First look: votive bone ring

Remember those carved bone rings I showed off a few days ago? The first ring-book is now complete.

dia-votive-ring-1I’ve decided the edition of 6 will have a Dia de los Muertos theme because 1) I live in the Southwest, 2) I’ve adored ‘Dia’ celebrations since I was a kid in New Mexico, and 3) It’s getting to be Halloween time, folks!

Colors and materials inspired by Moroccan and Latin-American textiles. Gray-tan linen pages are accented with red cotton edgings and rainbow ribbon applique (in a quiet homage to the Pulse nightclub attack, and in solidarity with my LGBTQ friends).

dia-votive-ring-1-openEach book will have a slightly different closure mechanism of shell, bone, and leather. Each book will be Coptic-bound in red waxed polyester cord, with carved bone and glass-accented tassels.

‘Dia del los Muertos Votive Rings’. Edition of 6. Dimensions: approx. 5″x1.5″x1.75″. Materials: carved bone, leather, shell, glass, cotton, waxed polyester cord.

Dear Hillary

I’m a registered Independent voter. I’ve been watching your political career since 1992. Your good points are also your bad points: you are a career politician and you show many signs of being a paid corporate shill. Okay. At the worst, that means you know that politics and business are nuanced affairs.

You are also the only adult in the room, when it comes to this American Presidential election. So don’t make Barack Obama’s mistake, of pandering to the sensibilities of racist, homophobic, anti-science, isolationist ‘bitter clingers’ who would rather give blowjobs to a Communist dictator than truly make America Great.

Don’t apologize. Don’t back down. You were right in mentioning that half of Trump’s supporters were well-meaning but desperate people who feel the world has let them down and left them behind.

They aren’t the ones in the basket of deplorables.

Six Bone Rings…

…On their way to being art.

Fire Mountain Gems had a closeout sale recently, during which I got some great  items that will all make incredible book or jewelry art. Eventually.

The first such transformation will be these six carved bone rings, originally from China & dyed with dark brown bands and peace symbols. For around $1 each, I thought they’d make perfect mini-platforms for altered art. They vary in ring size, and the raised (peace symbol) portion is no more than .75″ across. I did a preliminary clean on the one on the far left.

six-bone-rings-1

The brown dye was so fugitive it rubbed off on my hands! That had to go, via about an hour with a tub of water, a cordless Dremel, and some graduating grades of sandpaper. While I hated taking away another artisan’s hard work, I have to admit that the cleaned rings look so much better.

six-bone-rings-2

Then I made some ‘pages’ from strips of machine-embroidered linen and cotton bias tape. Drilled some holes in one of the newly-cleaned rings. Cut, embossed, and painted some leather strips. Carved out two more bone shapes, to go with the ring. I have to find or order boxes to fit them, because they’ll need some kind of storage/presentation case.

With luck, I’ll be showing off the first of six bone mini-book rings in a week or so. My target wholesale price will be around $85 to $100 each. I’m reasonably sure the edition will sell out within a year of delivery to my art agent.

Not a bad investment in art supplies and a little time.

First look: Moro’s Price revisions

I’m having too much fun completely re-writing this book. Should revisions be fun?

Leopard of Saba

 

Slightly different names, timelines, inciting incidents, backstory. Still a big, messy space opera romance. Still familiar to the 1500 – 2000 of you who read the first one, but hopefully much better.

The new first line of the new Chapter 1 (subject to change, of course):

Fourteen hundred spectators watched Jason Kee-DaSilva, the Leopard of Saba, ruin his career two minutes after his comeback victory.

 

(Digital sketch after this article on Muay Thai.)

First look: ‘Breathe’ fiber art book

Breathe flat for blog‘Breathe’ has been on my to-make list for a couple of years, ever since I stumbled on the quartet of Latin mottos that inspired it.

Is it based in soaring social feelings and a genuine wish to see good in the world? Yes. Especially in this sordid election season and social turmoil.

But there’s a more basic truth at play here, as well. As a book artist, I am always looking for very small quotes, poems, etc. They are easier to carve, paint, sew, and print! That very constraint sparks invention.

And for twenty years a line from ‘The Mystic’s Dream’, one of Loreena McKennit’s songs, has pushed at me, wanting to be acknowledged in art form:

“A painting hangs on an ivy wall
Nestled in the emerald moss…”

Projected materials: 1″x.25″ white mother-of-pearl beads painted with illuminated script. Mother-of-pearl accent beads. Commercially-printed cotton. Polyester heavyweight felt. Waxed polyester cord. Poplar and basswood. Glass beads. Acrylic paint. Probably more stuff I throw at it, along the way.

Projected size: 2.75″ x 1.75″ x 3.75″. Page count: 12.

Should be fun…whenever I get it finished!

Breathe text in progress blog

In memoriam: Gene Wilder

I didn’t know when I posted a quip from ‘Blazing Saddles’ a few days ago, how poignantly topical that would become.

We just lost Gene Wilder, a devastatingly funny, wickedly honest, profoundly wise man. The signal-to-noise ratio of the world just got a bit stupider, meaner, and more callous with his passing.

 

Linen Pearl Scarf – Done!

Linen grid scarf drapeA month or so ago I posted a progress report on a scarf project. It’s finally finished. I may or may not sell it, but I’d like to wear-test it first.linen grid scarf long

Materials: natural gray-tan linen, bias-cut cotton, cotton-polyester thread, rectangular mother of pearl beads.

It not only came out close to my initial sketch, it’s even better. I’m usually ready to sell pieces the moment I finish and document them, but I might hold onto this one for a while.

Plus, I’m not sure I *can* sell it, not for the $200 minimum I’d need to recoup materials and labor. I certainly can’t sell it locally, and I’ll rant for a bit on the reason why:

The $200 scarf and the neighborhood boutique.

A decade ago I could have placed this scarf in at least four galleries/boutiques in Arizona. And probably would have sold versions of it for between $300 to $360, at the rate of three or four a month. Possibly more.Linen grid scarf close

Vendors like that still exist in the Southwest, but not many, and getting into them is as much or more of a challenge than snagging a literary agent’s eye.

