30 April 2010

Portrait Mosaic Progress

Managed to get back to work on the portrait mosaic. There's a bit of a bounce-back from the camera flash, but this image is still pretty good. 

I do like the way this is turning out.

And the next two mosaics are starting to take form inside my head.

To Flash or not to Flash... not really a question

More reasons to not use Flash on websites...

Steve Jobs - Thoughts on Flash

Actually, I look at Adobe in much the same way I look at Microsoft. Both companies are very protective of their brand, their products and their code... and that's okay. Both companies constantly buy up small companies, dismantle their small, inexpensive cool software applications and roll them into the hugely overpriced applications that they sell... and that's not okay.

28 April 2010

Matters of Concern II

I've been reading about SB 1070 - the Arizona anti-illegal immigrant law.

It's very alarming, and it makes me no little bit sick to my stomach. This law is akin to the law that put Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans in labor camps during WWII. This law turns Arizona into a place where you have to carry your "PAPERS" with you at all times so that you can prove you are a citizen of the U.S. or that you are in the country legally - if your skin is brown that is... Very Gestapo... 

Some proponents are positioning the law as a way to address the influx of illegal immigrants, claiming that individual states should have the jurisdiction to police the national borders. However border control is a task that the constitution grants to the federal government alone. These advocates of SB 1070 seem to feel that harassing Americans of Latino or Hispanic decent and those immigrants who are legally here in this country, is acceptable collateral damage, and they should just put up with it in the name of catching those who are here illegally.

They fail to realize that that is absolutely unacceptable. No citizen of the U.S. is supposed to have to fear the papers-police. All their ranting about Anti-American-this and Un-American-that seems to miss this very crucial point... In my mind there's nothing more anti-american than the loss of our civil liberties, of our essential freedoms. And one person's loss of freedom is a loss for all of us.

The supporters of SB 1070 fail to realize that much of the illegal immigrant problem is due to our government's mistaken policies. That NAFTA and other like-minded free market-based policies actually have worsened the illegal immigrant problem instead of being a part of the solution. In the 1980s and 90s, NAFTA proponents boasted that trade, not aid, would boost the lot of Mexico and Mexicans. By raising Mexican living standards and wage levels - NAFTA's intended goals - Attorney General Janet Reno predicted NAFTA would reduce illegal immigration by up to two-thirds in six years. "NAFTA is our best hope for reducing illegal migration in the long haul... If it fails, effective immigration control will become impossible..."(Reno, 1994).

Well, guess what, Janet - it failed.

Instead of increasing the living conditions for the Mexicans and benefiting the Americans, the flood of illegal immigrants to the United States is up, and the standard of living of the average Mexican is down. People don't leave their communities, their friends, their families and their cultures because they want to. They leave because they have to. NAFTA set the stage for the kind of poverty that drives people to break laws simply to feed their families.

NAFTA permits heavily-subsidized US corn and other agri-business products to compete with small Mexican farmers. This has driven the Mexican farmer off the land because they cannot compete with the low-priced imports of US corn and other agricultural products. Millions of Mexicans have been forced off their farms and out of agriculture, and many of those that remain are living in desperate poverty. These people are among those that cross the border to feed their families. Meanwhile, corn-based tortilla prices have more than doubled in recent years and will continue to climb due to, in part, the U.S. policies encouraging production of corn-based ethanol.

NAFTA's service-sector rules allowed companies like Wal-Mart to enter the Mexican market. By selling low-priced goods made by ultra-cheap labor in other countries, these discount stores eliminated tens of thousands of small and medium-sized Mexican businesses.

It's definitely a quagmire now.

I'd like to think that a move to fair market policies rather than free market would eventually fix at least some of the problems, but I think that the vociferous voices on the right would find a way to stigmatize the fair market movement with their cries of "Socialist agenda" and "Anti-American."

I also doubt that we've enough time to make it work before the meltdown occurs. It seems we're reaching a fevered pitch - at least as far as the rhetoric is concerned.  I'm worried that we're going to see an increase in violence soon.

The bigots hiding behind the "States' Rights" rallying call are very good at working their constituencies up into a rabid spittle-spewing froth, feeding the immigrant-bashing mantra that is sweeping the country via their  Tea Party pro-America, America-for-the-Americans platform, and playing on the fear of losing jobs to immigrants - the fact that those jobs are ones that no red-blooded Tea Party regular would ever consider doing is irrelevant.

egad... what's next?

