Cobalt Arc Necklace

Many years ago, a wonderful little bead shop called ‘Another Bead Please’ had some gorgeous pieces of multicolored cane glass beads on commission.

I was lucky enough to score two massive curved glass beads, each in two-tone triangular cane glass: one clear and teal, and this one in cobalt and clear glass.

Since I have a stash of glass beads, I was able to match the clear/cobalt with some great coin beads, some dark cobalt pony beads, and tassels with a scattering of cobalt and metallic bronze beads to pick up the copper glass highlights in the coin beads.

It’s strung on heavy duty waxed black polyester cord, and is adjustable from about 15″ to 20″ lengths.

It’s more minimal and modern than the bead work I usually do, but no less fun.

This piece will go up on SaatchiArt Online in the next couple of days.

Added 12-26-2016: It’s live at SaatchiArt now.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Seabird Necklace

This used to be a different necklace, but I sold one of the components separately a few years ago. A different chain, a little Deco style, and here’s a new necklace!

Materials: sterling silver, amethyst, ametrine, rutilated quartz, clear quartz (rock crystal), smoky quartz, labradorite, iolite.

Concept: in a layered 3D filigree oval, a cast silver bird flies over curling waves with a 2.5mm iolite bead hanging from its beak. Filigree scrollwork dangles accent faceted smoky quartz nuggets and a teardrop cabochon ametrine with a distressed mirror backing.

Chain: gemstone beads and filigree lilies, linked by wrapped silver wire.

Chain alone: 18″ Commercial toggle clasp.

My ‘MC’ insignia on the back.

Beall’s List and fake academic publishers

The predatory vanity publishing world is not limited to fiction. Academic and scientific papers are also a hot commodity, since the legitimate markets can have high entry barriers in fees and vetting. A host of predatory and often outright criminal publishers have surfaced to ‘serve’ those customers.

Many scientists and academics need to publish work to promote their career, grants applications, or general reputation.

Many dubious presenters need an official-looking publishing credit to bolster their claims or products (similar to how fiction vanity publishers use fake or problematic contests and associations to push their services.)

How to tell the difference, when many respected logical thinkers may not be able to?

Look for the same flops in logic you’d find in other anti-intellectual communities. The same meaningless jingoism, the same vague promises…and often, the same exorbitant publishing fees!

The US and Europe have their share of these outfits. But a large number of them are based in India – a rising market combining powerful legitimate publishers, brilliant academics, knowledge-hungry students, large amounts of money, predatory vanity publishers, and viciously divisive nationalist politics.

Here’s a link to Scholarly Open Access, and Beall’s List of predatory and fake journals. If you find a ‘journal’ listed here, it’s worth taking your time to be skeptical before you decide to submit to it!

Here’s a link to Brian Dunning’s ‘Skeptoid’ podcast about fake academic publishers and the white hat hoaxers who help expose them.

Just for laughs – and the learning experience! – here’s a Wiki link to the time when SF writer Isaac Asimov thoroughly trolled a scientific journal that wasn’t paying attention.

Why is this crap a worldwide problem? A lack of properly vetted and researched scientific and academic work hurts all countries’ scientific intelligence quotient. It allows for easier plundering of whole economies by special interests using ‘fake news’ to advance their agenda. It covers and excuses wars and genocides. It promotes simplistic thinking and Orwellian Double-Speak over difficult but worthwhile truths. It has specific individual human costs, too, as when cancer patients choose ineffective bogus treatments over proven science, based off poorly-researched work in fake journals.

Peer review, like democracy, only works when your peers are intelligent, critical-thinking, and well-read members of the wider community.

What up, Russians?

First off, to the Russians who keep trying to hack me: why? I’m small fry, not worth your effort. I have 13 subscribers with a handful of other readers, and I run a blog that is mostly a wall o’text. No pretty pictures, no clickbait ads, and no one powerful cares what I think.

Granted, I’ve got your number. You’re either an entrepreneur or a state-sponsored hacker. You’re probably just trying to make a buck in an authoritarian state where the average wage has dropped to what, $200 a month? $100? Less? Where corruption, alcoholism, drug use, and kleptocracy have run rampant since the failure of perestroika, while life expectancy has plummeted. Where your Supreme Despot deflected your rightful anger away from himself and toward cultural ‘others’, in a shameful alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Hint: Pussy Riot isn’t your enemy. Putin and his friends are.

Communism failed to ever create its perfect state, with Russia, Cuba, North Korea…shall I go on? The authoritarian leanings in your country transformed emerging capitalism into plutocracy almost immediately; jury’s still out on what going to happen in Cuba or North Korea.