I love my local clothing and accessory boutiques, but I can’t afford to buy from them often. The internet, the economy, and public buying habits are killing many of the local retailers of fine & funky clothing.

‘Fast fashion’ is affordable and easy to get online or at local malls (even if a lot of it is based on stolen designs and poor quality construction). Outlet stores undercut even the fast fashion outlets. Cheap knockoffs from Asia drive the pulse of the ever-changing market.

The phrase “I spent 25 hours on this scarf” is met not with approval but disbelief, as if why would I waste time on such a thing. Couldn’t I just have bought it from China? (By the time this post is a week old, I probably can.)

I made it because I wanted to see if I could make it. If I sell it, I want at least a pittance to compensate for replacing the raw materials…and I’m even going easy on my labor.

I can’t afford to ‘buy local’ on lots of new clothing and accessories (I’m a thriftstore adventurer, not a Barneys or Macy’s full-price labelhound.) So I can’t afford to sell locally, either. I’m pulling back from local retail markets, and not even trying to place work in higher-end regional or national galleries. That would require ramping up to wholesale production levels, a workload I simply can’t do right now.

carnelian nest necklace 8-10-2014Last year I placed some of these stone and cord convertible necklaces in a local boutique food & drink purveyor, because the owner wanted to offer accessories that fit her store’s vibe. This store is in an established and fairly busy open-air shopping mall, in one of the highest-rent areas of Phoenix. Neighboring stores include trendy, very upscale brands and medium to expensive restaurants. I see the cars in the parking lot, and can estimate the net worth of their drivers.

First problem: the store owner needed me to come down on the first necklace prices. $150 wholesale was too much, she couldn’t sell them for $250 -300 retail. I pulled back the expensive twelve-strand necklaces and brought out some four-strand pieces with lesser stones. I said: “I have more affordable designs. What’s your wholesale price point?”

No more than $80 or $90 retail, she estimated, which left me earning a consignment of $40 to $50. I let her keep two necklaces for show, along with this neckform that I ornamented from a friend’s plaster casting.White Henna neckform

Three months later there were no nibbles on the necklace, or even the neckform. “People liked them, they just don’t want to pay much right now,” the boutique owner explained.

I can’t blame her: she knows her customers. I know her customers. They’ll spend $$$ on her products, because those are worth every penny. But my jewelry looks simple, and isn’t loaded down with gold or faceted gems. So the assumption is ‘Costume jewelry=cheap=probably plastic=I can buy that at the mall or on Etsy.’

Which is why I’m moving most of my sales platforms online, where I’ll be paying lower consignment fees and have a hope of getting paid.

The importance of proofreading

Nobody’s perfect.

That we all make mistakes is no excuse for not trying to prevent them, or fixing them afterward. It’s certainly not a reason to go on the offensive and try to deny there was ever a mistake in the first place.

Own up, early and completely: most sane people will probably forgive you, because nobody’s perfect.

Hell, I regularly find errors in this blog, two or three years after publishing a post. And let’s not forget my debut novel, which I am now revising after getting the rights back last month. This thing was published four years ago and sold a couple thousand copies, and the gaffes I’m only spotting now have been seen by all those people.

That said, when you are offering any kind of public face, proofreading is a vital step that many people and businesses seem to miss.

They may not know any better. They may be cynically counting on a population’s advancing illiteracy and lackluster reasoning skills to conceal the problem. They may even excuse the error, with the idea that it makes them seem more approachable, down-to-earth, one of the masses…

Gene Wilder Blazing Saddles Quotes

But there are enough sharp eyeballs out there, that businesses need to be vigilant about their public facade. The best they face is a private personal correction…the worst is public mockery.

Take this restaurant sign.

ProofreadingThe business owners wrote up the ad copy, and none of them spotted a problem. They paid to have it made by a print shop, either local or online. Nobody there saw a problem, either.

Do you see the problem?

The food might be excellent. I’m going to try it out, to see. This is just a common typo, after all.

But a business or businessperson who misses or deliberately fudges some non-vital stages in their operations, may be missing more critical issues, too.

Today, it’s a turkey panini. Tomorrow, it may be nuclear launch codes or climate change responses.

A new needle

After looking at my old 1st attempt at a fossil mammoth-ivory needle, I decided to re-create the second needle I made back in the mid-80s. Ergo, the new needle is here:bone turquoise needle1 blog

This is a fossil mammoth ivory needle 62 x 4 x 3mm, hole 4 x 1.5mm.  Inlaid plug of stabilized turquoise. Anchored with DevCon high-strength epoxy tinted by NuPastel chalk. Polished with 300-grit garnet paper, 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper, and white oxide.

Working time approximately 4.5 hours.

I’m really happy about this piece. It’s better than the one I sold.

But if I’m getting back into nalbinding, I’m going to need a larger needle…

Added 8-26-2016: I redrilled the old needle and chopped it down to around 55mm. A bit of repolishing, and it’s a great companion to the turquoise inlaid needle.

Ivory needles

I’m holding off making or buying the larger bone needles I want, because that would mean new distractions in nalbinding (Honey, I made you VIKING SOCKS) and expensive trips to every yarn store I know. And remembering how much I stupidly love carding fine wool and plant fiber.

I need to win a lottery just to handle my creative obsessions.

Valier, digital pastel, 8-26-2016

So, since I didn’t get Singer In Rhunshan into PitchWars (and knew it would be a longshot), I’m back to the revisions on Moro’s Price.

For those of you who didn’t know, the latter is a big space opera-ish M/M erotic romance set against a futuristic but by no means scientific background. When wrote it in 2011, I deliberately placed it into the far future of the Lonhra Sequence. Bits of ‘Firefly’, ‘Dune’, ‘Bablyon ‘5, and the Vorkosigan saga inspired it; since then, I’ve been watching ‘Killjoys’, ‘The Expanse’, and ‘Dark Matter’ intently for more inspiration.

