Sketchbook: Supercell

July 13th, 2013 by Phoinix

From the sketchbook: A quick- and I DO mean QUICK- outdoor acrylic sketch of an approaching supercell thunderstorm. Made from around a mile away while storm spotting from inside a car with the window open. This thing was on radar as topping out around 35,000 feet and was clearly rotating, but it didn’t actually drop a funnel or turn tornadic.

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Gun Control Illustration: Ammo Won’t Cure Impotence

July 26th, 2012 by Phoinix

Ammo Won't Cure ImpotenceAvailable at in sticker form.

Subtlety, I am thy humble servant.

The guys who horde tons of ammo and racks of assault rifles aren’t interested in self-defense, they’re focused on self-image defense. Real men don’t scurry around wearing guns, afraid of every bump in the night and shadow on the street. Real men don’t view deadly weapons like twelve year old boys.  The immature nut-case man-boy military wannbes who treat AR-15s like security blankets against reality, are the ones who cause the most problems for responsible gun owning hunters/ranchers and end up getting innocent people killed.  And don’t even get me started on those juvenile daydreams these lunatics cherish, where they leap into action, guns blazing, and Save The Day ™. Yeah right.

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Pity the Shoplifter. Pity the Shopper: Why you should worry about who has your information.

May 11th, 2012 by Phoinix

Pity the shoplifter. The unforgiving march of technology has turned every big-box retail store into a fortress of sensors, cameras and guards worthy of a heist thriller. But that same technology combined with data mining, huge storage capabilities and the appearance of Facebook and other personal data retailers (which is what they are), now threatens our employment, personal lives and society.

 Until about ten years ago, my job was to watch you while you shopped at a national big box retail store, studying your behavior and waiting for you to try to steal something.  When we had evidence to make a detention we’d go out and “apprehend” the thief as they left the store (those handcuffs are not just a fashion accessory). Believe me, I’ve wrestled all sorts of people to the ground who tried to punch their way out of a retail theft ticket. After being detained, we’d sit our subject down on a steel bench bolted into the floor inside our security office and ask them a series of questions until police arrived. Welcome to Big Box Jail. The questions were designed to get information about why someone was stealing and were then used by corporate to build behavioral profiles of likely shoplifters. If people answered the questions and didn’t try to fight us, we’d report them to police as “cooperative lifters,” which meant they’d likely just get a municipal ticket for retail theft and released. If they were “non-cooperative lifters,” then police would respond to actually arrest them and take them to jail for processing.

Our store was essentially a retail police state, a consumer panopticon covered by layers of unblinking cameras. Fixed cameras above the doors film everyone as they enter and leave the store, while others watch hotspots like the electronics or pharmacy departments. At the checkout lanes you, the cashier, and your purchases are filmed from multiple angles with transaction data displayed over one of the overhead feeds. All the information from the cash register is superimposed and saved onto the camera display allowing security to look up the details and footage of any single transaction.

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Revisiting the Cinqo De Mayo Fire

May 5th, 2012 by Phoinix

About six years ago today, our building was burnt down at 3 am by brilliant college students playing with fire on an adjoining rooftop. Our genius students were tossing illegal fireworks into a defective charcoal grill, with the ash catch-pan removed, set on top of a wood/tar roof. You can probably see where that would be a bit of a problem, but the four engineering students weren’t anywhere near as smart as you are.

What were they thinking? That nothing bad would happen. That “it can’t happen to us.” They had been playing with fireworks on the roof all day and nothing went wrong. The partner and I had called police on them of course, but officers never made it to the area when one of the fireworks was actually going off, so it just got cleared “unfounded” and our geniuses were free to continue playing with fire.

People with PTSD get a bad rap as not being good in emergencies, but in reality that’s where we’re the best. Most people have to think to react to a threat or a crisis, but usually someone with PTSD is so alert that they can just respond straight out of muscle memory and reflex. Emergency planning is literally hardwired into the brain and adrenalin is always being released, which gives us a massive head start in reacting to trouble. A lot of people intentionally sign up for repeated combat tours, dangerous international, or emergency service jobs, because after a while, the only place you really feel totally alive is when you’re life is in direct danger. And the only people who really understand that reality,  are in those same situations.  Normally this is a bad thing for fitting in to everyday life, but it’s fucking brilliant for dealing with a crisis. The other thing that’s usually true is that people with PTSD are not complacent. They don’t think “it can’t happen” because they’ve seen how often “it” *does* happen. In reality, people with PTSD have a completely realistic understanding of risks, with none of the denial or delusions that the general public lives daily life by.

