Saturday, July 31, 2010

Which Witch Model?

If you checked out the photos in the last post, you may have noticed that in one of the photos there is something that's pointed out as a jar of 'flying ointment'. I figured that could use an explanation.

Years ago I met this woman. I don't remember where or how anymore, but it was probably at a party at a friend's house, since that's the usual way I meet unusual people. I also don't remember how I ended up hiring her as a model, but anyway I was in need of one for a painting I was working on (another project I never finished), and one subsequent evening she was over at my studio posing (painters tend to say 'sitting' for a session, but somehow I've never been comfortable with that expression -- especially when it's for a non-sitting pose).

In the course of the small-talk that went on while we worked, she revealed that she had never been fond of working at a regular job. She disliked having to get up at the crack of dawn and obeying petty little rules made by others. So, currently she was moonlighting as a topless dancer at a club. That wasn't exactly shocking, given that at that very moment she was standing top- and bottomless in front of me, but the next revelation was more interesting.

She also had a small mail-order business going, she said. What kind of merchandise did she sell? I asked; magic supplies, she answered -- nonchalantly as if she were saying makeup by Coty -- including products that she made herself. That answer of course led to more questions, and it came out that she was a practicing witch. I'd always been deeply interested in magic, both the stage kind and the 'real' kind, so I was intrigued and had many questions. A fascinating conversation ensued.

Before the evening's end she had promised me a sample of her flying ointment. Actually, one of the two types of flying ointment she made. The difference between them was that one contained a toxic ingredient and the other didn't. They were both perfectly safe and equally effective, she assured me, but just to be sure she would give me the non-toxic one.

[In case this is a term you are not used to hearing, a flying ointment is one of the supposed means by which a witch was enabled to fly -- he/she would strip, daub some of the unguent over his/her body, mount a broomstick, mumble an incantation, and tally-ho! shooting out the chimney he/she went]

Well, when we next got together she really did present me with a small jar of something labelled 'Flying Ointment, Non-Toxic', rather to my surprise -- and relief; she had seemed a bit of a flake (ya think?), and I had run into my share of delusional/megalomaniacal types while living and part-time-jobbing around the edge of Hollywood, so I had not been entirely certain, to say the least, that she would even remember her promise, much less actually deliver on it. Well, good for her, she was as good as her word. I guess if you believe in magic, I mean seriously believe, you always keep your promises.

So that's how I came into possession of this odd little item. I've only used it once, that first night, and I've never used it again. It's been many years since then, so it's probably no good any more anyhow.

An Altar of Frivolity

Some of the useless/immature/stupid stuff that keeps me sane

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Work In Progress

Been in progress for several years now... but this time I mean it; I'll finish it this year, if it's the penultimate thing I do!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Again, Just Because...

A Real-Life Seinfeld Moment

This morning at the office I was talking to a coworker -- let's call this person Y -- about a fight between two drivers that I witnessed the week before as I was coming home from work. Two cars were stopped in the middle of the block at odd angles -- evidently they had just been involved in a minor accident, or perhaps one of them dissed the other after a near-miss, or some such.

As I slowed to go around them I was amazed to see the driver of one of the cars exit his vehicle, dash over to the other car, jump onto the hood then onto the roof. Before he could do any real damage though, the car suddenly lurched forward a couple of feet, and the would-be-tap-dancer-on-the-hot-tin-roof toppled off the roof and slid off the trunk, landing on his chin. I think the guy was stupendously lucky not to have broken his neck or planted his nose in the asphalt, but still it looked extremely painful and he was not getting up.

The other driver got out, cautiously approached the moaning (I couldn't hear it, but he probably was moaning) former aggressor to assess his condition; then having concluded the guy was going to live, got back into his car and drove off.

Our conversation then segued into a more generalized topic: namely, why are people everywhere such pissed-off dicks? Y said that in Y's experience Americans are the friendliest, most open people anywhere (Y was raised in a Middle Eastern country and has also lived in Europe -- and while not as cosmopolitan as Y, I do know something about East Asian people, and I have to say Y has a point), which got me talking about a related topic: the people that inhabit the downtown building where I live.