I get to do crazy wonderful things to this book, now that I have it back from the original publisher. Fun things. Like substantially change the opening chapters, condense some of the dragging middle, and weave it better into Moro’s Shield, the sequel, and The Leopard of Saba, a spinoff novella set before and during Price.

It helps to know what people look like, while I write them. This round of revisions, I changed Valier Antonin, with slightly stronger facial features and curlier hair. Makes sense: his mother has major curls, and she’s the stronger genetic donor in the mix of people who made Val.

This isn’t the teenage Val I had been sketching, but the man in his mid twenties, when Moro meets him.

Val 2016 for blog

The oldest known bone needle

I thought I’d step back from dire politics, horrendous wars, and unimaginable natural disasters for a look at an amazing artifact just announced to the world.

This bone needle.

inside_needle_1

Of probable Denisovan origin, it dates to around 50,000 years old, and was found at a very information-rich cave site in Siberia.

What’s so cool about this piece?

It’s a sign and symbol of human* ingenuity.

It’s a tool of creation.

A needle is a long, tapered sliver of something relatively hard, with a point at one end and a hole or a single or double split prong at the other. The point goes through leather, basketry coils, or woven or knitted cloth…or even flesh, if you’re stitching a wound. The hole carries a doubled thread or cord; the split prongs do the same thing for a single cord, helped along by tension and/or some thin cord wrapping.

Needles help human beings make things and alter their environment. These are sophisticated tools requiring good spacial skills and predictive reasoning to even imagine.

Some of the easiest (and probably earliest) needles were porcupine quills, which have a wicked natural point on them and can carry a thread of plant fiber or animal sinew. This Etsy shop has pre-drilled quills, in case anyone wants to sew old-school.

We still have the basic form today, in steel or bronze two-prong needles for leather lacing. Here’s an example from Tandy Leather, Inc.2-prong-lacing-needle-1190-00-250_250The leather gets pushed between the two prongs, and possibly secured with some thin thread in those two holes you see inside the top prong.

Split-backed or two-prong needles in bone, ivory, stone, or hardened wood are very prone to break or give way, usually just when you are dragging the needle through a tough piece of leather that you forgot to pre-punch with a slightly larger hole. Or you made the hole too small. Or any number of reasons that don’t salve your frustration factor.

The smart thing (other than being very finicky about pre-punched holes!) is to forget about the prongs, and put a hole in the back end of the needle. You still have to be careful about breaking that fragile end, but it makes sewing so much easier.

I made a fossilized mammoth-ivory needle in a paleontology class years ago. It took a couple of hours, even with steel tools and modern sandpaper.

This is my first 2.5″ long needle. I’m amazed I still have it after all these years.ivory needle

It earned about a B- if I recall. The hole is drilled off-center, with a risk of snapping on that side. The back grooves meant to carry the thread below the level of the needle (less snagging!) are also off-center. I made another, slightly larger one in that class, and it turned out so well the teacher encouraged me to ornament it below the hole with an inlaid turquoise disk. That needle sold for $30 to an SCA historical re-enactor a few years later. (I’m looking at this one, plotting to chop it down and re-drill the back. Hey, another metaphor for trunked works and revision!)

For a paleolithic artisan, a holed needle would have been an even bigger investment in time and material…and a valuable trade good, once finished.

The really cool thing about this Siberian needle?

*It wasn’t technically made by humans, but by our long-extinct older cousins. Denisovans are a recently-discovered hominid species or subspecies who existed well before modern-type Homo Sapiens, and appeared to range around what is now northeast Asia and Siberia. At least 125,000 years back, maybe more. They were an arty bunch, too, showing evidence of some startlingly modern-looking and well-designed jewelry.

So bully for proto-humanity, making needles in southern Siberia that long ago!

Orange Carnelian Necklace

Because sometimes, simple is good.orange carnelian necklace blog

Materials: Champagne SoftFlex heavy duty beading wire, sterling silver lobster clasp, heavy jump ring, crimp tubes, crimp covers, and wire guards from Plazko.com. Orange carnelian nugget beads from the Tucson Rock & Gem Show 2016.

Length: 18″

I do have an ulterior motive for making this piece, which you’ll see in a later blog post (yes, it is part of an eventual outfit). But this necklace is casual enough for everyday wear with jeans and paint-covered T-shirt.

Etsy Showcase: some twisted wires

 

This will be an elitist rant about metal wire.

First, soothe your eyes by looking at this piece:

wirework bracelet(Lisa Barth: ‘The Perfect Marriage’ bracelet, photo courtesy of Lisa Barth and Bead & Button Magazine. Link: http://www.firemountaingems.com/resources/gallery-of-designs/f761)

Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about wirework jewelry. Sometimes known as wire-wrapping, wire-weaving, or tension wire weaving, this (mostly) cold-forming group of metal techniques is centered around the manipulation of metal wires without the use of hot-forging, soldering, or welding.

I say mostly cold-forming, because great jewelry artists know that techniques are merely tools. They can create lovely pieces through pure cold-forming…but judicious use of forging, annealing, and solder can take work into legendary levels.

Barth’s award-winning bracelet above combines gorgeous wire work with soldering fabrication (the fancy gallery-wire bezel around the central stone), and what appears to be precious-metal-clay or embossed silver plaques (the back plates behind stones and the clasp). Some of the other artists I’m going to link to use metal clay, fabrication, or hot-forging work to add components and shape to their wire creations.

Basic wirework is easy to learn and easier to do badly. Here’s where the ‘elitist’ part of the rant comes in.

I’d estimate that about 60% of the wire wrapped jewelry, masks, and other accessories I’ve seen in online venues (Etsy, DeviantArt, Facebook, Pinterest, Artfire, Amazon Handmade, etc.) are made badly, cheaply, with little skill, design, or understanding of the materials involved.

I’m not going to call out specific examples of these folks, many of whom are selling their work for very low prices to other people who don’t know better.

It would not be kind, and I don’t want to give them even negative advertising.