At 3am I had just gotten done dealing with a friendly letter from the State department of revenue, helpfully pointing out that my quarterly taxes hadn’t been quite what they thought they should be. So I was still awake when I heard the explosion from the adjoining rooftop. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that our idiot neighbors had set off another round of fireworks. Looking out a window that opened onto the air shaft, I could just see the top of the neighboring roof. There wasn’t any obvious sign that anything had gone wrong this time, the idiots had been firing off fireworks all day with no problems and there was no reason think things were different this time. Except that things didn’t feel right- And if it’s one thing that should be engraved in your gray-matter; if you ever think the phrase “Something isn’t right here” then you don’t pause, you don’t try to get creative, you get the fuck out of there.

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Physics works! (Red Rainbow)

March 11th, 2012 by Phoinix

Animation of a regular rainbow shifting into a rare red rainbow.

This is from a severe storm that happened last year, moving through our area at around sunset. When we spotted the regular rainbow,  we knew there was a chance of catching a very rare “red rainbow”, so we grabbed our cameras and ran outside.

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New Twitter Art Exhibit

March 10th, 2012 by Phoinix

Blue - 5x7 inch acrylic on foamboard.

Once again the capable and talented David Sandum has organized a charity art event at the Moss public library in Norway, this time to benefit the Women’s Crisis Center. The idea is to have artists from twitter send postcard-sized original art to be displayed at the library and then sold to raise funds for the center.   I ‘m more than happy to participate in such a worth cause, especially since I spent four years in college volunteering as an Children’s Advocate at a local women’s shelter.  I’m sure with David organizing things that it’ll be a great event and hopefully provide some much needed funding to the center.

Dreaming Hazel Dooney & The 2011 Postscript

January 2nd, 2012 by Phoinix

Hazel & my painting “Icon” at the Dreaming Hazel Dooney Show

In flight school I modified an old little pilot’s saying: “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing. And if you can still use the aircraft afterwards, it’s a great landing.”  Applied to art, you could say that any show you happen to be in, is a good show;  And if your work sells, then it’s a great one. The Dreaming Hazel Dooney show turned out to be a great one, and I’m pleased that the Icon painting went to a great home.

Despite all the major drama with the US Postal Service losing the painting and then sending it on an “around the world” journey to Australia (via Austria apparently), it arrived safely and in one piece.  I would have preferred to visit the show in person, but Australia was unfortunately slightly farther away than the travel budget could accommodate.  It’s sadly the case that an artist’s art usually gets to travel to cool places while the artist is stuck in the middle of godsdamned Wisconsin.

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Annual Plea For Sanity

December 18th, 2011 by Phoinix

This helicopter means someone is having a really really bad day.

We live directly behind one of the state’s only level 1 trauma centers, which means we can see and hear the medical evacuation helicopters takeoff and land. During the holiday season, there is a constant stream of helicopter airlifts flying into the hospital, making our neighborhood sound like Saigon during the evacuation.

Every holiday season as they rush to buy the latest plastic crap for their families, people end up conducting impromptu physics demonstrations with their cars.  This annual outbreak of jackassery causes people to barrel down crowded, icy roads at insane speeds usually while eating or chatting/ texting on their cell phones.  Now, anyone with an IQ higher than a cuttlefish should be able to spot the tiny little problem with that behavior. And you DO have an IQ higher than a cuttlefish right? Good.  You’re not going to save any time by driving recklessly especially if you end up getting airlifted to a hospital. And your holiday season is going to suck in epic proportions if you kill or injure someone because of stupid carelessness.

And aside from keeping you out of intensive care or jail,  it would also allow me to sleep through the night without having a helicopter hovering in my backyard.

The Beauty of Empty Paint Tubes

September 9th, 2011 by Phoinix

Every so often I encounter people – who I shall not name – who have wonderful studios in their home/apartments. These things are crammed with piles of paint tubes, stainless steel brush cans, pallets, tables and all manner of shelving. Usually, there’s a massive easel that looks like it doubles as a siege engine, all glossy varnished wood, bristling with more marine winches and pulleys than a four masted frigate.