When you copied Western Capitalism, you also imported the worst of our attitudes toward scorning the poor and the working class, and worshiping the rich. I’m sorry for that, I had better hopes for you. Carl Sagan saw where you were going in 1996:

Russia is an instructive case. Under the tsars, religious superstition was encouraged, but scientific and skeptical thinking—except by a few tame scientists—was ruthlessly expunged. Under Communism, both religion and pseudoscience were systematically suppressed—except for the superstition of the state ideological religion. It was advertised as scientific, but fell as far short of this ideal as the most unself-critical mystery cult. Critical thinking—except by scientists in hermetically sealed compartments of knowledge—was recognized as dangerous, was not taught in the schools, and was punished where expressed. As a result, post-Communism, many Russians view science with suspicion. When the lid was lifted, as was also true of virulent ethnic hatreds, what had all along been bubbling subsurface was exposed to view. The region is now awash in UFOs, poltergeists, faith healers, quack medicines, magic waters, and old-rime superstition. A stunning decline in life expectancy, increasing infant mortality, rampant epidemic disease, subminimal medical standards, and ignorance of preventative medicine all work to raise the threshold at which skepticism is triggered in an increasingly desperate population.

But honestly, while I love Russian art, culture, and poetry, I have to accept I’m talking about a social mindset that still thinks xenophobia and Stalin are worthy ideals.

So for the user in Moscow with the IP address

31.173.101.161

Stop trying, you’re just embarrassing yourself. Go be useful to humanity’s future. Go hack the American GOP again, and show the world whatever pictures of live boys and dead girls you can hold over Trump & Co.

White Walls, Ghost Ship, and the arts in America

While we’re looking at the economic and social issues coalescing around the Ghost Ship fire, we need to accept that exploitation of creatives is so common it’s basically a tenet of American culture.

The vanity publishers I talk about in the ‘Filigree’s Rule’ section of this blog? They’re only one of the more-blatant tips of a big iceberg, culminating in our President-Elect.

Coded into bedrock American culture is the idea that art is frivolous or a luxury, that artists are second-class citizens who don’t contribute much to the greater good. ‘Safe’ art gets a nod from the powers-that-be, while ‘unsafe’ art gets tagged as unsavory and socially dangerous. ‘Play’ is never as worthy as ‘work’, even though play has been shown to be a common behavior among smarter animals, and a core practice of many genius-level humans.

I can hear any number of civic boosters, art professionals, teachers, grants committee members, and charitable foundation members yelping ‘Not so!’ if they read this. While they are all tirelessly working to fight upstream against the very attitudes I just mentioned.

Ask yourselves how much better your jobs would be, if Americans truly valued art and creativity?

From the San Francisco area comes this update on a story I first heard about years ago: the saga of a hip gallery called ‘White Walls’, a grifter called Justin Giarla, and the artists who ran afoul of him.

I was in the art supply retail business around the time White Walls became really famous. I remember seeing the glossy magazine ads for the space. I can see how artists got seduced by the pitch.

Quoted from the first story: “He did this intentionally to people, and bullied them when confronted,” Soukup wrote. “He hid behind the threat that he could ruin you if you spoke out against him.”

Quoted from the second story: When street artist David Young V, also known as DYoungV, saw Harman’s post about Giarla, it inspired him to go public with his own story. “It’s been public knowledge that Justin has been either stealing from or attempting to steal from artists for years,” DYoungV wrote in a public Facebook post. “Yet artists heard all the warnings and continued to work with him anyway. It’s almost like nobody wanted to believe the ‘rumors’ until it actually happened to them.”

Anyone who has been in the art sphere for a while has met a Giarla. I’ve known several, and yes, lost money and art to them. That artists, musicians, and writers have a tendency to shrug off such misadventures as ‘part of doing business’ is a sad but necessary fact of our lives. When any gallery exposure might be the lucky break we need to become famous – or even just solvent – we gamble.

The Giarla story at least has some merit, now that other artists beyond the initial whistle-blower have come forward to admit being scammed, too.

So if you’re a new artist trying to get your big break, what can you do? Here’s some tips I’ve learned from 30 years in the trenches:

It’s a business first, friendship second. Don’t believe anyone you work with, when they call your relationship ‘a family’. The more they emphasize ‘family’, the more you should silently add ‘dysfunctional’, and plan accordingly. Be nice about it, but protect yourself. While you’re at it, don’t completely trust your fellow artists, either – they’re all subject to the same temptations and shortcuts, and you might become a handy patsy or scapegoat.

Get everything in writing. Do not rely on handshake deals, since they can fall apart like wet toilet paper. Even the most well-meaning gallery owner can fall off the wagon, or even the map. Getting terms of your business relationship on paper may help bump you up in the line, if it comes to litigation or bankruptcy courts.

Never risk more than you can afford to lose. Accept that every single painting, sculpture, manuscript, poem, or song you produce in that relationship is subject to theft, in one way or another. Gamble – but spread out your risk factors.