In many cases, the ‘artisans’ may never learn better. These are the folks who never anchor a wire loop with a spiral wire collar, so it won’t pry apart. Who use low-temp soft solder on their pieces, because they don’t know that 1) it can be poisonous and 2) it has a higher probability of failure. Who use dead soft wire and then wonder why the piece distorts so easily. These are basic hobbyists. I’m happy for their joy they take in their work, even while I shake my head at their results.

As with all my Etsy Showcase posts, I want to focus on some of the very best wire artists of today. I can’t get all of them, so if you get addicted, just follow a few of the many ‘Wirework’ Pinterest categories down the rabbithole, and prepare for hours in Wonderland.

A good starting point, as with the Barth bracelet above, are the yearly winners of the Bead & Button conference ‘Bead Dreams’ show, and the Fire Mountain Gems-sponsored jewelry competitions. In whatever technique you love, you can be sure that the winners and finalists really are some of the greatest artisans around.

From New Zealand: the magnificent fiber and wire jewelry artist and couturier Claire Prebble, whose stunning career was cut short by her early death from cancer late in 2015. Claire is famous for wearable art, clothing, masks, headpieces, and other artifacts that incorporate precious metal wire on a near-mythical scale. Her works live on in video and book format, and (for now) here at her website.

There’s a high-powered group of insanely talented wire jewelers working out of Russia and eastern Europe. All of them are amazing. Here are just a couple:

Vanini Design  And a direct link to one of her pieces.

Nastiva Jewelry  Anastasiya Ivanova is another fearless designer.

Out of Germany, JS Jewelry, a wire artist whose ear cuff and other wire designs got me back into the game.

From the United States, one of the reigning champions, Sarah Thompson.

You may notice a similarity between Sarah, Nastiva, and Vanini – they all use hot-work to create ball-formed, flat arcs, and other ‘fancy’ forms to their basic wire. They’re also wicked good at building large-scale wire forms, then filling them with thinner-gauge wire weaving.

Interested to learn this intricate craft? Pinterest and Craftsy are full of tutorials on how to do it well…even if you don’t want to introduce hot work into your pieces.

Jewelry design is another field that has become more inclusive due to mass-produced components and supplies, as well as the booming hobby industry. Fire Mountain Gems, Rio Grande Jewelry Supply, and Plazko.com are some of my favorite suppliers from sterling silver wires in several tempers (hardness levels) for wire jewelry.

I’m just getting back into wire work, and loving it. I have a long way to go, to get near the great artists I’ve listed above.

black silver ear cuff 2.0 blog

 

 

2016 Hugo Awards

It is that lovely time of the summer when the Hugo Awards are happening. In just a few minutes, we’ll see what kind of debacle this will be. Livestreaming here:

http://www.ustream.tv/hugo-awards

Added: congratulations to the deserving winners, the deserving nominees, the suffering announcers, and the sweaty audience of Hotel Debacle. And jeers to the sad and rabid dingbats who must be frothing at the mouth right about now…

Added still later: The Guardian has a good summary of the events.

And from io9, another more partisan account.

Faith and Freedom Coalition Survey Part 2 (political rant)

Faith and Freedom Coalition Survey, Part 2 of 2.

Question 8: What is your opinion of the fact that Hillary Clinton says she wants to use the full force of the government to change the beliefs of Christians to conform with support of same-sex gay marriage and support for abortion-on-demand? I’m given, predictably, the choice of Outrageous, Frightening, Concern, or I Support Hillary’s Call for Criminalizing Christian Moral Teachings, or Not Sure.

Facepalm. These are very clumsy leading choices.

I’m beginning to wonder about the conservative obsession with gay marriage. I mean, I write some gay characters (and straight, and asexual, and wow even non-binary!) and I’m not as obsessed as you.

My gay friends are getting married? Great! The world can be a weird and strange place, it’s good to find someone who loves you through all your foibles and faults. I’m exactly as threatened by gay marriage as I am by straight marriage: in that I’m just as likely to roll my eyes and mutter about expensive gift registries.

As for abortion…hmm, guess what. Young people are too busy dealing with dicey job markets and student loans to have much sex. They’re too poor to move out of their parents’ houses, so hook-ups are tricky. Poverty is not an aphrodisiac.

Abortion levels go down with higher education and access to real, proven family planning aids. Abstinence is a joke. Ignorance is deadly in a world with AIDs and drug resistant sexually transmitted diseases. You want to reduce abortion? Make birth control better. Teach real and effective sex education. Make sure girls aren’t married off in their teens to become broodmares pumping out little Stepford clones.

No one wants Chinese-style mandatory abortion. But like pet spay-and-neuter clinics, we need to be realistic about sex, relationships, and messy reality. The GOP needs to stop being the party of of ‘Forcible Rape’. Stop being the base camp for underhanded legislation that claims to be on behalf of ‘women’s health’, but is really aimed at shutting down women’s health clinics. Those happen to offer a lot more, especially to poor women, than just abortions.

Let’s talk about abortion and Zika, to use one heartbreaking example. The abortion laws in America thawed in response to a previous disease outbreak that caused massive, debilitating, and even fatal birth defects. Are you conservatives pledged to spend the millions of dollars to ‘save’ every Zika baby that does not have a functioning brain? To offer the mother a lifelong stipend so she can care for her Zika baby, herself? Because at the moment, the joke among the younger demographic is that many conservative activists will lie, cheat, and steal to get a pregnant teen to deliver…but offer her nothing but shame and scorn afterward. Or they just want the (healthy) baby to only be raised by ‘good Christian’ straight white adoptive parents.

By now, I’ve about had it with this idiotic survey and I’m tired of finding diplomatic answers. So this time, I do vote I Support Hillary’s Call for Criminalizing Christian Moral Teachings…insofar as that pertains to institutionalized sexism, racism, anti-science nonsense, faith-based medicine, child abuse and endangerment, and child rape. No, your cherished beliefs do not get a pass here.

Drumroll…another Issue Summary: ‘FAITH & FREEDOM COALITION believes that 2016 is probably the most important election of our lifetime because America is heading over a cliff in so many areas – and that America is right now at a “tipping point.” We believe that 2016 is our last chance to save America as the “land of the free” for your children and grandchildren.’