21 April 2010

Matters of Concern

One of the online discussions I participate in has sort of ground to a halt over the perceived direction of our country. To me it seems that the discussion is focused on the financial crisis, fear of unemployment, fear of socialism, and other right-leaning fears.

This morning I posted the following (we'll see what comes from it - maybe there are some less-conservative lurkers on the discussion board)...
I agree that the direction that our country (and our world) is going is a concern. I am not so concerned about the political direction, although the general unwillingness to consider coming to any worthwhile compromise is very discouraging. The disoriented polarity in our government is debilitating and will reduce us to a third-rate country eventually.

I am concerned that people are not trained to think critically, to weigh the worth of the information they receive. Instead they equate loudness, or repetition, as indicators of veracity.

I am concerned that we no longer have anything that could be considered a civil society. The callous, in-your-face screaming disdainful model of communication prevalent in public and private discourse can in no way be called conversation. Without conversation, nothing is humanly possible.

I am concerned that there are no credible news/journalism organizations now - only info-media entertainews. Without responsible, disciplined, respected public-minded news sources (rather than the corporate, news-for-profit sources we are now saddled with) democracy is not possible. If the populace isn't informed (as opposed to entertained) their decisions at the voting booth are meaningless.

I am concerned that people jump at the chance to trade their liberty and rights for security - and a false security at that. Why would any thinking person be willing to give up their freedom for laws and regulations that aren't going to do much to really provide safety and security?

I am concerned about the world's willingness to use violence, rather than diplomacy, to settle disputes.

Other thoughts, anyone?

18 April 2010

More Progress on the Portrait Mosaic

Yesterday I built handrails for the porch steps so that people coming to the art tour next weekend can come up and down on the steps more securely. They aren't pretty, but they'll do. They are just a temporary fix anyway, since I really want to have a new porch put on the house sometime this summer. Need to get a couple more freelance website jobs - then I could hire a crew to put a great porch on the house.

When I went to buy the lumber for the porch step railing I also bought some halogen lamps that will be the photography setup for taking pictures of the mosaics.
Today I was able to work for a good part of the day on the mosaic portrait of Sheba. I'm almost finished with the face. I've also started cutting glass for the hair, but I haven't glued any of those pieces down yet.

For the most part I am really happy with this so far. But I think I am going to rework the area under her right eye (on the left side as you're looking at this photo) .

16 April 2010

Abelisto Dulcimer

I've resisted using Picasa even though uploading photos to a Blogger blog creates Picasa web albums with the images automatically.

Today, as part of my work I did some exploration of Picasa. I downloaded the application and installed it.

That was about 55 minutes ago. It's still indexing all the photos on my computer. I'm not surprised since I have over 500G of photos spread between three harddrives.

While it's still finding and cataloging things I played with it a bit. I found this photo of Abelisto playing the dulcimer on stage. I used Picasa's interface to adjust color, contrast, and fill light, and then applied a sepia filter to the image (hopefully all of this is undoable... I'm fairly certain it is - I actually know it is while you are still working on an image, but I don't know if I leave an image in an altered state and return to it later if it is undoable... we'll see). I then used the Blog This feature in Picasa to upload this photo and write this little bit about it.

I added a caption to the photo in Picasa but it does not seem to have accompanied the photo into this blog post.

Picasa is still indexing photographs... I'm beginning to wonder how many I actually have. Hopefully it hasn't gone out onto the network... I have access permissions to lots and lots of networked folders.

Maybe I should check on it. Now.

Posted by Picasa

13 April 2010

Smalti Mosaic Portrait

Tonight's progress...

I reworked some of the shadows around the dark side of the nose and added more smalti for the shadowed side of the face.

I've sort of lost track of the hours I've spent working on this one... I think it's around 18, but that's just a guess. And I really have no idea if it's a good guess or not.

11 April 2010

Portrait Mosaic Progress

Spent all day yesterday cleaning the house, and only worked on the mosaic today.  Not the best of photographs, but here is today's progress.

Should have done laundry... no clean clothes for the upcoming week...

08 April 2010

Portrait Mosaic

Lest you think I am slacking... I am waiting on more smalti, which I ordered on Monday from smalti.com, which shipped yesterday, and should be here (hopefully) on Friday so that I can do more work on this piece over the weekend.