Very rarely is ‘working for exposure’ worth your time. Any time someone asks you to volunteer your labor, materials, and time for free or a pittance, make sure the ‘exposure’ is actually worth something on your CV.

If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably either a filthy lie from a scammer, or the nonsense from someone too airheaded to survive in business.

 

 

Artists, protect yourselves

The lessons are piling on from last Friday’s horrific ‘Ghost Ship’ fire in Oakland, California.

At least three dozen people died.

To recap: The Ghost Ship was an urban warehouse illegally and shoddily converted into cheap work-live housing for artists, musicians, and other creatives. Electricity and water were siphoned from neighbors, and frequently didn’t work. Pre-fire images show a cluttered maze-like space called both ‘beautiful’ and ‘horrible’ by ex-tenants. It was a tinderbox waiting for a spark.

City and county officials explain they’re too overworked and disorganized to effectively deal with the hundreds of other illegal ‘work-live’ sites in their area.

Neighbors explain they called officials numerous times about the infamous warehouse.

The building owners claim they had no idea it was being used as a living space, or that the interior was hideously not up to safety codes…even though they were cited numerous times.

The building manager has shrugged off repeated warnings about fire safety and health codes, and even now seems to be trying to whine and bluster his way out of blame. He’s making those claims about ‘we’re all a family’ that we’ve heard from other exploiters.

Urban artists explain that the economy and affordable housing shortages force marginalized groups to seek ‘Ghost Ship’ types of often-illegal and nearly always exploitative communal housing. That governments and social groups have to step up to protect those vulnerable communities.

You know what, creative snowflakes? That’s feelgood Obama-era bullshit. You are on your own.

Most cities and states don’t actually care about artists, because most artists are not a lucrative enough tax base to be heard. Cities may make ‘We support the creative class’ noises, but seldom make solid promises or follow-through on safe housing and workspaces. We have a few good examples in AZ, but we also have our share of Arty Slumlords and boom-to-bust art neighborhoods.

Most civic leaders don’t want to encourage ‘alternative’ artists in any genre, because those artists have a bent for critical social commentary. In a Trump America, artists need to acknowledge they are now resistance fighters instead of cash cows. Trump himself, with his rants about comedy shows and Broadway musicals (and his own horrible taste in art!) has shown he doesn’t get that art *should* be able to challenge comfort zones.

In Trump America, there will be fewer regulations facing businesses, so don’t look for help there, either.

Why do we artists gather in cities? More opportunities, and often more safety and self expression than our heartland hometowns…especially now. Even for those of us who previously shied away from activist art. We no longer have that luxury.

The good news is we CAN protect ourselves. We can learn some basic science and safety measures. Make friends with (and pool our resources to PAY) electrical, construction, and plumbing specialists. Up our critical-thinking skills, so we can recognize deathtrap housing and megalomaniac site management when we see it. We can take logical steps to make our live-work spaces as safe as possible.

We need to think like doomsday preppers, and plan to be artists in zombie-apocalypse dystopias, where our survival depends on the choices we make. No one else is going to rescue us.

 

Pyramid Schemes, Dunbar’s Number, and Betsy DeVos

Trump’s latest cabinet pick for Secretary of Education is ‘Michigan royalty’ Betsy DeVos. This is not only a potential disaster for American public education, it’s another sure sign that when Trump says ‘Drain the Swamp!’, he must mean his version of Opposite Day. As in crony capitalism on steroids.

How swampy is Betsy DeVos, in this context?

Neither she nor her children attended public school. She’s on record for many years as an opponent of public schooling. She’s an extremely wealthy woman who champions public money funneled to private religious schools, advocates pro-religious and anti-science teaching, favors racial school segregation under the guise of ‘school choice’, and has sent political dark money to some of the worst of the religious right’s ‘Christian’ PACs and Super-PACs.

What’s the religious angle? Her brother Erik Prince (of Blackwater infamy) has advocated a white Christian theocracy in America. From this article in The InterceptThe Prince and DeVos families gave the seed money for what came to be known as the Republican Revolution when Newt Gingrich became House speaker in 1994 on a far-right platform known as the Contract with America.

But the rot goes decades further back.

Why does Betsy DeVos want to kill public education? Probably because of its Common Core goals of teaching STEM skills and critical thinking, the natural enemies of theocracy.

Where’s the multi-level marketing angle? She married into the family that founded Amway and some other large MLM companies.

I first ran across MLMs in the late 1980’s, while researching money-making opportunities in Arizona. I quickly realized their mathematical impossibility, and didn’t commit myself to any of them. I looked into them again in 2012, while researching their similarities to and connections with several vanity-publishing companies.

MLMs are built on shaky legal underpinnings, since many of them skate near but not into Ponzi schemes. Most can claim they make money by selling real products. The hard truth is that most MLMs make far more money by leveraging commissions on more and more ‘new distributors’ who fuel the pyramid scheme. Only a few people, the early adopters at the top of the pyramid, are going to amass any real wealth. Basic mathematics shows that the pyramid runs out of earning power quickly, in its lower levels.