After moving into the building back in January, I'd made a point of politely greeting everyone with whom I shared the elevator. It was partly in hopes of making new friends, and also it was just a way to try and keep things pleasant overall. All too often though, I would say "Good morning" as our eyes met, only to be treated to awkward moments of silence or even weirded-out stares. Some people, I have to say, actually made me feel as if I'd done something improper by talking to them without permission or something (in fairness though, they were perhaps hallucinating they were pre-revolutionary French aristocrats). Although there were some honorable exceptions, it was just getting to me and after a while I just stopped greeting strangers.

But this morning, as I walked down the lobby toward the front door I noticed this intimidatingly large, wrestler-in-a-suit type manning the front desk. He turned to look at me and flashed a friendly smile. He greeted me brightly and wished me a pleasant day.

It was like a ray of sunshine, I told Y, to be at the receiving end of all this niceness and polite manners after running into so many impenetrably indifferent (O.K., rude) people. Well, I guess I was still feeling a bit of an afterglow.

Only hours later did it occur to me how it might have sounded to my other co-worker -- this one shall be called X -- if X happened to be within hearing range, and inwardly I went, Oh, crap!

Because it so happened that X was in the midst of giving me the silent treatment after an incident which had occured a few days earlier, one which had each of us feeling the aggrieved party (the exact nature of the incident is not relevant here -- let it suffice to say that yours truly sometimes makes the mistake of presuming that the universe always makes sense and that people are always rational and thoughtful).

Anyway, I was long over it but X was not (I accept that different people cool off at different rates, and I've done the same thing to someone in the past, so I'm not saying I'm the bigger man here). I'd come in in the morning, throw a "Good Morning, X" X's way, and X would not look at me nor return the greeting. Come quitting time, either X would leave before me without saying anything, or I'd say "'Bye, X" as I left, and X would not acknowledge me.

If X overheard me talking to Y, I couldn't exactly blame X for thinking I was deliberately going on and on about rude people not returning my greeting... so possibly now X is not only mad at me over the original incident, but thinks I'm a snide jerk on top of that as well.

Apparition over a Tree

Looks like an angel... a small eviscerated angel.

Creepy Broken Windows

Some people have a habit of seeing faces in all sorts of random objects.

I'm one of those people.

I love to explore old buildings, but I passed on this one.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Just because...

This photo doesn't have a story to go with it. I just like it because it's a really cool shot.

What Happened?

Did the engine cut out just for a second? Musta given the pilot a heart attack.

Thursday, July 22, 2010



It's been seven months since I moved into this loft, and I'm still unpacking. I just came across this photo of a small panel of 'Eve' I worked on years ago. It was never quite finished (the common fate of many of my projects), but I actually like it this way. I wish I knew where the actual painting is.

EDIT:  Found it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I-Witness: 2 Angels

When I went to South Korea for vacation a couple of years ago, I got to visit Jeju-do. It seemed the local government was making a concerted effort to market the island province as a tourist destination, touting all kinds of man-made attractions and natural points of interest.

One of them was a rather imposing pavilion built next to a bridge. The bridge crosses a stream that includes a pretty pool into which empties a small waterfall.

The legend is that fairy maidens used to come down from Heaven (not really the same as the western idea of fairies or angels though) to bathe in the pool. There is a large plaque there that shows them in flagrante in relief. A nice little story, and a nice bit of elegant kitsch for the tourists, I thought...

Then I looked up at the evening sky, and I saw them -- two angels flying back to their home in Heaven.

Good Eats

2 of my favorites: ginkgo nuts & those cherries that look like tiny apples


For a few months a couple of years ago there were these hummingbirds busily plying their trade around the office. Considering how tiny they were and the size of the trees they would alight in, I'm a little amazed that I saw them all the time. Nobody else seemed to notice them, though. If I didn't have these photos I might have decided I was hallucinating them.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Sometimes I feel like one of these trees.

