Last Saturday our daughter was married and we had the most amazing and fun wedding ever, at least according to all the attendees. After the smoke had cleared and the bottles and glasses picked up, after the hotel keys were found and the sprained ankles looked at, the horn was drained, the birds were singing and the world awoke to a new dawn, a new age. This, of course, means that my sweet wife and I are Old News. Over the hill, gone beyond Now into History. If I have learned anything about history it is that every mans history is another’s future. Each time I note another new age spot, a new ache, I see the joy in her eyes as she said “I will” and the look in his eyes was so similar to one i had when I told my new bride how beautiful she was. Now what do we have to look forward to? Gee, I suppose we could see a grandchild, but these days nothing is assured. How could two intelligent people bring a child into a world filled with fascists, nationalists, “religious” extremism? In our globalized world no armed clash is local, especially when your government is fond of selling weapons to people. But, and it’s a big but, we have a small group of disconnected idiots trying to squeeze the last drops from an old era and they are in charge of things as they are now. Increasingly we know that governments are installed by money for the defense of money, and rarely concern themselves with the lives of the people. Consider a reductio ad absurdum : two humans left on the planet, and one has all the money. The other has a stone. The first one wants the stone badly, so they offer up some of the money, but the second does not wish to sell. The price war advances until finally the owner of the stone sells it for all of the money. Now there is a new stone owner and a new rich person, so this is an economy, yes? but does it create or advance humanity in any way? No. So, economies by themselves are not life supporting. Exchanging goods and services for money gets you nothing. Now, suppose we have a half dozen people and one has the money, one has a stone, one has grown wheat and one has nothing but sexual organs and a willingness to use them. The rich person gives all of his money for the stone. The new rich man gives part of his money for the stick, some for sex and the rest he places in a hole beneath his sleeping area. The man with wheat trades wheat for sex and the female agrees to help him steal the money to buy a stone…. and so forth. Now, the economy moves along with many more people and trade goods, but the money per se is not the main factor here. Suppose two of the people get married and merge their fortunes and goods? This is not an economy exactly, but what is exchanged results in an increase of what is held to be valuable. Each feels rewarded, loved, protected, respected etc and no money, no stone or stick passes hands. Sex, sure, but not as a trade but as an expression of love. So: an economy based on love and respect does more good than an economy based on exchanges of material goods. Barter rather than profit, and consensus rather than bargaining. In the marriage ceremony both partners promise to do that which they already have willingly been doing: love, honor, respect and care for the other. If humanity married humanity there could be no wars. If we loved the gestalt of life the way we love our partners, there could be no wars. It would be nice if all our marriage ceremonies included the promise to “take care of the Earth, to respect Life and those within the Sphere of Life…” because after all, if a marriage were to result in children, how much nicer a world it would be dedicated to love and devotion rather than profit making, wars and distrust.
On the edge of a civil war we Americans are at each others throat, all based on inadequate education, access to journalism as opposed to infotainment. People identify as “right” or “left”, “progressive” or “conservative”. Everybody is correct, each side has it’s version of facts, no compromise with reality is permitted. Meanwhile, true to the Plan, the fascists entrench themselves into all the offices of government. Every lie becomes a truth for half the nation, each truth becomes fake.
With such a trend to dismiss reality, to distrust expert testimony and to denigrate anyone who disagrees with us, how can one nation remain undivided for long? Hell, look at the origins of the first civil war and compare them to now. Most people use the Germans of 1930 as examples of how a dictator becomes a leader, but it is unlikely that a hard core fascist could make it through the Electoral College. Their obvious plans for minorities would make them unwelcome among businessmen, and they are the ones who decide who runs for office. No, it takes a chameleon of a person, somebody who can say with a straight face whatever the listener wants to hear. Herr Drumpf is an excellent example of how lies become truths, incompetence becomes talent and failures become smart business deals. It might have worked in Germany once but here it takes the pretense of normalcy to get past the infotainers. If someone is too far to one side or another they become subject to ridicule and satire, but if they belong to an old political system, a popular political Party, they are treated seriously no matter what they do or say. For instance, Herr Drumpf says he’d like to date his daughter… this creepy scenario would gross out normal evangelicals but eager to serve their favorite liar they dismiss his words as insignificant, and later they dismiss his actions as simply fake news. He once famously said he could murder someone in plain sight and his supporters would continue to support him all the while expressing themselves as conservative supporters of the Rule of Law. How do they deal with the hypocrisy and contradictions? Since people are not educated in America but rather indoctrinated they have no grasp of logic. Their syllogisms are at best flawed and almost always start with the conclusion desired followed by cherry picked data or rumor to support their stance. This is, to the fascist followers, “proof”.