Ah, I see. They’ve narrowed down what they think is my demographic. Wrong again, Ralph. I firmly believe that America is only in critical danger from people like you.

Question 9: How strongly do you agree or disagree with this assessment by FAITH & FREEDOM? Yay, I have the choice of Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or No Opinion.

I vote Strongly Disagree. I do worry that you clowns will create your own Apocalypse, and I doubt you’ll have the grace to only take each other out. Can we please have a Rapture here, soon? It may just save the planet.

Question 10: Are you currently registered to vote? The choices are Yes and No. The survey then helpfully offers ‘If your answer is “No,” would you like FAITH & FREEDOM COALITION to send you a Voter Registration Kit?’ Again, a Yes or No answer (with my prediction that if the survey reveals someone sympathetic, they are sending that kit anyway.)

I vote Yes, that I am registered to vote. Honey, I am so registered.

Question 11: Will you solemnly pledge right now to vote in 2016 if you are physically able to do so? A Yes or No choice, followed by an official ‘Important: Please sign on this line to verify your pledge to vote in 2016:’

Oh, to quote Sarah Palin: “You betcha!” I say Yes because I certainly pledge to vote. And I sign, but not with a signature that completely matches my legal one (I don’t trust these folks, after all, and this is not a legally binding document.) I am more committed to voting now, than even before. They’ve mobilized me!

Question 12: Will you also pledge to bring like-minded friends with you to vote in 2016, or to take steps to make sure they vote? Yes or No choice, refreshingly urgent in its simplicity.

Again Yes, and “You betcha!” I’m DMing all my gay millennial friends in about twenty minutes. And all my erotic romance writer friends. And a few age-tamed anarchists I know who are still on the fence.

Question 13: Will you send your best donation right now to FAITH & FREEDOM COALITION to help fund this $12.3 MILLION FINAL 90-Day HOME-STRETCH PUSH Battle Plan Dr. Ralph Reed described to you in his letter, so that we can save the America you love for your children and grandchildren?*

*Their words and capitalization. ‘Nuff said.

The America they love is the one with segregation and the Klan, ‘Strange Fruit’ and Emmett Till, banned abortions, banned birth control, anti-science and isolationist factions in power, and the fantasy of a theocratic empire. Where to prevent black people and white people swimming together in the early 60s (gasp!) Lynchburg VA, filled in three public swimming pools. And this home of Christian Liberty University wasn’t the only American city to go to such drastic lengths to avoid following the law of the land.

And get this: my choices literally are:

Yes, because I share your view that the 2016 Elections is our last chance to save America.

No, because I like the direction America is heading.

Of course this is about money in the end. It’s about money for the Coalition. Money that Trump makes off his name-value association during his political stunts, whether he wins or loses. Money made by lobbyists and political appointees. Money lost by the Trump followers, who still believe that Prosperity gospel will somehow transfer the equivalent of The Donald’s wealth to them. Meanwhile all of them are making my America an uglier, meaner, angrier place.

I vote No.

America is already great, and it can be much greater. Ralph, I don’t want to live in your version of ‘great’ America, because I’ve already seen it in post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction. Yuck.

Added later for emphasis: Ralph Reed says he is ‘counting on’ every good Christian to contribute an average of $26.43 to his fund raiser for Donald Trump. Neither of them are getting one greasy penny from me. In fact, this week I’m calling the Hillary campaign to offer my support.

Because she’s the adult in the room.

Faith and Freedom Coalition Survey, Part 1 (political rant)

Part 1 of 2.

Summary and warning: I get harsh with certain evangelical Christians.

Why did Dr. Ralph Reed and his evangelical Christian Faith and Freedom Coalition send me an advertising pitch disguised as a voter survey? Maybe because I was a registered Republican for many years? I’m a 50ish female Independent voter in Arizona, which is shaping up to be something of a battleground state?

They’re casting their net wide to include me. I haven’t been even a casual Republican for almost 2 decades. I never saw 100% eye-to-eye with many Democratic Party issues, so I became an Independent. I see only the worst tokens of old Republicanism in the Trump cotillion. I also see disturbing parallels to the Nazi Party and Mussolini’s fascist expansion of the late 1930’s.

Even if I were somehow still ‘undecided’, the testimonial letters included in this mailing would be likely enough to push me away. When the likes of Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mark Levin, Ben Carson, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Tim Scott, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Boddy Jindal endorse your movement, I know I’m not welcome in your Big Tent.

So, I thought, I should at least look at this survey, and see what my adversaries are saying. This is new and unscripted: I just opened the thing, and am alternating reading it and typing this post.

Please bear in mind that most of the grammatical and punctuation errors are simply what I’ve copied from the mailing. I’m not editing it beyond paraphrasing when necessary for brevity. The Faith and Freedom folks have a loose idea about grammar and punctuation, I’m afraid.

  1. The survey itself almost exactly mimics a paper ballot in its layout, paper thickness, and size. I’m in marketing, I know this game. Create expectation and anticipation. Fake reality until enough people believe your lie. Frame your narrative to make your conclusion seem correct and inevitable.
  2. The survey opens with a plea to conservative Christian voters to get out and vote in November. It reminds voters that up to 30 million Christian voters stayed home in 2012. In 2014, the coalition prides itself on reaching out to Christian voters, who were only 32% of the electorate but voted 86% Republican, allowing massive sweeps in that midterm election. (Their numbers. I’m not playing fact-check right now.)
  3. The survey aims to energize registered Christian voters and convince the stragglers to register and vote.
  4. The survey expounds repeatedly on the theme that America is doomed unless Christians ‘take it back’ the ‘Left’s radical anti-Christian, anti-family, socialist agenda to transform America.’
  5. The underlying Vote or Die! meme is continued at lower right of the first page, with the direction ‘Continue Official Ballot Inside’ and a large black arrow. I remind my readers this isn’t a real ballot. It’s a fund raising tool aimed at getting millions more dollars for Donald Trump and lesser Republican candidates.

