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Painting A Lot. Family.

December 11th, 2022

I’m done with space paitnings for now. I sold my now-finished New Glasses to my nephew Hans von Sichart. It’s a very nice painting; I put in a whole extra day on it, sharpening it up.

Hans came to our house to pick it up; it was nice to see him, had been nearly ten years, even though he lives in the bay area. He was saying I should do a version of the painting where the books are inside the lenses and the topographic stuff is outside, but I don’t think that would work.

I enjoy talking to him, a fellow German. We’re not exactly the most sympathized-with minority around, so it’s nice to huddle together. Thinking back to the Irish kids who hassled me in my Catholic high school, St. X.

I can’t get into writing anything these days, other than these notes. Might as well keep painting, although just now I’m waiting for a fresh delivery of canvases. I do have one very small one; might use that. I’ve painted twenty since January of this year. Really need to sell some more of them. I’m running a sale with insanely low prices.

I just sold “Space Jellies” to Michael Koch in Europe. Maybe I’ll just have a new career as a painter. Why not? I still can’t quite get over the hurdle of finding, or trying to find, a gallery to sell them. But the mail-order thing does seem to work pretty well. Monetizing my fan base and my social-media-following. Hi, guys.

My old Lynchburg pal Mike Gambone popped up, and he’s buying Zoom Meeting, a great piece.

Isabel came down from her town of Fort Bragg, CA, near Mendocino to visit for five nights, and that’s great. As I write this at breakfast, I hear Isabel talking to Sylvia downstairs. The music of their voices. Wonderful.

I really miss writing. I guess an idea will come. I feel sort of tentative these days, not knowing what’s in the offing. I’m still waiting for the canvases I ordered to arrive.

Every day I see my Genoa painting Rush Hour, from November, 2019, 40” x 30”. It’s hanging in the upstairs bathroom. I don’t know if I can ever do a painting that good again.

I found I had two very small, high-quality blank canvases I’d been saving in the basement for maybe the granddaughters to use. But think now I’ll use at least one of them a miniature saucer painting. Just to be out in the yard/studio. Doing saucers is a no-brainer, and they always sell, even if, for me, they’re a bit been done. Maybe or once I should do a sketch—to get good positioning for the saucers. (But I know I won’t.)

Frozen saucers in this old one,  Deep Space Saucers from 2015, like a flash photo of a tossed handful of M&Ms. Adjusting the colors is a big thing in these. Like Gerhard Richter’s  “paint-chip” works.  I sold this one to a computer guy called Bob Hearn, and now we’re friends.

And here I am with the new one, called Saucer Pals. Why am I so pink? Well, that’s the balance it takes to make the canvas look right. Or maybe I really am pink.  More sensitive to the sun than I used to be.

For this one, I eyeballed and revised and tweaked to find my way to this new composition. Didn’t bother to do a sketch, didn’t use shading. Took me four sessions. Small paintings aren’t necessarily less work than big ones. What made this one fresh was that I had the idea of giving them eyes, like I recently did on thsoe cosmic jellyfish, and that really livens up the picture.

Meanwhile a buttload of canvases showed up from Blick. Maybe I paint some stacked-layer saucers a bit like Jim Woodring’s jivas, which I’ve painted before?

Meanwhile a woman named Janell Julian in greater LA wrote to buy my diptych pair of two 30 x 24 inch paintings Cute Meet which I’d marked way down. I shipped them off and she got them and she’s “So very happy.” Makes me glad.

Daughter Georgia arrived with granddaughter Althea for four days.

Usuallly I look really nice when the kids take my picture, but this time, for a joke, with Althea taking my picture I looked stern. Althea shot this with her new camera; a Fujifilm x100V of mine that I gave her, the camera barely used, because I had immediately replaced it with my Leica Q2.

I started a new painting with Georgia brushing on it too. The canvas was super bump because I’d covered it with random daubs of the leftover paint from the one before.  Fun to work together with Georgia; we understand and agree with each other so easily.