MLMs pitch a great ‘dream’ with little solid evidence, wrap their pitch in quasi-religious terms, rake in millions of dollars in commissions, and tend to put the blame of failure on their unsuccessful members. In short, they are the perfect compatriots of many Prosperity Gospel adherents and Tea-Party/Trumpvoters.

What’s Dunbar’s Number? A possible cognitive limit to how many social connections individuals can maintain, based upon British anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s studies of primate brain size and social group size.

In this context, ‘social connection’ indicates how many people one person can know well, and still know how everyone in that network relates to every other member. The bigger the brain, it seems, the bigger the ‘tribe’ to which one can maintain loyalty and mutual trust. For most humans, that number seems to hover around 150 people.

That 150 contains our close and distant kin groups, our co-workers and business partners, our social clubs and churches, and can stretch to cover distant and former associates. The ties of religious or social affiliation can extend a person’s allegiance to much bigger ‘tribes’ linked by agreed-upon behaviors. But it can also be co-opted very easily by authoritarian states and leaders, unscrupulous grifters, and others intent on gaming social networks.

The rise of Facebook ‘fake news’ was driven by false kinship signals created by for-profit and/or for-cause alt.right ‘news’ sites.

That 150 is not coincidentally the same average number of people that MLM sellers can beg to buy their ‘products’ or the average sales-to-family-and-friends by vanity-published authors.

John Oliver has a good overview of MLM faults here. Robert L. FitzPatrick has a quick guide to MLM’s here.

What does this rambling post come down to? Betsy DeVos does not speak for true American ideals, and she will probably use her wealth and MLM-honed dirty tricks to advance causes that will damage America.

Trump can’t factually state he’ll ‘Drain the Swamp’ while putting forward such divisive and disastrous cabinet picks. I don’t know whether he’s an evil genius, a practical businessman rewarding early loyalty, or a bored dilettante, but he’s outsourcing the fate of America to people diametrically opposed to our actual Founding Fathers’ Enlightenment goals.

What Donald J. Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that on January 21, 2017, he will effectively be obsolete in the eyes of his Vice President and his more-conservative cabinet picks. He did his job: he got Pence elected, and picked the Pence cabinet.

Trump has already lost control of his narrative.

People like Pence and DeVos will rule America whether Trump steps down in disgrace, is impeached, or killed (and look closely at Pence & Co then!), or simply ignores the day-to-day operation of what will be the Pence administration. That’s great for Pence, the DeVos and Prince Families, and the other right-wingers who want Christian religious rule of America for generations to come.

Not so good for pro-science folks, non-religious people, the LGBTQ community, moderate multi-culturalism, and anyone with brown skin.

What can we do? Be vigilant. Be logical. Prove that our tribe is bigger and better, and will win in the end.

 

How to deal with Neo Nazis

Let’s face it, the alt.right are Neo Nazis, pure and simple. They’re not ‘white nationalists’. They’re not ‘dapper’. They don’t simply want a ‘white homeland’ free from all ‘colored’ influences…they want to crowd out and exterminate the Other. We know this, we’ve seen this dance before.

Their tools are misinformation and resentment, fear, and a hunger for security and relevance.

How to deal with the new crop?

1. Call them out when you see them. Call out their collaborators and apologists. Boycott, call their sponsors, raise awareness, push back.

2. Mock the shit out of them.

SgtSchultzy reminds of that Illinois Nazi scene in Blues Brothers.

Blazing Saddles’ Bad Guy Lineup is an enduring classic, and could almost be Trump’s transition team and cabinet picks.

Spike Jones (the novelty comedy musician) had this gem mocking Hitler back in the day.

3. Remember where this leads (graphic images), and that it sure as fuck CAN happen here.

Don’t make America into Amerika.

Painter 17 teaser art

Corel’s new digital arts platform Painter 17 is out now, and I’m fiddling around with it this week.

I finished this teaser art piece for the new version of Moro’s Price in about 30 minutes, and that was because I was slowly playing around with some of the new Artist’s Favorites brushes. I should have been able to do it in 15 minutes.moro-diamond-for-blog

Of course, I’d already photographed the emerald-cut diamond myself, and long ago designed the palm tree insignia. But now it’s a useful bit of art that may or may not end up as a cover design, once I fiddle with it some more.

Painter 17 so far: gorgeous. Controls are more integrated and intuitive. Customizing brushes, filters, etc is much easier. The help menus make sense. Corel seems to finally be listening more to its coveted base: artists who have some real-world skill with drawing, painting, and mixed media, and who want to recreate those looks in digital media. (And go lightyears beyond!) I’m not alone in my esteem.