04 April 2010

Portrait Mosaic Progress

This photo was taken with a flash and the colors are a bit truer...

There's a bit of flash bounce-back from the layer of plastic below the mesh, and there's a little bit of a pink cast to the image, but for the most part this shows the glass fairly well.

03 April 2010

Permaculture Winona - 2

One of the things I heard in the permaculture group meeting that keeps spinning around in my head was a wistfulness about being able to sell one's old, outdated, inefficient house and build the sustainable dream house - which, to me, smacks of naivety and the consumer-driven model to get another chance at living well...

That's not really very articulate, but I'm still trying to form a response to the knot in my stomach/chest that this kind of thinking causes. I'll try to say it better:

Imagine you could discard the old house, that you could sell it and build your perfect sustainable home... who wouldn't love to do that? Who wouldn't feel ten-times better about oneself in doing that? Wouldn't that be great? Just think about how great it would be for the world if we all did that...

But wait a moment - what would happen to this house that I'd be leaving behind. One of four things would happen to it:
  1. another person would buy the house and live unsustainably in it,
  2. no one would buy the house and live unsustainably in it because everyone would be looking for sustainable housing - which actually would probably preclude me being able to build my dream house,
  3. if I did find a way to build my dream house without someone else taking on this unsustainable albatross then this house would either sit empty (much like the abandoned and foreclosed on houses across the land - which spawns a whole other list of issues)... or,
  4. the house would be torn down and someone (maybe even me) would build a new sustainable house on the property - and all the history and culture in this 110-year old building would be lost...
Wouldn't the best solution be to make every house more sustainable instead of building new sustainable houses?

I'd like to see serious discussion on this idea. How can an old house - one whose "ecological mortgage" has been long paid in full - become part of the sustainable life we want to live?

Abelisto talks about sustainability and the treadmill of production. The idea about selling this old house and building a new sustainable one is very much akin to the idea of producing our way out of the mess we're in.

Portrait Mosaic Progress

Tonight's work:

And a close-up...

It's a bit hard to see the colors of the smalti. Everything in the photograph is a bit darker than it really is. After I do more tomorrow I'll use the flash and see if I can get a bit better image. Or maybe I'll finally build a lighting set-up for taking these photos...

Oh, yeah, I got up this morning and decided the eyes had too much of a slant. So I cut the mesh around them and repositioned them. I think it looks much better. It's subtle but it really made a difference.

Permaculture Winona

Just came from a Permaculture group meeting. I missed the first one (in Chicago at the SAMA mosaic conference), so I was a bit out of touch with what this group is hoping to do/be.

I think I'm really interested in the "culture" part of Permaculture.

I've always thought that the agriculture/ecology side of sustainability is well represented, but the social justice side of it is not. Most people that are talking sustainability talk about sustainability in regard to the environment. I think that is a rather narrow path to take. Sustainable living involves more than just dealing with environmental issues. Its success as a world-changing entity/idea/project, its viability as more than just a fad will hinge upon how it deals with social inequity, poverty, and injustice... How can disadvantaged and marginalized people even begin to think about living sustainably when it's a struggle to live, period?

Of course environmental issues are a major part of the discussion - if we don't have safe, healthy living spaces, if the air and water and soil are polluted or misused we all suffer. But I think that the whole "green" movement is a bit elitist and condescending. If sustainable living isn't universally available, it isn't sustainable. If only the well-off can afford to live "sustainably" it's not sustainable.

It may be that this group is looking at things in a slightly different way. It seems that many of them are not well-off, not doing this because it's trendy, or that they've been propagandized. It doesn't seem like it's a momentary passion with them.

02 April 2010

Mosaic Portrait

Tonight's work... I decided to start with the eyes.

01 April 2010

Mosaic Portrait I

I've started the mosaic portrait - well I've done the set up for it.

This is a black & white photograph, scanned at a high resolution that's been taken it into PhotoShop, enlarged to 11" x 17", printed and then hand colored.

It has been taped down on a board, covered with a layer of clear plastic and then covered with fiberglass mesh.

Next I will start cutting smalti to fit the areas of color and gluing them to the mesh. Once the face and neck are done I will trim around the mosaic and affix it to a substrate and finish the piece.