Then I kept working on it. It has a pair of glowing-blob-creatures with those cartoon eyes I like to draw these days. The eyes looking at each other. As usual the two beings “are” Sylvia and me. Ab-ex woods around them, with tree trunks that Georgia painted in. Possibility of lake and sky in the background. The trunks were straight redwoods when Georgia was here, but after she left, I warped them into twisty oaks. Working title was In the Woods.

We went walking around Los Gatos High with Georgia and Althea, the school where all three of our kids graduated. A genuine fall tree here.

And Georgia left and Sylvia and I had a great trip up to Mendocino/Fort Bragg for Thanksgiving with Isabel and her husband Gus. plus Rudy Jr and his family.

Rudy Jr kindly picked up and drove Sylvia and me the whole way there and back. Stayed at the glorious yet folksy Beachcomber motel on the cliffs just north of Fort Bragg. And Isabel’s loft full of art and comfort.

That’s granddaughter Zimry in the hammock.

I got some good photos at dusk on the last day, especially one of grandson Calder on a rock with the moon. Sometimes I want to advise Calder about this or that, and then I remember that my own grandfather, also named Rudolf von Bitter, didn’t seem to approve of me. And I don’t want to be “that” grandfather, although it amuses me that I might be. The wheel of time.

In point of fact Calder isn’t so different from what I was like when I was ten. I was…difficult. I open my heart to Calder and love him. My grandson.

Isabel and Sylvia with Isabel and her husband’s badge quilt…they collect patches from the places they visit, and sew them on.

Jasper, Penny, and Isabel at the table, reading stuff. A casual shot.

Low water seen from a cliff. Nice curves.

There’s a huge stand of Monterey pines at the Beachcomber motel. right outisde our window. Lit by the rising sun behind us, with the Pacific out beyond. Uplifting. What is there to worry about, really.

LIttle Calder perky in Isabel’s indoor hammock.

Isabel and I were griping about the dumb experssion “sneaker wave.” One of those phrases that annyoingly catch on and become received wisdom: some waves are rogues and they sneak up on you. When really it’s just a matter of never turning your back on the chatic ocean. Which is what I was doing, just before taking this photo, and a wave surged to the middle of my shins, soaking my shoes for the next two days. Sneaker wave!!

What a photo.  The setting sun gilding the hummocks of wet sand. That’s what I call Leica quality. No decaying into pixels, no distortion, a pure fiffty-megabyte raw image with all the info there to caress with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop till it’s got  just right gleam.

Jasper loves to jump. . Didn’t think of using a high shutter speed, but the blur shows the motion, and it’s all good. The roughness of the surf.

On the drive home from Fort Bragg we stopped in Petaluma, and saw some memorably ugly fake xmas trees. Cheerful, though. And I like the Santa with shades.

This is a mere Pixel 7 Pro phone image, but what the hey.  The best camera is the one that you have with you, right?

Awed by the twittering birds in the trees on St. Joseph’s Hill when I walked there at dusk with Sylvia the other day. It had been raining. Lot of trees, with the tweeting birds…maybe just paint the tweets themselves and not the birds.

The tweets are triangles. In saying this, I’m thinking of mathematician  Roger Penrose’s “kites and darts,” that is the non-repeating tiles he also sold as “Perplexing Poultry.” Perplexing Poultry in the trees. I wrote about them in Freeware.

The low sun shining bright through an uphill scrim of branches. “That’s the White Light, Sylvia,” I say. “That’s where we’re going.” And she’s, like, “You go first.”

Double 32 on a dumpster. If that’s an exponent, its about the size of a quindecillion.

Still no real thoughts of writing, although, yes, I dis see a seed for a time-travel story. There’s a spot in the St. Luke’s church parking lot that I always use, the first one on the left, it’s usually empty. And if I travel back here from the future, or forward to here from the past…that’s a likely spot I could stake out, with good odds of finding myself there in at least a day or two.

What would be my motive? What outcome would result? Infiltrating Silicon Valley from the node where I emerged on a hilltop above San Ho.

Meanwhile Nature actually bought my short-short sorry “Who Do You Love” for their online “Futures” site! I have to reread the story, by now I don’t quite remember it, even though I did six paintings for it. Not a novel, no, but, hey, it’ll be in Nature!