On the inside, again flipped vertical exactly as a legitimate ballot, the survey embarks on 13 questions. Bear with me, as I grab a black ink pen and go through each one.

Question 1: If the election were held today, for whom would you vote? I get a choice of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or a blank spot for a write-in candidate.

Even with my skepticism about Clinton’s ties to big business…and as tempting as it might be to write in ‘Giant Meteor’…I choose Clinton. Why? Because Donald Trump appears to show signs of several psychological disorders, and can’t be trusted with a New Jersey casino, let alone what I think is still one of the greatest countries on earth.

Question 2: How do you rate Barack Obama’s performance as President? I get the choice of Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Abysmal, or Undecided.

I choose Fair because I think that we did not get Candidate Obama or even The Rock Obama…we got someone who waffled a lot, was under the delusion he would get any kind of compromise from this new psychotic GOP, and allowed the Republicans to pretty much frame the national narrative over the last eight years. A typical Democratic flaw, alas.

Question 3: If Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected President in 2016, do you think she would be an improvement over Barack Obama, about the same, or worse for America’s future? (Nice leading language on that last point, folks. Frank Luntz should be proud of you.) I get the choice of Worse, A Slight Improvement, No Opinion, About the Same, A Big Improvement, and a large write-in spot for Other. (I’m estimating it’s large enough for one of several Fox Talking Point rants.)

I chose About the Same and write it in, because I see no reason she would change. But then I realize there is one good thing about Clinton’s nearly 30 years of experience with GOP adversaries: she already knows their tricks and probably won’t tolerate as many of their tantrums as Obama has. But I’ve already written in ‘About the Same’. And while Barack Obama has disappointed me in many respects, he and Hillary Clinton share an important trait: they’re both intelligent, rational adults.

Before we get to the next question, we have a block of highlighted text announcing an Issue Summary. Why? Because the Coalition wants to make sure we survey takers understand the Terrible Peril We Face if we answer the next question wrong.

Partial summary text: ‘The next President is likely to have three new Supreme Court Justices and will set the direction of the Supreme Court for generations.’ Then follows some dog-whistle language about gay marriage and other ‘outrageous and unconstitutional rulings’. Imagine the liberal orgy if more left-wing judges get appointed! I have two words to answer that: Citizens United. Liberal-leaning judges did not jam that one through the SCOTUS. The Voting Rights

After all that, the next question is almost anticlimactic.

Question 4: How important to you is it that we elect a President who will appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges who will follow the Constitution of the United States and NOT just make up their own laws in accordance with their own personal ideological views?

Room here for a comment here about psychological transference, Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas. I’m given the choices of Essential to America’s survival as the “land of the free”, Very Important, Not Important, Important, No Opinion, or that pesky big blank line for Other (another slot for a Talking Point, yay.)

I’m choosing Essential to America’s survival as the “land of the free”, though not for the reasons these alleged patriots might want. For all his faults, Obama is a constitutional scholar. I think the Supreme Court has been hampered (and its reputation harmed) by the actions of Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas…who all played fast and loose with their take on the Constitution.

Not to mention the deep horror I feel while contemplating who and what Donald Trump might appoint as a SCOTUS judge. A business crony? A horse? His wife? A Putin or Erdogan puppet? If he appoints Christian theological judges, we’re up for the Christian version of Sharia Law. No thanks.

Oh, look, another Issue Summary. More spoon feeding leading statements.

‘It’s now obvious that Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Democrat Party are trying to transform the voting electorate in America by granting amnesty and ultimately citizenship to the estimated 20,000,000 illegal aliens now living in America and inviting tens of millions more illegal immigrants to break into America to become voters. This is how they aim to “fundamentally transform” America (as Obama put it) into a one-party socialist country. According to a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies, 76 percent of immigrants in America who have children are now on at least one welfare program.’

My reaction: What? I think your numbers are far higher than they really are, and I wouldn’t trust any think tank you reference.

I live in the Southwest, I see immigration issues all the time. There are some real problems, but honestly it’s not as bad as you’d think. The real issue, hidden behind all this coded language, is flat out racism, fear of the future, and fear of a Zero Sum Game in which poor white people are last onto the life rafts. Lyndon Johnson pointed out decades ago that as long as poor white people have someone else to piss on, they feel better about their own faults and failures.

Immigrants made the America we love. My Cherokee ancestors might have something to say about all those white people who rolled into Georgia and the Carolinas, and thanks to Andrew Jackson sent my folks on the delightful gallivant known as the Trail of Tears. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure some of those Cherokee ancestors (and English, and German ones) also owned slaves.

I would like to believe in a changing world adapting to terrible pressures, through better social instincts and better science. We are actually in a much less violent world than the one our ancestors knew. We just see more of the awful stuff because of the 24 hour news cycle and the internet. This isn’t a Zero Sum Game in which one group’s gains mean another group’s loss. We can rise together.

So give me what is sure to be your travesty of a next question:

Question 5: How concerned are you about this invasion of illegal aliens that is now overwhelming America’s health care, welfare, and public school system? I’m given the choice of Very Concerned, Not Concerned, Concerned, or No Opinion.

I pick Not Concerned, because this is a straw man issue hiding a lot of other very real problems with health care, welfare, and the public schools. Most of those problems I can lay at the feet of my once-brethren in the GOP, plus a few idiotic Democrats.

Question 6: How concerned are you that, because of this invasion of illegal aliens, we are coming to a point when a conservative pro-freedom candidate will never win another Presidential election in America? I am given the choice of Very Concerned, Not Concerned, Concerned, or No Opinion.

To be fair, I pick Not Concerned, although I would much rather have a write in spot for I SEE YOU, YOU OLD SCARED ASSHOLES! I SEE EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS ABOUT.

This is an issue about freedom, to this coalition: Their freedom to worship and live as they chose, and deny anyone different that same choice. No tolerance. Their way or none. They and ISIS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Boko Haram are all the same mindset. It’s just that the Islamic terrorists have gotten away with it by violence, and the evangelical Christians have learned to play the game with politics over the last 50 years. It’s more subtle, but it spells the same doom for the vibrant progressive America that I love.