If you’ve ever waffled about buying Painter as an actual, real, not-Photoshop digital arts platform, this version is probably the best entry into the Painter world that I’ve seen in 20 years. It’s not cheap, but if you are a student, you might be able to score the more affordable Educational Version.

 

Donald J. Trump will be forced to resign…

…Or be impeached, or even be assassinated (possibly even by his own people). And that should scare the crap out of every liberal in America.

The Trump alternatives are worse.

Even if none of those things happen, Trump has made it pretty clear he has neither an inclination for nor an interest in the details of his new job. He’s already said he plans to outsource much of it, to a core group of loyalists chosen for their early and slavish Trump support, not their qualifications for office. He needs adulation and constant reassurance, and these people will provide it to him.

Why be even more scared?

Because Trump’s #2 guy is Mike Pence, whom the alt.right white terrorists and the ultra-religious conservatives *love*.

I’d even go so far as to say that Donald J. Trump was always going to be someone’s patsy.

His children want a right-wing Kennedy dynasty, and will happily use him as a foundation stone.

The Democrats thought he’d be a wonderful toxic candidate against whom their nominee could steamroll with ease.

The Republicans realized early on they needed someone to reach Angry America, and Trump was handy through his birther/Tea Party connections. He could win. But he was never meant to stay in office. Under this scenario, Trump’s yuuuuge character flaws were an asset: sooner or later, he can be counted on to be forced aside, leaving the field for Pence and an authoritarian ultra-right Christian government. (This would probably have been John McCain’s fate, had he and Sarah Palin won in 2008.)

So I’d say watch Trump, sure, but spend some energy watching what Pence and Bannon have cooking in their political labs.

Update 1-15-2017: Since that post I (and most of the thinking populace) have been made aware of perhaps the biggest influence on Donald Trump’s actions: Vladimir Putin. Sure the jokes have been flying for months (years), but there are real conflicts of interest, data pointing to kompromat, and some close-to-treason actions by Trump & Co.

Why would Russia want to destabilize the US and the EU? Easy, it opens the playing field for their dreams of glory…if not very survival. Why would Trump play along? Other than his monstrous ego and whispering son-in-law telling him that Vlad Really Likes Him? Money. Trump’s overseas holdings are vast, and his entanglement with Russian oligarch already legendary. He can only be President for 8 years legally (under current law, look to the Watchmen movie for hints how that could play out). But he’s in this game for money and power, and he thinks an allegiance with Putin will extend that.

At great risk to the U.S. and the rest of the world, I must add.

How Electors can redeem their honor

This is a long shot, for actually doing anything…but you can sign a petition to the US Electoral College to recast or overturn their votes for Trump. They have a little over a month. Try this site, for more information.

Clinton won the popular vote, but not the Electoral. Hmm. When have we seen this before, recently? Oh yes, in 2000. And it was a Republican-engineered takeover then, too.

And we ALL saw how eight years of the Cheney/Bush White House worked out.

Trump is magnitudes more unfit for office than George W. Bush. He’ll not only make America more of an international pariah state and laughingstock, he’ll endanger our livelihoods and our lives. His mere victory has emboldened the alt-right thugs who helped drive his campaign, and he’s shown no sign, willingness, or ability to repudiate them.

Maybe our voices can’t coax the members of the Electoral College to save America from a Trump regime…but it can signal that we’re here, we’re not going away, and we can play the obstructionist long game, too.

Sign the petition for that reason, at least, and pass it on to people who feel the same way.

Narrow Shore

(Soon to be an artist’s book.) For a couple of years, I’ve been taken to task by well-meaning folks who want me to make only positive, light-hearted, beautiful books that affirm life and hope. And I do – I’ve got a lot of those on the workshop table, or in development.

But being a nihilist, I also embrace the darker possibilities.

Almost to the point that I understand what, in a fantasy world, goes into the making and meaning of a cursed object. How beauty and craft can be slanted into devious turns and outright horror, charged with subtle or overt poisons meant to game one outcome or another.

No, I don’t have to accept this ‘new normal’. No, I’m not going to bother to ‘make peace’ with people – even my own blood kin – whose fear, laziness, and entitlement led them to vote for the distilled worst parts of the American psyche: a conman, swindler, chronic tax cheat, science denier, bully, buffoon, and rapist. I don’t have to pretend manmade climate change isn’t happening, because like a gamma ray burst, my lack of belief does not shield me.

‘Narrow Shore’ will be a dark little book, but not the darkest in my CV.

Narrow Shore

 

Every year, the universe pulls away.

Every year, it darkens as the first light fades.

Those who saw the Earth from space

Are growing old.

Their children traded thoughtless lives

For easy gold,

Trapped along the threshold

Of this narrow shore

Between the howling desert

And the uncaring deep:

Too weak to linger,

Too spent to leap.

So that happened

One of the perils of being an Independent voter, as well as mostly a nihilist, is that I often think of the worst possible outcome…and expect to see it.