I worked some more on that painting that I started with Georgia, the one I’d been calling In the Woods. During the seventh or eighth revision, it hit me that the shape in the middle — which was already an island by now — could be an island shaped like a UFO, so I changed the work’s name to Saucer Island. For the closing touch, I did an off-white frieze across the middle, which really makes it. The leaves on the top have a nice fauve Gaugin/Cezanne feel.

Erich Schaefer in San Francisco bought the painting the same day I posted it online.

It took me a couple of days to mail out Saucer Island, and our friends Ronna Schulkin and Jon Pearce came over for a visit while we still had it. I had the usual discussion with Ronna, who’s a very accomplished painter. In my paranoia, I sometimes think she’s suggesting that my paintings aren’t “real” paintings because they’re “narrative.”

Certainly she is a better painter than I am. I’ll freely grant you that.  Check out her website. Or just look at the Ronna painting shown above…we bought if from her about ten years ago. Worth every penny. I think about it every day. Ronna is cagy about what this is a painting of.  Maybe it’s her and her two siblings. But mostly it’s about pattern and color.

Does the more clearly narrative element of some of my works entirely vitiate them? Well, id=often my narration is quite oblique. It’s not like Hallmark cards or editorial cartoons. As I always say, I like to think of my paintings as illustrating forgotten adages or unknown fables. Like Bruegel’s The Peasant and the Birdnester. You don’t quite know what’s going on.

In any case I greatly enjoy my discussions with Ronna. It’s rare I get to talk shop with a fellow artist. And I’ve known Ronna and Jon for so long. Thirty-six years by now.

And then, while wondering what to paint next. I was leaning towards something more surreal or abstract and less “narrative.” My dreams are odd these days. More vivid, more repetitive. Could I do a painting of my uneasy dreams?

Here’s the painting I ended up with, and I decided to call it Underground because there’s something like green grass at the top—it’s not that I deliberately “put grass” there; it’s just that, on the third revision, I felt like putting green, because of the color harmonies, and a hour later it occurred to me that it could be grass, and if it’s grass, then, whoa, kind of creepy, there’s all that stuff underground.  The stuff of uneasy dreams.

Is this a narrative?  Maybe, maybe not. In the end, every painting is a narrative, isn’t it? Even if you don’t know that you’re narrating. You’re drawing your own Rorschach blots.

I do know that I did three sessions, and every time the painting changed a lot.  It’s always hard to know if you’re making a painting better or worse.  In a way I liked the very first rough version the best, and that one only took me about twenty minutes.  But I didn’t want to be done yet.

Painting is kind of an up and down thing, like the stock market, and it makes sense to bail out when it looks like things are in good shape—even if they’re got as great as in your sentimental recollection of the first day’s flash, and not yet as wonderful as your vain fantasies of future glory.

In the background as I write this in the coffee shop, Elvis is singing “In the Ghetto.” Life is a trip.

Back upstream a ways, here’s Sylvia with my parents’ dog Friedl in 1966. Sylvia and I were in our early twenties, engaged to be married.

And here, in Geneseo, New York, 1976, are Isabel and Rudy Jr, wearing colanders like WW1 soldiers.  Love how Isabel’s onesie is a little tight on her tummy.  And Rudy swigging from his silver juice cup.

And good old Mom, in her prime, probably about 55. The years, ah, the years.

And now another year is winding down. Love to all of you.

Notes From The Underground

October 26th, 2022

Ahna bogbog du smeepy flan,” as the prehistoric Egyptian potter says in my ultrapunk 1983 story “Buzz.”

I finished a big new painting, Space Jellies. I started out with the dark blak/purple background, then put on small stars by flicking my thumb across paint-laden brushes. The yellow-orange pattern is a kind of shape I like to draw; a hollowed out version of the wall in Cosmic Cliff. Then some bigger stars, and some eyes looking at each other—and the space jellyfish, looking at the orange nebula-creature. For a joke, I added a tiny planet Earth in the top, even though its scale isn’t consistent with the rest of the painting. Alien invasion! I sold it for close to a thousand dollars the day after I finished it. Sold this baby for about a thousand dollars the day after I posted it!

