Tuesday, January 31, 2012

avast Crow

A group of Crow's unusual friends stopped by earlier today to carry him off on a winter cruise. Before he left he mentioned a few things about pirates it's not currently fashionable to know even though there's always been something romantic about the idea of piracy.

We've long been told by those who control information that pirates were thieves, yet the truth is far more complex. Sailors aboard Royal Naval ships and merchant marine vessels were some of the sorriest men alive, 'caught in a machine from which there was no escape, bar desertion, incapacitation, or death' as one writer of the day put it. Many of them were press ganged into service, many were debt slaves or had been criminalized after losing their farms when the English Commons were abolished.

As the great fleets discovered and annexed previously unknown lands many dispossessed people the world over became desperate. The merchant ships of the 17th and 18th Centuries were the engines of the emerging global capitalism but the seamen were totally excluded from the wealth they worked to generate. The decision to 'turn pirate' was a choice made to wrestle back some autonomy, and when they did, life on a ship changed dramatically. Officers were democratically elected. Food was shared equally among men of all ranks. When booty was collected the Captain only took two shares where the lowest took one - income differentials that would make a modern CEO faint. Loss of a limb aboard would be met with a payment of around $30k in today's money - an amazing form of early health insurance.

It could be said that far from being simple thieves, pirates were perhaps the original anti-capitalist protesters. The reason they were hunted down and suffered savage public executions was because the powers of the day were petrified of the consequences of the pirates' ethos. One hundred years before the French Revolution it was pirates who coined the phrase 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity'.

Of course, piracy in those days was hardly all fun and games but they were hard times for most people everywhere. We're not often brutalized, beaten, or left unpaid, but our lives are no less reduced, narrowed, and restrained by powerful forces far beyond our control. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Jolly Roger raised again to restore to life some democracy, some fairness, and perhaps a little merriment too?

Avast Crow. I hope you enjoy the warm sea breeze off the shores of far Tortuga.

Friday, January 27, 2012

make room for dada

Either Dadaism is still alive and well in Halifax or this is what happened to the Haligonian Occupy movement. I'm not sure when the installation was placed (and no one has taken credit) but we discovered it late last year and I kept forgetting to carry my camera until this morning. Oddly enough nobody has bothered to remove these strange characters from the fenced off old factory pit close to the center of the city. I'm glad because I think it looks better every time I see it. Dadaism had only one rule: Follow no rules. It self-destructed when it was in danger of becoming acceptable. Maybe the Occupiers are hiding out at Cabaret Voltaire til spring.

No wonder SOPA and PIPA disappeared without too much trouble. ACTA was signed by President Obama last October. 

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
~ Douglas Adams

Monday, January 23, 2012

making things for no reason

How time flies. Every so often I need to get away from the paper, pencils, pens, and paints but that rarely means I don't do anything. It would appear I have a compulsive personality. I know you probably already guessed that. Continuing with my recent interest in making small containers I spent the better part of a week working on this little thing - and it is little at 3½ inches in diameter and a bit more than 2 inches tall when looked at from the side.

Several weeks before we left Portland I realized I had to deal with the silk dyes I'd mixed for painting since they were all stored in glass jars and bottles that couldn't be packed for the move. I also had a lot of extra white silk pieces. So jar by jar and bottle by bottle I used up all the mixed colors. I wish now I'd taken a picture of my living room floor covered in newspaper, plastic sheets, and everything I could find to use as clotheslines to dry all the bits. It's pretty funny in retrospect. Once they'd all been dried, steamed, washed, dried again and ironed I ended up with a large number of brightly hued scraps for future projects. So here is one of them - cut, stitched, padded, beaded, and every inch was a puzzle to ponder. The inside top is the opposite side of the flower on the front. The inside bottom is padded thick red silk.