I’ve never been as completely saddened by America as I am now. #Whitelash and emotion-based politics carried the day over dull competence and multicultural globalism last night.

The scared and fed-up Trump voters fell for a con man who made them feel special. He’s not likely to have a positive long term effect on their lives and struggles, no matter what kind of conciliatory speeches he gives. A man who gleefully accepted and encouraged hate and divisiveness in his campaign, who surrounds himself with ‘advisors’ with similar failings…is not going to suddenly turn around and become Reagan 2.o.

Reagan, by the way, was *terrible* for the US, and came into office under clouds of scandal that were largely forgotten by his current worshipers. Anyone recall Iran Contra? The Reagan Recession? The big lie of Trickle-Down Economics?

How much worse will Trump be?

Instead of ‘draining the swamp’ of government, we’ll have a worse crop of evil and/or incompetent political operatives gaining power and staying in power. Think they’ll give a shit about the angry, lost, scared Red-state voters? Ha. Y’all were marks, doing exactly what the con-man wanted you to do.

What’s next for America? A sitting President continually mired in far worse scandals, with no experience, with a cabinet hand-picked to be the among the worst anti-science, pro-religion thugs we’ve seen in decades.

A lot of damage can be done in four years. #Whitelash is the way the non-whites are now referring to the smoldering hate, anger, and fear of the voters who spoke for Trump yesterday.

With more dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, even the possible 2020 backlash of Latino and African American voters probably won’t be able to do much. The idiots will be in power for decades, until the last of the old white ‘Leave it to Beaver’ 1950s fantasy-peddlers die off.

If you want an indicator of post-neoliberal America, look at the state of Kansas. Sam Brownback swept into power, and now Kansas is suffering for his policies.

That’s the rest of the country, very soon.

We can’t even take solace if Trump is (I think inevitably) impeached, because his VP is another Brownback, squared. The Supreme Court will be packed with ultra conservative judges. Roe v. Wade will be abolished; expect to see common forms of contraception made illegal. Press freedoms will fall to authoritarian crackdowns in the fashion of China, Turkey, Venezuela, or Russia. So goodbye whistleblowers. There won’t be a better answer to health care, other than the old ‘Pay for all of your $125,000 heart surgery yourself, you freeloader’ system. We’ll be a backward anti-science nation in a world where science and high-technology are the only real paths forward. International trading partners and investors will pull away, because America is suddenly a crap investment. We also face new and terrifying international political consequences.

We are one big natural disaster from Balkanizing into smaller, fractured tribal states.

America got exactly the President it deserves. I’m just sorry the rest of us have to deal with this temper tantrum.

 

Election Day

I wear this right angle weave necklace every election and most national holidays.

The seed beads are old stock Czech. The blue and white chevron beads are Chinese or Indian, circa 2006. The glass millefiori button is Japanese from around the 1950s, I think.

20161108_093152I made it right after the 9-11 attacks in 2001. It reminds me of hope, healing, cosmopolitan ideals, and civic responsibility in the face of dystopian chaos.

It also reminds me that our world is going to face much worse things. How we heal from and adapt to them, is a referendum on humanity itself.

#ImWithHer.

Make your vote count!

Warning: I will say some unkind things next.

If you’re a US citizen, are you registered to vote? Will you vote tomorrow? Why haven’t you already voted? (It’s going to be a mess at the polls, and early voting by absentee ballot is so much easier, if your state allows it!)

Some quick notes:

If you are still ‘Undecided’ at this point of this election, there is no hope for you. You shouldn’t be voting, and you probably don’t deserve citizenship.

For anyone under the age of 30: No, you cannot vote by text. That is a scam created by the GOP to disenfranchise (cheat) younger, more liberal and phone-prone folks of the vote. Depending on your state, you must vote the way the rules are set up: at your designated precinct, usually. Seriously, look into absentee ballot by mail and early voting, for the next election. If we get one.

If you are a Democrat or Independent voter, especially a POC, and you feel intimidated at any way at the polls, the ACLU has some helpful guidelines here. The Washington Post has an article about voter intimidation here.

Don’t go alone to a polling place you think might be subject to GOP harassment. Take a friend or family member. They can’t vote with you, but they can watch your back before and after.

Depending on your state rules, you may not be able to take a cellphone picture near or inside the polling place. But have your phone charged up, and set up a method of instantly uploading photos. If someone (a GOP/Trumpster pollwatcher) intimidates or harasses you, bring it to the attention of the people in charge of the polls. If people accost you once you are away from the polling place (on the way to a car or bus) be ready to challenge THEM. Be ready to take pics!

If you feel in real danger, call 911 immediately and get to a safe place if you can.

Don’t believe poll numbers or gossip. In a close election, every vote counts, right up to the moment the polls close. Don’t get angry, don’t get discouraged: go vote!