Sylvia and I found a stray praying mantis standing on her car’s roof in the garage.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in California before.  The mantis—she wasn’t really scared of us—didn’t hurry away, just faced us down.  Sylvia dueled with her a little bit, using a pine needle.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was planning to write a story involving some recent paintings of mine, Galaxies, Outside the Fillmore, Cosmic Cliff, and Space Jellies.

And I did write the story, and called it “Who Do You Love.” But in the end I simplified the story down to 950 words and sent it off to Nature magazine for their Futures feature of short-short SF stories. (Still waiting to hear back.)

The mountains have labored to bring forth a mouse. I don’t seem to have the energy for a long haul. Maybe because I’m old, maybe because some of my energy goes into some problems at home. At least that story is done. And I do like the way it came out. In the end, it’s quite sad. My characters Will and Sue meet outside the Fillmore in 1967 while Quicksilver is playing, he goes off to the Cosmic Wall with her, and when he and Sue come back, they’re old, and Willy’s missed his life—which is how I feel these days. Sylvia likes the story, but it made her cry. My hands and arms and back are sore from typing and painting.

Huge problems getting new lenses for my glasses. Don’t ask. Maybe I can write a story called “New Glasses.” But the so-called glasses are some kind of teep aid, or empathy receiver, or pheromone sniffer, or vibe feeler.

Okay, what’s the kicker? He can sense something unusual. Ghosts, aliens, creatures from the subdimensions. Doesn’t realize what it is, says he doesn’t like the prescription. Gets that addition taken off. Then realizes what he’s lost: something like James Blish’s “Beep,” where you see the entire history of the universe coded up in a star-up beep that your phone makes. So then does something drastic to get that add-on back. But there’s a problem, and he ruins himself, and he’s like the bums in the alley he saw at the beginning of the story behind the glasses store—a bunch of degens known as snorkers.

I was wondering what to paint after Space Jellies, and I sent a copy to my computer hacker friend Chuck Shotton, and he used one of the new AI art programs—Stable Diffusion—to come up with a bunch of variations, and I didn’t really want to copy any of these, but it was cool to see, and at some level it did set my mind to moving.

But not as much as light and shadows on the screen door by the laundry room.

Meanwhile I was still working on getting my new two pairs of glasses. The lenses came, but they had a mix-up and put them in the wrong frames, also the near-vision correction wasn’t quite right.

While waiting, I took a walk on Pogonip trail in Santa Cruz with dear old pal Jon Pearce. Used my new Pixel 7 Pro camera for the selfie.

And then I did start a new painting, but I burned through my supply of black paint, as it was gonna be yet another deep space painting, Jellies Journey. They’re heading for a big star. Maybe it’s romantic, like the star is marriage. Or maybe they’re dying, and the star is heaven.

I ordered more black paint, but it would take a while. Meanwhile I might just start yet another new one? Maybe New Glasses as a painting instead of a story. With the glasses, you see into a different world, right? I might draw a sketch to get the perspective for the glasses-legs. I want the main part to be the view through the lenses…the other world.

(A rogue Koi pond that Jon Pearce showed me in the Pogonip woods by UC Santa Cruz.)

I’ve got a lot of shades of blue to use, so an underwater scene view in New Glasses is possible. That could be the other world. Or an abstraction with critters. Maybe just one lens with blue inside, and the background outside the lens is an arid drought scene, or, better, an office.

My nephew Embry Rucker III stopped by. He’s a total pro photographer, and he appreciated my Leica Q2…as he has one too. I was shooting with Leica while the cousins and our kids were growing up, and Embry was imagining those old film days when you basically just took one picture of something, or maybe two, and you didn’t know if they’d come out, until days or weeks later. Great to see Embry, such a likeable guy. Brilliant and self-deprecating.

Thinking about the New Glasses painting, I took a photo of what I wanted instead of drawing that sketch. With just one glasses lens in the composition, I get a nice big area to work with. And outside the lenses, we see bookshelves in the background, mais oui.