At other times I feel like the other tree.

And sometimes, both at the same time.

Tableau Vivant

The reason parents should never let boys play with Barbie dolls.

I've got hundreds of these

I love these things! They remind me of little owl faces. If anybody knows what they're called, please let me know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I Witness: A Legend Re-Enacted

견우 직녀 (The Cowherd and the Weaver Maid)

I was just strolling around one afternoon, taking random shots around the neighborhood, when I spotted yet another instance of spontaneous visual order -- a condensation trail seemingly picking up where a cable ended -- and took several shots. But when I downloaded the photos I found one among them that was strangely reminiscent of an old legend.

On the night of the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, supposedly two stars, Altair and Vega, approach each other most closely out of the whole year.

As the story goes, Altair is a Cowherd and Vega is a Weaver Maid. He was a mortal and she was a celestial fairy, but they were in love and lived as husband and wife on earth.

This was against the rules, however, and eventually she was found out and forced to return to Heaven. When the husband followed her up to the sky through magic, the Empress of Heaven placed the Milky Way between them to keep them apart.

Even so, their devotion to each other moved her stern heart, and the Empress allowed the lovers to meet one day out of the year. On that day, all the magpies of the world fly up to the sky and form a bridge over the Milky Way with their bodies, so the lovers could step across.

And this is why magpies have such smooth, shiny pates, so they say. This legend is probably Chinese in origin, but it is well-known throughout East Asia (with numerous local variations, I'm sure).

Check out the bridge of magpies in the illustration I found on the internet (I wish I could give credit, but I have no idea who painted it). And look at the photo (expand the image) -- those birds sure do look like they're trying to form a bridge between the cable and the contrail... As above, so below?

I Witness: Screwy Cloud

Momma Nature had a buzz on that afternoon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Mysterious Urchin

When I doodle a face without any ideas in advance, it usually turns out male. To counter this tendency and introduce a little variety I'll sometimes set out to do a female face (Octavia the Scrotum-Boiler, July 6). This time, I made a deliberate attempt to do a little girl, just because it's something I rarely ever do, and this is the result. A young Asian girl, with mysterious dark eyes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When your co-worker is Donald Duck's irascible cousin

O.K., I had a whole mini-dissertation on why it's a very bad idea to tell an angry man to calm down, or watch his blood pressure, or anything along those lines -- but it all was just a bunch of knee-jerk pop psychology BS.

The real reason you should never tell an angry man not to be angry, is that he might try to stab you in the face with the nearest pen.. or whatever's handy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pigeon Stamp

It would be nice to simply walk through a force field or some such that lets only your body pass through-- and emerge clean on the other side, with all the dirt left behind. Instant clean!

I Witness: 'Mars Needs Unicyclists'

Friday, July 9, 2010

'View of Hills in Mist'

Expand the photo to see an exciting step-by-step guide for creating an antique Oriental painting out of a curbside stain!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Of an Evening

A particularly striking instance of spontaneous visual order.

A Bouncy Ride

Sometimes pressure inside air masses can build up to such a degree that airplanes have been known to bounce right off them.

The Ghost of a Tree

I just realized the title of this post parallels Blake's 'Ghost of a Flea' (even rhymes!)-- one of my favorite images of all time. Anyhow, this tree was caught in the process of engaging in a bit of daytime astral traveling. Notice that the astral double has no trunk -- I guess it's the tree equivalent of how, in Asia, traditionally ghosts have no feet (except for the hopping or crawling ones).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Post Script to Yesterday's (July 6) Entry

About 'Avidya', the wall sculpture with the masks, here's something I forgot to mention in connection with it.

Some years back I did a little job for my good friend Evelyn. She was looking to have some ornamental vines in relief added to the front of her house, similar to the ones she remembered from the facade of Warner Brothers studios before they were lost in an earthquake in '93.

So Ev brought me a photograph of those vines, and I sculpted a copy in clay (blown up several times larger, of course). Through her connections at Warners Ev managed to have it cast in plaster, which were then attached to the wall of her house, as in the photo (no, her house isn't listing from the earthquake -- perhaps Ev was standing with her left foot in a hole when she took this photo :D).