On the other side of the coin are the so-called “liberals”, who are as aggressive in their hatred of Drumpf supporters as the supporters are in their hatred for all things perceived as “left of center”. The “news” media, the infotainers, love the whole story line, it excites and the sheer stupidity and ignorance of the President and his followers and handlers gives plenty of opportunity for puns, gaffes and one-liners. Since the “news” now relies on polls and popularity rather than journalism, a foolish President is a real opportunity for fun. The concept of the disruption of our society leading to civil war or even just gradual decay and dissolution is left behind in the happy prattling and complaining about each side being treasonous and bold liars with every word they speak. Witness that there is a double digit percent of Americans who believe the story that Obama was a time-traveling secret socialist from Kenya, based on not one single shred of evidence, merely piss poor logic accompanied with implications and innuendos. The fact is a nation cannot long remain in place with no logic, no truth, no journalism, no Rights and nobody in power willing to risk themselves to preserve some semblance of a democratic republic. The concept of “democracy” in any form is anathema to the Party, both sides, and this is perfectly reasonable considering our Founders were adamantly opposed to the idea, preferring to rule over the People with a tiny group of wealthy white men. That is the form of government enshrined in the Constitution and without some modification, some guarantee of democracy, this is the form of government we will always get. Drumpf is just the latest example of the worst of all possible outcomes of an unfree election, especially one which has no power to select the President. Part of the problem is democracy requires work and education, people willing to put down the video games and read the laws being suggested, read the Constitution, study the Law in place…. It requires people in journalism giving us facts instead of puns and rumors and gossip. “People are saying…” is not a valid point. People say lots of things at various times and most of the people simply repeat what they have been told. We need thinkers to have a democracy and that takes a couple generations of well educated people. The current plan is to privatize education to ensure only the wealthy get educated. Healthcare will be further restricted and the followers of the fascists will understand that it is for their own good to remain ignorant. They don’t need to know where another nation is located when they never leave their own neighborhood.
It is easy to control cattle with a little bit of oats. If you give them a whole meadow they’d just waste most of it. If you don’t put up fences how can you harvest them come butcher time?
This is how the United States will become un-united: climate will create millions of refugees who will pour out looking for new homes. Americans on the coasts will have to evacuate the megalopolises and move inland. Most of Florida, for instance, will be uninhabitable. The “news readers” make apoint of implying this can only happen in a hundred years or more, so most people feel they will be long dead by then. If, on the other hand, nature follows natures examples, we will see the changes happen increasingly often, storm surges wiping out entire populations and sink holes swallowing city blocks. At that point the followers of both sides will realize they were lied to and lose all faith in any form of government, missing the point entirely that government is the only system which can help with these problems, it just cannot be a republican form, nor a fascist form. It will have to be democratic and there are almost no “leaders” who support true democracy. Jefferson, famous for raping his female slaves to produce more human stock for sale, always hated the idea of the majority telling people like him how to live. Democracy, he asserted, was the second worst form of government. He as President, we assume, was the best form, especially when you have a few hundred slaves. The form of government has not been altered since the 1700’s and this is why we live as if we were in the early stages of a fascist takeover, they are simply doing what naturally happens when people prefer to be ruled over rather than take responsibility for their own lives.
After many years of making ceramics, wood items and carved stone I have decided to enter the marketplace. While working on Jess and Mike’s wedding plans I contacted my old pal Kirby D. Wise, the master swordmaker in AZ who made my two steel maces. He used to offer inexpensive swords for just mucking around, but he has stopped this practice and so most of his swords are anywhere from $500 to $1500. While chatting with him though we had a great idea: I will be Kirby’s representative on the East Coast selling his weapons and my crafts and we’ll both make money and his superior quality gear will flow into the re-enactors world on the east Coast. Kirby’s daughter is also a bladesmith and his wife works in pierced brass decorations. Freya made a spear for me, seven foot long and with beautiful pierced brass decoration. It is so light and strong and you can wield it one handed! It cost me $500 but a similar one can be sold for $1000. This is how we will help pay off the wedding. Meanwhile I have been firing the kiln, making glazed ware for sale, serving dishes, beakers and bowls. I feel like I am getting better at hand building things and except for the perpetual pain in my upper back and shoulders things are moving well. Margaret is making me some new Norse style clothes and for herself as well. I have made some necklaces for her, some shoes and hat for me. The amazing thing is that back when I was active in the SCA there were no markets, no dealers… just the rare craftsman. Now checking online I see hundreds of places to buy weapons, clothes, even tents! It may be that as our “modern” society decays and fades away… “Bye Herr Drumpf!” ancient societies may spring back up to provide some form of safety and community. There are many “living museums” now as well, with people living year round in costume, working as they did in the Middle Ages. I plan to visit a few and see how their ceramic efforts are going. I still think it would be fantastic to assemble a book showing all the owner built kilns in the nation, there are so many! Likewise a similar book on medieval craftsmen might be good, people like Kirby who live halfway into the past. But before the books come the contacts and the markets and that’s where we are headed now. On the 30th of June we will set up our first BirkaMart and see how people react. The next event we’ll be able to show Kirby’s work… we had hoped to get it this month, but the Arizona desert shot up to 125F and Kirby cannot fire up the forge before 10PM and even then the temps are 100F. So we are being patient and hoping for the best.
I will be working on my site this summer to add new images and sculptures and removing some of the older pieces. Things are changing in the world and in my life and so the old site should be renewed. Pay attention.