Take time off work to vote: your employer has to give you that time, and most of them don’t want a major bad press/criminal case over it.

No matter what happens tomorrow, try to be kind. Be reasonable and vigilant. Be better informed in the future: get your news and information from sources that have actually been vetted for truth (hint: that wouldn’t be Breitbart, InfoWars, FoxNews, or any of their surrogates.)

The best that America can be…can still rise above this nonsense.

In memoriam: Sherri S. Tepper

I had to ponder this one for a week, because it hit home. I may be adding to this post over the next few days.

Sherri S. Tepper was a powerful author and outspoken activist, who happened to write science fiction and fantasy.

I first ran across her work in 1983, when my best friend Kathryn shoved King’s Blood Four into my hands and yelped ‘You gotta read this!’ I did. It was damn good.

That started my long and varied experience with Tepper’s work. Like that of Tanith Lee, some of Tepper’s writing was painful for me to read. To paraphrase a certain Discworld witch, it didn’t do ‘Nice’, it did ‘Right’.

Tepper’s decades as a feminist and ecological activist made her fiercely uncompromising on certain principles that younger and weaker writers would never dare reveal in public: women’s rights, abortion and birth control, euthanasia of severely-brain damaged individuals, internally consistent portrayals of alien viewpoints, the importance of reason and logic, and the harsh equations of survival that pit planetary collapse against human activity.

Tepper’s writing could be painful in its honesty, hilariously sly, or shockingly beautiful. Some of it, I couldn’t stand. Other pieces are favorite re-reads. The ‘Mavin Manyshaped’ trilogy links into her ‘True Game’ books, but those books are hallmarks of what can be done with extremely short novels. They’re worth looking at, in this era of bloated best-sellers.

I stole some of my core concepts about the Lonhra Sequence cosmology from her ‘True Game’ books and from Grass. I’d always meant to ask permission to showcase one or two heartbreakingly gorgeous humanist passages from Beauty in an artist’s book, if I could figure out how to present them…and now I’ll have to ask that of her estate, not the lady herself.

I’m still wondering if she was the woman who bought one of my beaded and embroidered tapestries at a Phoenix convention in 1992. The woman looked a bit like Tepper from across the room, but I never found out for sure.

She was a fellow Westerner, Colorado-born, and lived for many years in New Mexico.

If she believed in such things, I’d hope she walks in human-hallowed Baskarone at this moment…and I hope to hell she was able to vote before she died.

***

I found a couple of the passages from Beauty (a hard and lovely book that pulls no punches). The first is worth revisiting, and I hope that showing it here falls under Fair Use and an earnest homage:

What shall I write of Baskarone?

Everything that was lovely of the world when men came into it is here. Everything that men made beautiful while they were in it is here. None of the dross, only the glory. Some gardens. Some monuments. There is even an entire town, designed by a woman of great artistry. I had seen a film on it in the twenty-first. It was built early in the twenty-first and then destroyed by the nationalist terrorists in the Great Reunification War of 2043, the same war that killed all the people in Ireland, North and South, and half those in England and Scotland, as well as sinking the lands of Ireland forever beneath the sea.

In the long run, it didn’t matter who destroyed the city. Fidipur’s ocean farms now cover the place it once stood. If the terrorists hadn’t bombed it and thereby started the war, Fidipur would have razed it anyhow. Mortal man is mad.

There are a handful of marvelous mosques in Baskarone, serene and beautiful. An Egyptian temple is here, crowded with painted columns. A mud fortress is here, its walls glistening with bright murals in tiles. There are structures in Baskarone from Ecbatana and Susa. There is a building from Troy. There are two from the States of America, quite small ones, sculptural houses which look as though they grew from the earth.

Cave paintings are here, fleeing horses and lumbering bison. African carvings are here, and so many things from the Orient I could not see them all, including a city from China, lacquered all in red and gold with dragons upon its roofs.

And all these things are set in gardens and woods and forests and prairies. The flowers that bloom in those gardens are the loveliest that ever grew. The trees in those woods are tall and straight. The grasses on the prairies have never been cut, and the little peeping birds run about among their roots.

There are people here as well. The woman who designed the city, the men who built the fortress, the carpenters who carved the dragons. All those who made beauty with their lives, they are here. Those who climbed. Those whose names ring, like a wine glass in a cupboard, hidden but sounding nonetheless.

The dreams of the men who tried to reach the planets, before Fidipur took everything, they are here. I don’t know how they are there, but they glitter like sequins in the shade of that place.

 

We called it: Trump TV

I suspected a long time ago this election bid of Trump’s was mostly a marketing stunt, until he fell in love with adulation and started saying anything to keep getting it.

Now, in an effort to counter the ‘lying media’, he’s started a ‘news channel’ on Facebook. Guess what it looks like?

trump-waa-for-blog

Hmm. Anyone remember how long the Sarah Palin Channel lasted?