Donald Trump’s latest angle is repealing some tax-restrictive policies that supposedly inhibit and threaten free worship today…but were once enthusiastically championed by Republicans, when those provisions were drafted to hamper socialist organizations.

You know what, Coalition? I think those tax policies don’t go far enough. I’d like to see NO TAX EVASION from churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship. Get a crowbar into those coffers. Pay your share. Render unto Caesar, and all that jazz. Many churches do wonderful, responsible social safety-net work with their tithes. Many others allow their pastors to have gold toilets and Lear Jets. We’re talking billions of dollars in cash, bonds, stock, precious metals, and property.

What next? Oh, stars, another Issue Summary:

‘We have reached a point in America that government will crack down hard on you if you adhere to Christian moral teachings. Christian bakers, photographers, and wedding service providers are being fined by the courts and threatened with prison for declining to participate in gay wedding ceremonies. One Christian baker in Oregon was fined $135,000 for declining to make a wedding cake for a gay marriage ceremony.’

Ugh. I can’t even ponder the GIF I should use for my reaction. Other than a big fat link to all the fact check sites that tell the real versions of these stories. This is just more dog-whistle code.

So-called ‘moral’ viewpoints on gay issues are sharply generational: if you are under 35 you are much more likely to see gay marriage and other gay issues as norms and non threatening. And that scares the crap out of older white conservatives.

I’m not threatened by gay marriage. I don’t think that conservative businesses should be railroaded as much as they might have been, but some of the Culture Wars anti-gay stuff I’ve seen has been ridiculous. If I were a gay person, I wouldn’t ask a conservative to bake my wedding cake. I wouldn’t sue the baker, I’d just agree to disagree and go elsewhere.

But the baker’s side won’t back down, because their entire moral viewpoint is shaped by shutting down and shunning anything that is not their ‘norm’. They not only do not want me to have their cake if I’m gay or somehow ‘other’, they don’t want me to have any cake, or any wedding, or any legal protection against harassment and violence.

Time and again, I see language from the Christian right that conflates ‘compromise’ with ‘criminalize’. Like this next question, which I saw coming several paragraphs ago.

Question 7: How concerned are you that Christianity (which includes Christian moral teachings) is quickly becoming criminalized in America? I’m given a choice of Very Concerned, Not Concerned, Concerned, or I Want Christianity Criminalized.

Sigh. The choices ignore the nuances of compromise and coexistence. I’m an agnostic at best, atheistic to a degree, and always a skeptic. I would not mourn if the more virulent forms of *all* fundamentalist religions were contained or eradicated. I’ve been reading some fascinating and chilling social studies articles about early human societies and the possible links between religiously motivated human sacrifice, authoritarian government, and oppressed populations. Big religion almost always seeks out incestuous relationships with power and privilege. The Trumps and Putins of the world will always court legitimacy with craven or naive religious leaders.

I’m fairly certain that Putin made his deals with the Russian Orthodox Church not because he believes, but because it’s a useful alliance. In Turkey, Erdogan wants a less secular society because the pro Islamist factions are more likely to prop up his personality-cult style of government. Trump is not a moral person by many of the measures Christian conservatives know. By rights, many more of them *should* be labeling him an Anti-Christ. But they and he think they can each control and use the other.

Like any religion, the moderate expression of Christianity is not a bad thing. I have fond memories of the staunch hardworking Calvinists, gentle Presbyterians, and level-headed Methodists I knew growing up. Instead of the ancient Mediterranean cultures’ focus on individuals as cogs in destiny or a state machine, early Christianity gave revolutionary precedence to individual human beings and their personal relationship with the Divine. (That it also encouraged slaves to meekly accept their earthly lot in exchange for exalted rewards in Heaven is a bit bogus, I’ve always thought.)

So no, I emphatically do NOT want to outlaw Christianity. I would like checks and balances on irrational Christian persecution complexes before they lead to the next American Civil War or World War III.

I vote Not Concerned on Question 7, simply because you assholes didn’t give me a reasonable choice.

Ramping up the persecution complex is the next Issue Summary: ‘Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is telling Christians that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” In other words, she is saying Christians need to change their beliefs to agree with gay marriage and abortion-on-demand (including partial birth abortion) and even threatens saying, “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will,” [against those who subscribe to Christian moral beliefs].’

Okay, wow, let me unpack that for a moment. Cultures change. Secularism and humanism is on the rise, and that terrifies some Christians. Not all, I might add: Reed’s coalition and his like-minded allies certainly do not speak for all Christian-identifying folks in America. Demographics shows that younger Americans are far more likely to be un-Churched if not nonreligious than older citizens. Reed and his coalition know they are on the losing side of history, and this is their last attempt to hold onto their cherished moral beliefs.

Some of which are good, and some are awful. I’ve read my Bible through multiple times, I’ve seen the sublime passages, the ridiculous, the unsavory, and the horrifying.

The conservative right has made demons out of the liberal left. The liberal left has typically passively ignored or mocked many of the right’s complaints. But if conservatives push too far the other way, they risk utterly alienating not only this younger generation, but many more to follow. Moderation and compromise are not utter defeat. If that’s the only language you understand, so be it.

(Continued in Part 2.)

 

Writer’s Dilemma: 2016 edition

I’ve entered a manuscript into the 2016 Pitch Wars.

I’m one of about 2000 writers vying for 128 slots, to be mentored for two months while I revise the mms. In early November, the mentee authors get a chance to have their work considered by a large group of agents and publishers. I have a very small chance to be selected in this first round, and no guarantee that my mms will go anywhere in November.

I’m doing this to meet other authors, and to get fresh eyes on this story.

The Pitch Wars and mentors have rightfully and repeatedly warned participating authors to watch what we say and do on social media. Normally, I’d agree.

