affecting women. Basically, all this neuroticism is done to live up to the expectation that women’s goal of beauty should override everything else in their life.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Retro Flowers

I painted this in acrylics. I was thinking about the designs that remind me of the sixties and seventies, with bright colors and graphically simple. I guess it fits, but I can see how I could go further, with more complexity of the design, not of the actual flowers. I like those psychedelic paintings, since they have so much character, and are creative. I think this is almost a rough draft, because I think I didn’t really capture what I wanted.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Musings on Poverty

I am reading ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’. It's about a young girl growing up in the slums of Brooklyn around the early 1900's. It’s interesting because it describes the way people lived at that time, and the things they used. Some of the objects they use are strange, like paper collars, which the father wears. They are like a fake white shirt made from linen paper that he wears under his tuxedo jacket, and buys a new one daily. I guess then he doesn’t need a shirt, and doesn’t have to pay for its cleaning. The people seem to be a lot poorer, judging by our poverty standards. They can barely buy any stale bread, and need to save by the penny, instead of the dollar, in order to buy some land. Buying the land is a future investment, that they want in order to change their status as landless, working poor. Part of it, the poverty levels, could be that inflation makes everything seem cheaper then, so people survived on what seems like less. But, I think the standards were lower, since even poor people have a TV now, and more material possessions in general. The poor back then barely can afford a white shirt or decent food. Plus, a lot of the way they do things is foreign to our times. One thing is that they know all the shopkeepers, and go to them to establish credit, so they can buy food before a paycheck arrives. In fact, they know everyone in the neighborhood. But they probably seem well off to third world inhabitants now, since they have food and access to water.

In some ways, reading the book is depressing, since it reminds me of how everything is a struggle; to find a decent job, buy a house or land, and to raise yourself above your class levels. And it is a never ending struggle, since there are always people who are being left out, and don't have even a remotely tolerable standard of living. Yet, there are other people who are just born into a rich lifestyle, and it doesn't even enter their conciousness that some people are barely managing to get enough to stay alive, much less improve their situation for their children. I think the class system and the unequal distribution of resources is one of the biggest problems facing our society, and the world, and this problem doesn't seem likely to change anytime soon, not without a huge revolt.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Into the Oblivion

I painted this in acrylics on canvas. I wanted to give the impression of looking off into a horizon that was unseen, like a future that's hidden and possibly dangerous. I mostly painted this without thinking too much about what I would do next. I find that my stuff turns out better sometimes if I just start painting and see what happens. Otherwise I may get something that looks cliched, or like I spent hours laboring over it. I think with this painting, I should have thought it out a little more. It would look better in a horizontal format, so you could see more of where the figure is standing.
It is harder for me to paint completely spontaneously, from my imagination. If I paint a still-life, I know what the end result should look like; more or less like the still-life. But it is more interesting to look at paintings from someone's imagination, even if the painting isn't that good.
The still-lifes can be extremely uninteresting. If they are good, I can admire the person's technique, but if they are boring, it feels like a waste of time, both painting it, and looking at it. One drawing I saw in a gallery makes me think of how pointless some art can be. The show in the gallery was a collection of one artist's lifetime of artwork. Anyway, the picture was a pencil drawing of a wire hanger, just the plain hanger outline, on blank white paper. There was no shadowing, no colors, nothing interesting about it. Except that it was priced at either $1000 or $4000, I can't remember which. The rest of the show was pretty much like that; modern art at it's worst, in my opinion. A giant red canvas, a blue dot on a white background, and so on. And it was all priced in the several thousand area. I really don't understand that type of art or why the prices are so inflated. That's why I prefer even a poorly done painting that someone clearly spent some time and energy on, over modern art (maybe it's postmodern, I don't know).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Another Finished Sweater

Fairisle Sweater
This turned out to be too small, but here it is. The fairisle part was fun to do, and the rest was mildly frustrating. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Reknitting Ugly Sweaters= Bad Idea

The pink armwarmer is one of the first lace knitting projects I tried, and the sweater is what I'm currently working on.

I decided to try unraveling thrift store sweaters as a way to get cheap yarn, but I found that most of the yarn looks too worn out. Or it is really poor quality to begin with. It’s not worth it to unravel and reknit with really degraded yarn. Even unraveling takes more time than I thought it would. It is definitely better to get good yarn if I’m going to be spending all the time knitting something. Everything related to art always seems to be so expensive. But then, most hobbies are expensive, except for reading, maybe.

I learned how to knit about a year ago, from Stitch and Bitch (which has good instructions, and has patterns for stuff I'd actually want to wear). In a way, it seems odd, because I don’t know anyone who knits, and no one I knew ever did anything like that. I just saw the book and the patterns, and I decided to see if I could figure out how to knit. It was frustrating at first, but now I’m seeing how the whole thing works. Now my main problem is when I try to change the type of yarn in a pattern, my gauge is off, so the whole thing turns out wrong. In one case, my counting of stitches was off by one, and that problem multiplied to make sweater turn out huge. Now I realize how important the gauge swatch is, even though it seems tedious.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Driving in Oregon & Bike Riding in Phoenix

I recently got my driver’s license, after learning how to drive only a few months ago. The strange part to meis, that I should have gotten it over 10 years ago. I am kind of surprised that I even have a car, since I never thought about having one. Suddenly I feel a whole different set of possibilities opening up. When I growing up, my family usually didn’t have a car, except for short periods of time where we had a rundown car. The car would usually last less than a year, and the rest of the time we just rode our bikes. It sounds nice, but it usually wasn’t. We lived in Phoenix for several years, and still had to ride our bikes in the blazing sun, where it almost always seemed to be over 100 degrees. There didn't seem to be a bus system, oddly enough. Anyway, it was like riding through hell, since the city is polluted, and you could see how the air seemed yellowish, especially in the summer. I'd almost always have a sunburn, and my eyes would water whenever I was outside. I did want a car, but I guess it was never feasible.
So now, I do have a car, and I can really see how everything is designed around it. Suddenly everything is wide open to me. The pedestrians and bicyclists are shoved to the sides of the road. In some areas of Phoenix, there aren't sidewalks or bike lanes, so you have to walk by the side of the road. I'm also familiar with people screaming or throwing stuff at you as a bike rider. I guess it's strange to own a car, since I really do have a negative opinion of them. For one thing they are one of the worst polluters, they cause urban sprawl, and they're dangerous to people and animals.
It's ironic that in order to see any of the wild areas that cars (and other factors) are destroying, you need a car to get there. Which is why I wanted to get a car, really. It opens up my area from several miles within the city, to the entire state or more. All of this may seem obvious to someone who grew up with a car, and has always been around one, which seems to be 95% of the population. I guess not having one gives me a different perspective, and makes it more exciting, since I never took it for granted that I would own a car. But I do still wish that more people rode their bikes, for short trips within the city, and maybe then they wouldn't be so eager to scream at bike riders.