If Trump weren’t such a dangerous gasbag, I’d almost feel sorry for him. The guy is not well, and no one around him is helping him understand that. I’d think at least his kids cared about their old man, and how this is tarnishing his (their) already brassy legacy.

But no, they’re all riding this thing down like Dr. Strangelove.

 

 

Well, shucks…

It’s one thing when a publisher circles the drain, and nearly everyone has known or suspected it would happen for months or years.

It’s another, when a *good* small press fails. One that was, by most accounts, doing everything right: lasting for longer than two years, choosing great books and authors, designing excellent covers, marketing professionally, and offering gorgeous, award-winning books.

Jolly Fish Press is closing at the end of October 2016. This was very sudden and traumatic for them, their authors, and the agents who worked with them. Even doing everything *right*, they still didn’t make enough to continue. They’re reverting rights before the end of the month, so their authors won’t have to go through the extortion hell of, say, Ellora’s Cave.

I had been considering JFP for a fantasy novel submission early next year. I’ll mourn what never had a chance to be. I’m deeply sorry for the folks who did get snarled up in this, and I’m heartened by the outpouring of condolences and second-chance gambits.

There’s still a couple of weeks in which readers can buy JFP books in the wild…go for it, if you can, and celebrate one of the better experiments in small-press publishing. While they lasted, they burned bright!

***

All this leaves me with that nervous butterfly-stomach feeling, about some of my planned projects.

I’ve stopped looking for agent representation for Singer until I can get it rewritten to my satisfaction. There’s no point in looking for rep for the Moro books, since the first is now a reprint and the others are sequels/spinoffs of a reprint. (No legitimate agent will touch that, if my name isn’t attached to a Hugo or a Nebula.) I’m left with self-pub. Or one small press that is lovely, but could follow Jolly Fish at any time. I can hope they’d revert rights as sanely as JFP seems to have done, but that’s a huge risk to take for something that would have to be self-pub anyway, in the end.

It may come down to flipping a coin.

This is the part of the writing life that new writers are stunned and depressed to discover: that the butterflies and the despair don’t end when you finish the damn manuscript. They’re just starting.

________________

Update: October 30, 2016:

Jolly Fish has a buyer, and early reports indicate it’s North Star Editions. The way this has been handled has numerous authors and agents side-eyeing Jolly Fish, for good reason. North Star has some excellent street cred*, but they’re also new. No one knows if the rank and file editors and artists who helped put JFP on the map, will be moving over. Especially since the JFP owner/publisher is out of the deal.

I’m no longer interested, because it appears that North Star is solely a Young Adult and Middle Grade publisher. I’m not knocking those genres, because they are magical and useful (and I still regularly read both)…but I don’t write them.

*Added 10/31/16: the vanity publisher is a different North Star, apparently. Mea culpa. The North Star Editions here is the one buying JFP after Flux, and has some reputation as an educational publisher. More details to follow.

Christmas in October: Ebony and Horn

My quest to create miniature books around jewelry platforms…continues!

After contemplating my woodworking tools (and how much work went into a single mammoth ivory needle), I decided to outsource the jewelry forms. Find people who make stunning pieces from the start, and build on those beginnings.

The latest experiments start here, with five exquisite buffalo-horn rings and one ebony bangle bracelet, from the workshop of talented designer Que.

horn-and-ebony

It took many Google searches and several weeks to find her.

The 2-tone horn ring tops are roughly 1″ square, and perfect foundations for more mini-books. I’m casting around now for page/theme ideas.

The bangle is going to be a 4-in-1 book, with textblocks bound on each flat rectangular face. I’m thinking a ‘Four Winds, Four Directions’ theme.

Check out Que’s shops and drool over images of her stunning horn, bone, and wood necklaces, bracelets, pendants, earrings, and combs. (Those combs!) Horn is relatively soft (just keratin), but it has its quirks, and is sometimes not easy to work. You’ll looking at the products of masters, from Que and her shop artisans.

Votive Bone Rings

I recently wrote about the materials and inspiration for a series of Dia de los Muertos-themed rings.

I decided to do only an edition of three books in this group, because I have different ideas for the next three.crane-book-dia-book-detail

To recap: Dia de los Muertos votive bone rings. On a platform of carved bone rings, I’ve stacked miniature linen pages embroidered with rainbow ribbons. Bone and leather pin closure, Coptic-bound spine, glass and bone-accented red tassels. Edition of 3, each slightly different.

Here they are closed.crane-books-dia-books-closed

And here they are open.crane-books-dia-books-open

Material: carved water buffalo bone, leather, rainbow-embroidered tan linen, poly-cotton ribbon, glass, waxed red polyester cord.

Ring sizes: variable.

Dimensions: approximately 1″ x 6″ x 1.5″.