Monday, August 2, 2021

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

 Thanks for stopping by. The WFB is my 'whatever I happen to be in to at the moment' corner of the web. I have two other Blogger sites which are far more interesting. 

The Lost Canyon Project

is the chronicle of my work photographing and cataloging the life's work of my late friend, artist Pete Hampton (1940-2018)

The Lost Era Transcripts

Is the fruit of the Lost Canyon Project. It is a re-creation in book form of Pete's unfinished master work, The Lost Era. This is a good candidate for the finest work I have ever done.

 Between A Rock and A Hard Place


I try to avoid politics and current events here at the WFB. The last thing the internet needs is one more crusty old bastard griping about the news of the day. There's a ton of  people doing this who are much smarter than I am, and they are not hard to find- at least not yet... I have dozens of them in the bookmarks.

But there was this, over at Fran Porretto's Liberty's Torch. 

I commented :

“This is never going to end. That realization hit me as soon as I started hearing about the delta variant bullshit. And it hit me like a punch in the gut. I don't know why I thought otherwise. I’ve been following Briggs every week on this. And Barnhardt. I’m taking my ivermectin. I’m leaning hard on  prayer, and what faith I have, but the hope that I’ll see and end to this in my lifetime is dead."

 And it's more than just the virus bullshit. Ubiquitous woke insanity. The Great Inversion, and the Tyranny of Lies. Western Civ is in collapse. The bleakness is nearly overwhelming. My wife can maintain a sort of Buddhist optimism. If the World is breaking down, it will ultimately resolve into something better. Perhaps. But not within the span of the years we have remaining to us.

We have to fight the darkness where we meet it. I spent most of last year alone on the bike path. Mary and I kept our door open, and we provided, for our friends, the remnant of a social life that had been strangled in the hysteria. My bike club did the same. We held our monthly event, despite.

Then, this last Spring, my creative burn re-lit. Now, I’ve retreated to my art work. Twenty years ago, I engaged in the stone work with a sense of optimism and hope. I’d make cool, beautiful things. People would maybe even buy them. I’d create a little beauty in the world. 

 Now, every stroke of the rasp, every rub of the polish is an act of defiance, a FUCK YOU to the darkness. The panopticon tower of cybertech Babel is being put on line as I type. Shit, this post is part of it. I'll defy it by spending my time carving on a rock. That is as primal, and primitive as a human task gets. It's been going on as long as there have been people and rocks. That's old-school, dude. 

Will it stop anything? no. 

Will it slow the decline, stop the madness? rather doubtful.

So where's this "beauty" gonna' go? Where's it gonna' end up? not a fuckin' clue.

So why do it?

You got a better idea?

My wife and I are still keeping the relations with our friends as close as we can. Friendship and love, too have become our weapons. We have to fight the darkness where we meet it. We’re meeting it here and now: face to face at the desktop. We get it like plutonium radiation every time  we get near the toxic media. It's behind our feet when we kneel to pray. I’m tired.

1961 Mark IV Jaguar  

Sunday was the monthly Cyclone Coaster antique, and classic bike ride in Long Beach. I've been going (almost) every first Sunday of the month for over ten years. Our club, RatRod Riders got its start there. It used to be common to see close to a hundred bikes, almost all cherry antique, and classic cruisers from the 1960's and before. Now its down to a few dozen. I was down there early Sunday as always. My club sister Penny was waiting. Jim showed up later. We talked with our friends, the regular old crowd, but the sense of excitement is still damp. And the vibe has changed. The ride meets at a coffee house in the rainbow neighborhoods of Long Beach, a few blocks in from the beach. You see a lot of tats, and a lot of masks. The bike crowd does not diaper.  It used to feel like we were part of the fun and funky vibe that comes in the alphabet zone. Now it feels like we're sort of tolerated because tradition, but... they'd just as soon we left.

 The run of ancient bicycles used to draw an instant crowd as we cruised through the neighborhoods, and down to the bike path. We were a spontaneous parade event for anyone visiting the beach that day. Don't get me wrong, we still get hoots and cheers from the locals who happen to be out front as we roll by. But past that we're just a pack of bikes, now. 

Even still.

There was that moment when we reached the end of Belmont Shore where they have the street barricaded off for pedestrian traffic. Bright yellow sun. Sky like a blue marble, and sand like a paint-by-numbers seascape. Not too many folks out, and the cars held at the stop signs to let the whole pack glide onto the bike path. We got a thumbs up. The sweet spots remain, and life remains Good. For this one day, anyhow. Later today, I'll start in on the new stone.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Thoughts Post Project

 Thanks for stopping by. The WFB is my 'whatever I happen to be in to at the moment' corner of the web. I have two other Blogger sites which are far more interesting. 

The Lost Canyon Project

is the chronicle of my work photographing and cataloging the life's work of artist Pete Hampton (1940-2018)

The Lost Era Transcripts

Is the fruit of the Lost Canyon Project. It is a re-creation in book form of Pete's unfinished master work, The Lost Era. This is a good candidate for the finest work I have ever done.