I turned 65 a few days ago and it sort of surprised me. When I was a kid I was pretty sure that I would not last very long. My favorite singers were overdosing on heroin and speed and it seemed like maybe it wasn’t possible to be fiercely creative without burning out early. I was using speed, LSD, pot and whatever little white pill was handed me. I had the image of Van Gogh in the cornfield pressing his rifle to his chest. Like him, I had never sold my art, I’d given it away. Like him I got terrible headaches. Like him I thought my work would never be appreciated. But Van Gogh never had antidepressants or marijuana. He drank wine, which is depressing, and probably absinthe as well and my dear old father informed me that his worst hangover ever was after drinking absinthe.
So I sort of expected someday I would take too many drugs and fade away. It did not happen. I seem to have a cast iron system for processing drugs. The spine may be broken but the gut perseveres! So I have outlasted my expectations. A lot of art comes from despair. Reaching back to prehistory, looking for images and forms which make meaning out of the pain and imbalances in our lives. I am no longer very much into despair or depression. Most of the things I worried about have long since passed. I’m still kicking, still carving, still taking pictures and drawing pictures…. it seems hard to stop me! So now I have to think about things like web pages and crashing hard drives. But worry is nothing new to any artist. We worry about the paint drying, we worry about the fire dying, we worry about running out of beer. But we do not stop, even when we pass Go. We pick it up and put it down.
The work goes on. The artist perseveres.
We built a nice 2 story gambrel roofed garage and I took the upstairs as my studio, hauling and setting up a concrete kick wheel and long tables. Masks were placed on the wall along with a paper describing their place in the series. These were the works based on Jon’s story, the nurses, doctors and fellow patients at the brain injury rehabilitation hospital.
Then my father decided to sell all of his wood working tools. He was living in Missouri and planned to move to California. So a friend and I drove a car down to Missouri and rented a big truck and loaded all of Dad’s tools up and paid him $1500. he was happy and we were happy. Dad had all the kinds of tools that I did not, so now I had a nice wood working studio.
In the ceramic studio I faced a problem: my discs were getting softer and I had bone spurs on top of my arthritis. The kick wheel got used mostly in detailing hand built sculptures and I knew I could not throw pots without hurting my back. I needed a slab roller. Finally on CraigsList we found an excellent Bailey slab roller, manual and in pristine condition. I began to make functional ware by making some plaster molds and using them to make serving dishes and bowls. I found a very nice pugmill for sale on CraigsList and added that to the equipment. By now all the tools were downstairs in one bay so I started using the upstairs for storage and the west side of the garage for ceramics. I built a divider wall and put in a door. The east side was crowded with wood tools and wood slabs. I have acquired four kiln burners which fire propane and will add one or two to my noborigama in the shed outside. The reminder burners (I hope) will be used to build a smaller down draft kiln on top of the bonfire pit. Then I will have two mixed fuel kilns, one computer controlled electric kiln, one old electric top loader kiln, and enough bricks left over to build pits and such for low fire work. By now I have also added a very clean electric throwing wheel so that Margaret or any student I get in the future can try their hand at throwing. Now we need Spring to happen.
Aye, boys, it was on a night like this that the Old Wormlet went down! All aboard were lost except for me and my dog, Blodger. We slept all night in the raft, tossed by the waves and no idea of where we were! But the worst part were the sounds of them sirens, singing sailors to their doom! All night they sang and all night we listened…. the next day we washed up on the beach and were able to find our way back to civilization. Ar! It were a terrible time…..
It’s approximately 5 degrees F in the studio. The little kerosene heater will not do a lot to heat the room, especially as the north wall is a garage door. In the spring, if the housework allows me, I intend to put up an actual, insulated wall with a real door and a real window! There’s also a little window in the west wall which should be replaced by an insulated window, even a bigger one. I really could use the light. The slab roller takes up a lot of room but is good as a workbench when it’s so cold like this. I am working on carving a mahogany plaque for a headboard. You fire up the kerosene heater and stand with your back to it and you can get some carving done.
Once I get the propane tank installed outside for the noborigama kiln I can run a line to the studio for a propane heater and maybe get at least 3 seasons out of it. I have 4 kiln burners to hook up, two for the big kiln and one for the new medium sized kiln which is slated to be built sometime in the next two years. I have to be realistic what with my discs getting soft and the arthritis in my hands getting worse. It might take me longer to do some fairly simple things to get this studio complex up and running right. In theory I can even set up a small foundry for casting metals.
The one thing I cannot plan for and which I really need is an apprentice or a partner to help with the lifting and stoking. I’ve advertised but the young ones hate the idea of hard work, and tend to want a deal where they make their stuff and then if they stick around later they’ll help me. Not a great plan. So, I guess it’s me and the dog for the time being.
In the course of things I have finally reached the point where I think I have somethings to say and to show. No master by any means of the technologies I employ in my art, still I am trying to get as good as some of the masters I have known and loved, like my beloved Grandfather Riley Shirley, a master sculptor who breathed enough marble dust to petrify most of his lungs, but at the end he was still carving, whittling a small pine wood statue of Lil Abner. At the end, my end, I hope to be doing something creative, something someone could admire and keep.