And none of it ever gets used. Ever.

It’s a room that is apparently maintained on the off chance a magazine photographer will drop on by for some pictures.  Art supplies are not supposed to be an end in themselves, they’re the raw material that gets turned into finished work. The first job of an easel is to hold a painting that’s being made, anything beyond that is just a bonus.  Hell, I know a lot of working artists that just bolt adjustable racks to their walls instead of using free-standing easels and they work just fine.

I’ve heard such people say they don’t want to “waste” any of the materials. As if letting it slowly age into uselessness isn’t wasteful. Every tube of paint that gets used up, every pencil that’s worn down, every sketchbook filled, represents progress made and work completed.

I suppose collecting art supplies could become a hobby, sort of like stamp collecting (does anyone still do that?), but that can’t be as interesting or challenging as using them to make something unique.

In other words: Use the damn supplies to make art.


Keep Calm (Again)

September 9th, 2011 by Phoinix

I’m reprinting this post from a year agoWhich is kinda lazy, but I really don’t have anything to add to it and nothing has really changed. Well, ok, the commercialism has gotten worse, but aside from that, it still remains relevant enough to justify reposting it.

In the span of nine ten years, remembrance of this day has become increasingly scummy, crazy and exploitative. Rallies, tv programs, and trinket marketers are all selling something on the back of a national tragedy and telling us it’s “remembrance.” Whether it’s crappy merchandise made in China, a political ideology, religious doctrine or tv ratings-bait, the day has been turned into marketing fodder.

For me, it was a very bad day- But it’s not the worst day of my life by any degree. I wasn’t in imminent danger of dying. I wasn’t running out of a burning building. I didn’t have to wonder if my city was next. And none of my friends were in danger either. Yeah, it was really fucking bad. But it wasn’t running-for-my-life-in-the-light-of-a-fireball bad.

I have ptsd from some other events that do make up the “Worse Days List” and I really understand why actual survivors of those attacks want everyone to mourn or otherwise mark the day as a living monument of tragedy. You rightly resent the shallow normalcy that makes up a typical day in America, occurring on the day.

PTSD isn’t in my opinion an illness of misperception, but of accurate perception,  it’s waking up from the Matrix of  denial and knowing, in a real first-hand sense, how instantaneous horror can be. Most people go through their lives thinking tragedy just can’t happen to them. They get their horror from entertainment and just don’t ever wake up from the soft dream of security. But the reality is that your day can go from happy and safe, to “Living-Nightmare-Hell-On-Earth-Unfolding-In-An-Unending- Montage-Of-Horror” in literally 15 seconds. And if you’ve never experienced that, you’ll never really understand what horror actually means. PTSD in a lot of cases, is knowing that terror and horror in a first-hand way and not ever being able to return to the Matrix of everyday denial.

So on one hand, if you’ve experienced that sort of horror, you’d like the world to mark the day in solemn remembrance, as a sort of living dent in the privileged denial that you no longer experience. The problem… Is that it’s not possible. Everyone was affected by that day but not to the level as the people who witnessed it first-hand or had to run for their lives. That undercurrent of emotion, slowly fading in intensity but cutting across the population,  makes it a perfect target for vultures to exploit.  The emotions that you remember experiencing during that day are seen as quick doorways to be  exploited in order to sell shit.

These pig-fuckers throw rallies to sell an ideology on the graves of the dead and the dented lives of the survivors. The media, for which even I am running out of profanity to describe, are playing endless loops of that day in order to get ratings off your remembered emotions. And an endless parade of trinket sellers are selling plates, towel sets, clocks, and yeah, even guns as a “memorial” to that day. Those scum can get away with it because our emotions from that day are strong, but they’re not anything like a survivor’s will be. And every year it will get worse until finally the day is allowed to be laid to rest as history.

It’s been nine years. People who are actual survivors and primary witnesses should have room to remember and grieve in their own ways. But the nation should respect that process and not co-opt it with sales-pitches, endless loops of people dying on film, and fucking commemorative crap. The one thing worse than forgetting a tragedy is fucking exploiting and co-opting it for personal/political gain.

We should all remember, but for the vast majority of us, 9/11 needs to be allowed the quiet dignity of becoming just another day.

Go Back From Whence Thee Came.