I did happen to learn about someone far more motivated than me. Have you ever heard of Baldassare Forestierre? In 1906 he bought land near Fresno CA where he hoped to start a farm. Unfortunately, the land was too dry but rather than give up the idea he began digging. Over the course of the next 40 years he carefully carved out 10,000 square feet of underground living space that included living rooms, studies, bedrooms, a chapel, a fish pond, and a network of gardens, trees and trellises all by hand and without architectural training. He'd been a subway digger in New York. The caverns are supported by Roman arches, columns and domes - many of which are capped by skylights to let in the light. He used only a pick and a shovel and worked at it in his spare time. Now that's what I call true dedication.

I've moved too many times to manage that particular devotion but I appreciate the hearts of those whose happiness lies in making the world just a little more beautiful for no particular reason at all.

Why not?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Crow in solidarity

Seeking to send Washington a big message Crow will join Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist, Graham Hancock, Boingboing, and many others by not posting on Wednesday January 18th. Susan will not be blacking out her blog since she's entirely unsure that

1. anybody would notice
2. that she might never figure out how to undo a blackout

but it's kind of important to pay attention to this stuff. You can check out the news here or just watch the video if you haven't seen it yet.

Over the weekend the Stop Online Piracy Act legislation was delayed as 'outstanding concerns' needed to be addressed. This doesn't mean the law has been defeated but only that it could return once a consensus has been reached. That's why many sites will participate in a scheduled blackout tomorrow.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, Crow swears he isn't going to be soused and falling off his perch, that he will instead be enjoying the sober company of his friends:

Friday, January 13, 2012

this and that

While looking for something else I never did find (isn't it always the way?) I came across a number of little heads I'd sewn years ago for a doll making project. I did make a couple of dozen little ladies as gifts for friends but never used all the heads. Not feeling like drawing I decided instead to see if I could use the faces as part of the design for small hand-made boxes. Using the front and back of a cereal box, some extra pieces of scarf silk I'd dyed, as well as some glue, this is what I've come up with in the past couple of days of sometimes cold, sometimes snowy, sometimes rainy but always winter weather. It's an octagon 2.5 inches across, 2 inches tall and silky inside and out.

While my hands were busy I couldn't help but come up with some random thoughts about this and that in the news and round about. Here are some in no particular order:

Although you can send most anything anywhere it costs more, takes longer and it's getting harder to find a post office or a mailbox.

Some people can't afford fuel to heat their homes but if they're lucky enough to live in a gas fracking zone they can warm up by turning on the kitchen tap and flicking a match.

Cities can be reached by superhighways and space age bridges but neighborhood streets aren't being repaired.

If a good size storm comes along and washes out the road to your town the government might decide your town wasn't worth visiting anyway.

In some places not only are the streetlights out but they pulled out the poles to save on vandalism and people calling to report the lights are off.
corollary: You may buy a new gadget on sale but you could be carrying it home in the dark.

Many cities have purchased folding buses that are almost too big to go around corners. By the time you walk back to your seat the front of the bus has arrived at your stop.

Apartment building common areas are no longer being heated but management tells you the fans blowing cold air in from outside is a 'feature'. Remember to wear heavy clothing while using the laundry room.

On the plus side, zipper technology is better. I remember a time as a kid when I thought I might spend the rest of my life in my snowsuit.

Atlantis - An inconvenient truth from Simon Prager on Vimeo.

Now I have to go and find a box to put my box in.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

passing time

This is an example from a series of photographs called 'Back to the Future' taken by the very skilled photographer from Buenos Aires, Irina Werning. There are too many for me to post here but if you drop by the site I'm sure you'll be as delighted as I was to see the amazing care she's taken to replicate as exactly as possible pictures taken of people many years ago. The remarkable similarities go a long way to show our looks don't really change as much as we might think.

It seems she began the project when ZeFrank offered a contest called 'Young Me Now Me' for a book they were planning. Some of the pictures there are neat but nothing quite up to Irina's obsessive standards. Still, it might be fun to try. All you do is find a photo from when you were young and recreate it as closely as possible. Sounds easy, doesn't it?