Thoughts Post Project 

Just as a sideline, here,  before I get into bloggin'...

Sweden? Seriously?

I was looking at the stats for this blog, and they show a handful of hits from facebarf, and the few friends  who drop by here, but it also shows thousands of hits from Sweden. Now when you get "views" from China, or anywhere in Asia, you just figure they're bots crawling Blogger looking for anything they can spam, plagiarize, or steal. But Sweden? Maybe the Swedes are interested in what I'm doing. Who knows? If any of those views are actually from real Swedes I'd love to hear. Update: I read a post on another Blogger account where the author mentioned the Swedish rush on his stats. Apparently there is a bot from Sweden prowling all the sites on Blogger. And here I thought I was getting all world-famous. Oh, well...


Anyway, here's a preview of the next project. This chunk of silver anhydrous alabaster is a little harder than the crystal, and much more dense. The crystal stone weighed a hundred and fifteen pounds. This stone is a little over half the size of the crystal. Nonetheless, it weighs in at right around seventy-five pounds. It polishes up to a glassy, metallic sheen. I'll get rolling on it in a day, or so.



The big stone has been on the shelf for a few days, now,  doing what stones do best, which is collect dust. When the alien archeologists arrive in their flying saucers, they'll determine that dust was the most important of all things to this odd race of beings. Why else would they make such elaborate devices for gathering it?


Part of me wants to jump straight in, and start grinding again. That's how I worked before. I'd put a finished piece on the shelf, and start in on a new one the next morning. But "before" was twenty years ago, when I was not quite fifty. Now, I'm just about seventy. I'm not jumping anywhere. My needle is on "E". The tank is dry. Right now, I'm  catching my psychic breath, allowing the spirit to recharge, and also taking a break from the physical grind of working hard, six days a week.

And the big stone? Nunya Bidnez skewered it in the comments.  I did a whole post on watching out for free association. But it bit me in the butt again. Here's what I mean.

The planning for this piece began in my head long before the stone came out of the garage. I was largely focused on the problem of having the stone pierce through itself without creating a fork, or a cleavage. Too, I wanted the form passing through itself, but I didn't want to do something suggesting anatomy, or having erotic overtones. Not that I'm averse to doing either; it just- how do I put it? wasn't where I was at- you know?

So, in the quiet space before sunrise, with my eyes  closed, and coffee jump starting consciousness, I imagined the form of a leaf,  then pulled the stem around, and poked it through the 'palm' of the middle of the leaf to form a loop. This notion eventually became  the foundation for the design, and later morphed into the upper bowl

 The raw form of the stone lent itself to to the egg shape below.  I saw that egg shape, and the concave arch extending from the narrow end as having the potential to show off the clarity and translucence of the material. It would be a big glowing pearl bowl, gracefully arching up, turning inside out, arching back again, and finally dropping down through the  top bowl, and  into the lower. Sort of a Mobius effect.

But of course, the conceptual stuff is all conceptual. Everything changes once it hits the rock. The stone doesn't care about ideas.  A rock is a hard, fixed place. Either the idea fits inside, or something has to change. The stone had a few very cool natural features that I was tempted to exploit. I worked through, and discarded several ideas, all of which involved some degree of flamboyance. But, just like the erotic thing. Nothing against flamboyance. Done right, it's great. But still; not where I'm at- you know?  

 Whether I'm dreaming it into being in the early morning dark, or rasping away at the table, the whole dialectic between me and the stone takes place pretty deep down in the brain. I get so locked in on task that I can't see past it. Sometimes it feels like being on auto-pilot.

But anyway, I started by mentioning free association, and the comment from Nunya Bidnez. Here it is:

a Swan?
an Ampersand?

very beautiful, sir ...

Nunnya Bidnez, jr.

Once again, Thank you. I appreciate the kind words. 

My work has always had that quality of a three-dimensional Rorschach test. The stones suggest different things to different people, and different images at different angles. The shapes and forms emerge in the process of carving. I don't plan them. 

Now, the ampersand is kind of cool. It would be a fun, and whimsical notion to carve a punctuation mark out of stone.... &

But the swan.


I hate to admit this. It did not even occur to me. I was well into the stone, fully committed to the 'egg, and arch' form before I realized that I was doing the swan. It's a visual cliche. Just like every plastic lawn decoration, or cheap terra-cota pot from the swap meet. Like pink flamingos on the lawn. Just like the ice carving at the cruise ship buffet. Just like inflatables for the pool.

I'm not kidding, it feels like pouring your heart into writing the all time greatest love poem ever, and then realizing you just rhymed 'moon and June', 'fire and desire', 'sorrow and tomorrow'. It's all sorta' been done before.