But this is 2016 and America is facing one of the most important Presidential elections in our history. I’m about to post two blog entries that will no doubt earn the ire of many socially conservative readers…among them, prospective writing partners, agents, and editors. If so, so be it. They and I would probably not be good social or business partners, anyway. If this gets me bounced out of this contest or other opportunities…again, so be it.

This particular manuscript won’t be harmed if I trunk it again, or query it directly to the Big Five or good small publishers…or self-publish.

My fiction is important to me, as is all my art. But life is even more important. I couldn’t do much of my art in the world that a lot of the strict religious fundamentalists – of any religion – seem to want.

My art is certainly not as important as this election.

So fair warning, readers.

Silver Ear Cuffs, revisited

(And a bonus Craft Credo rant!)

I had forgotten how much fun wire wrapping can be. After a clunky start, I’m picking up on skills I left dormant a decade or more ago. Ear cuffs (aka ear jackets, ear couplings, etc) are a fun but ambitious way to jump back into this technique.

Black silver ear cuff 1.2 blog1) Here’s a slightly reworked version of the first set of blackened silver ear cuffs.

The coil over the top of the ear was too loose, resulting in too many pressure points for comfort. I ran another coil parallel to the first to fill in some of those gaps, and used the excess on either end to make some spiral finials.

Silver wire, ballpins, quality tags, and chain from Plazko.com. Gems largely from Tucson Rock & Gem Show vendors and The Bead Garden of Sedona. These still have issues, so I probably won’t sell them.

Height: 4.75″ Width (outer) 1.5″ (inner) 1.1″ Materials: sterling silver, aquamarine, smokey quartz. Weight: .8oz

black silver ear cuff 2.0 blog2) Here’s the second set of blackened silver ear cuffs.

Note the tighter spiral wrapping over the upper curve, and the more-controlled shapes of the lower hoops. Instead of using manufactured chain, I wire-wrapped chain links from 20 gauge round silver wire, carved crystal quartz (rock crystal), and garnet beads. Why? One, I’m cheap and nobody had premade lengths of similar chain, in the right gauge, for anything near what I can afford. Two, the chain design mirrors the tight spiral of the ear hook.

Gemstones from The Bead Garden of Sedona.* Silver wire, quality tags, and ballpins from Plazko.com. These ear cuffs are extremely wearable, and I’ll likely put them up for sale online in the near future.

Height: 5.5″ Width (outer) 1.25″ (inner) 1.1″ Materials: sterling silver, garnet, crystal quartz. Weight: 1.2oz

Both pieces oxidized with Win-Ox patina solution from Lonnie’s Inc.

*Other gemstone suppliers may include Bead WorldBeads Galore, and innumerable thrift store discoveries. I’ve been at this long enough that I may have forgotten where I got some of the beadstash, over the years. I’m lucky I remember what I have.

Note: there’s definitely going to be another Etsy Showcase blog post soon. It might be fun to contrast the very basic examples of wire wrapping with some of the truly sublime pieces out there. (I have a very high mountain to climb, just looking at the latter.)

***

And now, a rant.

Today’s bit of the jewelry Craft Credo: whenever possible, make your own findings. Customize manufactured findings, chain, etc. with your own touches. I could buy very basic sterling silver ear jackets online for $2.5 to $5.00 each, from a few Etsy stores, and add my dangles.

But I’m picky. Most of those have un-anchored open wire loops that can pull apart. Often, the maker may not know the critical need to file and smooth-burnish every snipped wire end, to reduce cuts and snags. (One difference between hobby jewelers and those of us who sweated and scorched our way through bench jewelry training.)

Like these gold-tone wires, which are good, but not great:

For between $12 to $20 depending on gauge (thickness) I can buy 16 to 30 feet of sterling silver wire from my favorite suppliers, and have plenty of material to play with.

This way if I need a sturdy ear jacket with a certain kind of wrapping, I know it’s mine with a little planning and effort. If I want drapes of strong garnet, crystal, and silver wire-wrapped chain, I can make them myself, to my exact needs.

In nearly any creative field, hobbyists are limited to pre-made items or collections in kits. Artisans can jump right into altering products or making what they need from basic components. (Yes, I know how to smelt silver ore and make my own wire. In two historically accurate ways. I have no real need or time to do so.)

What stops many hobbyists, other than cost? Fear of failure.

Pffft. The first set of ear cuffs above are failures, by my standards. I can’t sell them because I’d be worried about them hurting someone. If the right forewarned victim comes along and offers to wear test them for a decade or so, I’m probably going to say ‘Go for it’. The near-certainty of failure did not stop me from making the damn things.

Because I learned while I was making them. Same with other art forms, trades, skills, and writing (especially writing!)

Fall in love with the process and the journey, and ‘failure’ becomes just another valuable step.

Blackened Silver Ear Cuffs

Nearly any fantasy writer knows someone who cosplays the Lord of the Rings* movies. It may actually be a rule of fandom, I’m not sure. The jewelry, props, and costumes were that damned good. I draw the line at some of the ‘elf ear’ pointy earcuffs, because I’ve only seen a few that were magnificent.

But regular ol’ ear cuffs? Gimme.
Black silver ear cuffs for blogThese were an experiment this weekend, inspired by some examples I found online. I’m still playing with the exact shape to bend these, to fit my ears, but I’ll get there. They’re really clumsy compared to the ones I’m going to show you on the next Etsy Showcase, fair warning.

Dimensions: 5.25″H x 1.8″W

Materials: .925 sterling silver round wire, .925 sterling silver ballpins, smokey quartz, aquamarine, .925 sterling silver Italian-style quality tag. Aquamarines from a Tucson Rock & Gem Show vendor. Smokey quartz from Beads Galore. Silver wire, ballpins, and tags from Plazko.com.

Finish: oxidized with Win-Ox, then satin stripped with 900-grit wet/dry sandpaper. I’ll probably give them shinier highlights with some oxide buffing.

Time to make: 2.5 hours (ish)

Final cost: to be determined. I rarely sell prototypes, but I have been known to give them away to deserving victims test wearers.

*The new cosplay drug of choice being Game of Thrones, which is a whole other post.