Later, when I decided I had enough little faces on the floor and it was time to mount them in a proper frame for display, Ev volunteered her boyfriend Spike's (who is a wonderful craftsman) services. It was he who built the 5-piece frame, measuring some 17 and a half feet in total length (for which mucho thanks!).

BTW, the mold the WB shop guys made for casting the vines is probably still there on the lot somewhere, packed away in storage; and so in a minor, tenuous sort of way, my handiwork is now part of Hollywood history.

P.S. Spike also makes wonderful prop swords for movies and TV (and sometimes also wields them himself in action scenes); if anyone reading this ever needs a saber, rapier, dagger, halberd, poleaxe or suchlike item made, feel free to leave a comment with the request (serious only, please) and I will bring it to Spike's attention.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010



That previous pic with the masks is a detail from a larger piece titled 'Avidya'. Now I'm posting the rest of the piece. I know, the image quality is not so great. That's because the one and only time this piece was properly displayed on a gallery wall many years ago, I couldn't afford to hire a professional to take a proper photograph; so I took these shots myself with an old(pre-digital) camera(that I dropped once) on a tripod, using ambient light+one tungsten bulb and moving the camera over each time. I then scanned the prints into my computer, adjusted the sizes in Paint program, printed them out and literally taped them together to make one big panoramic photo(the piece is very long horizontally). I've yet to scan THAT photo into my computer, so I can only show it piecemeal like this.

In case you were wondering, these are 1000 faces in the piece - 1001 if you count the one in the mouth of the big mask in the center separately. It's the result of 10 years of work, off and on, during which time I had them arrayed on the floor of my studio. They've been accidentally trampled on by a repairman(how a person can not see hundreds of little faces staring up at them from the floor, I'll never know), peed on by my cat when I didn't change his litter box promptly, and trampled on again(this time deliberately) by my model's toddler son.

They also served as my emotional diary during the period when I was seeing a psychotherapist. Each time I went in for my weekly session I'd have the week's output of faces with me(a great motivator to work steadily), and my therapist would begin the session by reading their faces, just like a physiognomist.

Again, Order

A Platonic ideal, reified in an appropriately ephemeral embodiment.

Made-Up Character 5

Olga was a great admirer of Japanese culture. She was especially fond of anime; she knew every series ever aired on Japanese TV, every animated feature film based on a TV series, the names and histories of all the characters; she used to speak Japanese phrases to her uncomprehending friends, laughingly calling them coarse, ignorant gaijin.

Finally she packed up and moved to Japan, and when she landed at Narita airport and realized that Japan is populated by actual Asian people, not window-eyed elf-like beings in cosplay costumes, she ran under a bus.

Made-Up Character 4


If one's admiration for a scientist is measured in number of books purchased, the late Stephen Jay Gould was my favorite scientist. I've got 10 of his books. When he passed away I was so sad...

But then I found Yosip Bogdanovich Kovalenko. That's him up there, hovering above this post like a god.

He is the only Stephen Jay Gould impersonator to come out of Ukraine. In fact, he is probably the only professional Stephen Jay Gould impersonator in the entire world. He's so good, it's uncanny. When I watch him perform, saying such Gouldisms as: "Evolutionary theory swept away the creationist rug that had supported the intense debate between monogenists and polygenists..." ; and "I have not been able to ascertain whether (Charles) Dawson was Catholic", I swear I get goosebumps -- it's as though SJG himself were back from the great beyond, lecturing away before a rapt and spellbound audience.

Thank you, Yosip Bogdanovich Kovalenko, I love you.

Made-Up Character 3


I've no idea what that means, but it sounds cool.

Made-Up Character 2


Made-Up Character 1


Ed enjoyed reading Ray Bradbury.

And like Ray Bradbury, Ed loved to eat sausages.

He learned to make his own.

Even came up with some delicious original recipes.

Using girls he carved and minced himself in the basement.