I just had to laugh. And then, my old pal Mike points out the sombrero guy:

Top picture makes me think of the classic Mexican seated with his arms around his legs and back to a cactus, minus the cactus!  

I swear, sometimes, I just can't win.

As a final note, I just realized that I may be in danger of being taken too seriously. I'm having a laugh at my own expense, here. Truth to tell, I am very pleased with the work. If someone sees a swan, I'm cool with that. 

But the sombrero guy? Aye caramba!


Monday, July 26, 2021

One Hundred and Four Days

   One Hundred and Four Days


Finishing day is a lot like being in Wyoming in the morning, and deciding you've been on the road long enough. So you burn it to Los Angeles in one brutal run. (Ask me how I know this.) 

I started this rock trip a hundred and five days ago. 


But carving isn't travel, and there is no mileage marker, or exit sign on this road. 



It just gets narrower, and narrower, and then runs out of pavement. You just keep grinding and scratching away until you find yourself working with finer and smaller tools. 


Before you know it, the tools stay in the box, and it's finishing day. The last leg is a long, messy, marathon session of sanding, rubbing, and polishing. 

  Start with 80 grit coarse, to take out tool marks and small irregularities. Go over it again a few times with 150 grit, a little finer. Repeat through 220, 320, and 400. Then a rub down with #0000 grade steel wool. 

Out comes the plastic tub. Now, it's wet sanding, several passes at 600, and then 1500, and finally 2,000 grit. Then go to a rag, and a sticky paste of water and tin oxide powder; then to a dry rag, and Simichrome polish, and,  at long last, to carnuba wax.

By now, the surface area of this thing feels like it covers a square mile, and I've been over every square inch of it so many times that I can't tell one side from the other.  By the end of the ten-hour session, Saturday, I was exhausted, and dizzy tired out.

Sunday morning was touch-up. How it is humanly possible to have missed a molecule of this thing, I do not know.  That's not true. I know exactly how I missed all the little scratches. Working outside, even under the canopy, the stone was all glow-ey with sunlight. A lot of the work was done by touch. When the stone came indoors, in lower light, I saw all the places I missed; all the little scratches, and tool marks showed. 



By noon it was done. I don't have any fingerprints left. They'll grow back. The stone is in the living room.

Oddly enough, this part of the project kind of sucks.  I've been so close to this thing for so long that now I can't even see it. I'm sick to the eyeballs of looking at it.


  I can't tell if it's good or bad, if I knocked it out of the park, or struck out. It all looks the same. It's like that creepy feeling you get when you hear your own voice on a recording, or when you repeat a word so many times that it just becomes a sound.. That's my voice? eew... This is the thing  I've been making? It's mediocre. Just one more of my stupid ideas. It's genius. Best thing ever. This thing will make me rich and famous. It's ugly. No, it's OK...

All part of the fun.




Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Tai Chi Skinamalink

 Tai Chi Skinamalink

The Tai Chi exercises are healthful, and enlightening for  both people and pets. Mary and The Skinamalink rehearsing the moves:


Monday, July 19, 2021

Three Months Into This Thang

 So here we are, a little over three months since I rolled the big stone out of the garage. I needed help getting it up on the table. I started out with 115 pounds of crystal, and cut 18 pounds off the bottom for the base. Now, if my arithmetic is sort of close, that left 97 pounds of rock for the carving. It weighed in this morning at just over fifty pounds. So, I've turned about 45 pounds of stone to dust and scrap. That's a lot of dust.   Now, I can lift it, and turn the piece without much effort.

Monday and Tuesday of last week I worked on the large egg-shaped lower bowl, and the curves on the neck that drops through the upper bowl. By Wednesday I realized that it would take days to get to the bottom of the bowl with the tools I have. 


This coincided with the weekly email from the Stone Carving Supplies web site.  Milani tools aren't cheap. Three clicks from the catalog cost me a two hundred bucks. But it got me three new rifflers, a 10" spoon, a 14" spoon, and a 14" knife.



  I ordered Thursday; the tools came Saturday. The big spoon (center) is new, very sharp, and proved to be an aggressive excavator. By the time I put up Saturday afternoon I was within sight of my goal.


I'll get the last of the excavation done in the next day or two, and then the work comes down to fine tuning the whole composition. I'm not doing grooves, or surface detail on this piece, so the polishing work should go pretty fast. This is the fun part, but it's also the part where it starts getting a little scary. As the walls of the carving grow thinner, the stone begins to ring like a chime under the rasps and files. The bowls  catch and hold more, and more light.   Everything glows, and the crystal won't cast a shadow on itself. It's often hard to see where you're going. Shapes, and curves start changing very fast. No stroke of the file can be undone and the margin for error gets smaller with every pass.

 As Confucius says: To exceed is as bad as not to reach. The form gets "better" only to a point, and then it's time to stop. It's very, very easy to get carried away on some small detail, and over-carve the piece. You gotta' know when let it be.

All in a sudden, that moment is coming up fast.