I emceed a presentation at the Los Gatos Library bylocal mad transreal journalist Gary Singh reading from his awesome assemblage of columns, Silicon Alleys. Sylvia organized the event. Gary’s basic message was: Everything is interesting. Even a transmission shop on San Carlos Street, San Jose. Let the Zen in.

Next afternoon the box from Blick Art Materials arrived, and I had black paint, and I got back to work on Jellies Journey. Right away I screwed up the jellyfish’s surface design, making them look like flowers. But next morning I fixed the painting, and finished anohter day after that, and it’s great.  I looked at jellyfish photos online to get in the groove. As I’ve said before, painting is all about ruining it, fixing it, ruining it, fixing it. Until you’re done. Somehow the oscillations seem wider than when I’m writing something.

I did a thing with the green border around the jellyfish eyes. The target star has a dot of green at its center. And my signature is green as well. This connects with them heading for green earth in the previous painting Space Jellies.

By now I have a series of six space paintings. The live galaxies, the Fillmore, the saucer party, the cosmic cliff, the invasion of the space jellies, and space jellies on a journey. I almost feel like I could write a longish story about the jellies. Something more that that short-short “Who Do You Love” that I sent to Nature.

Rudy, Penny, and their three kids came down and we all carved pumpkins. Funny how each carving is so different, and so much an eprsession of the carver’s psyche.

I wonder if I could write a new story with the jellies. POV, a man and/or woman who are “eaten” by a space jelly, that is, they’re subsumed into the creature and “ride” it through the galaxy. I’d still like to work in that Norwegian dinghy regress thing I used to think about it. And include our old dog Arfie.

Continuing my obsession with the new Webb telescope’s deep space photos…here’s some galaxies 3 billion light years away. The universe is thought to be 14 billion years old. So these galaxies are from the eleven billion year mark.

According to the NASA page, the area of sky subtended by this image is about half a grain of rice held at arm’s length. The images are warped by gravitational lensing, that is, by the space curvature caused by masses in the neighborhood.

How could Einstein have figured all this out? Not even using a computer. Just pen and paper and staring off into space. What a mind.

These days I find constant succor in the vastness of the cosmos, and in the true tininess of myself.

The other day I was telling some people that I think death is nothingness. And a woman corners me and tells me about a guy she knows who had a near-death experience with the light and the tunnel and the dead relatives and this proves that death isn’t real. I’ve heard that tired routine a hundred times by now. And I came up with my answer.

They say near-death hallucinations prove there’s life after death. Catch: you don’t know that you see that stuff after death. And you can in fact see that same damn show on shrooms or acid. Doesn’t prove jack shit. What if death is lights out & cut to black? Accept it. And if there’s more, fine.

As I wrote this minirant, I’d kind of forgotten that I have a detailed roadmap to SFnal personal immortality in my most recent novel Juicy Ghosts.. But that’s just a story I made up for fun.

I do still believe in the universal One Mind. You merge fully into it, and your self is gone. I figured this out a very long time ago, walking in the Keith’s pasture with my dear pal Niles Shoening in the suburbs of Louisville, looking at bubbles moving around under the thin ice on a little creek. It was January 1, 1963. Almost sixty years ago. I describe this moment in my transreal novel, The Secret of Life. “Conrad and Hank” are transreal stand-ins for Rudy and Niles.

They were near the end of the pastures now, and Nina [the dog] was running back toward them. The two boys squatted to wait for her, squatted and watched the bubbles beneath the ice, ice patterned in ridges and blobs, clear here and frosty there. Toward one bank, the ice domed up. A lone, large bubble wobbled there, braced against the flow. Smaller bubbles kept arriving to merge into that big bubble, and it, in turn, kept growing and sending out tendrils, silver pseudopods that pinched off into new bubbles that were swept further downstream.

Nina came panting up, pink tongue exposed. Her breath steamed in the cold air. “Good dog,” said Hank, patting her. “Hey, Conrad, let’s go back. Lehman’s mother’s giving an open house today. Maybe your parents will let you come.”

“Wait,” said Conrad, struck by a sudden inspiration. “The life-force. Each of us has a tiny piece of the life-force, and when we die it goes away. I’ve got it figured out. There’s a big pool of life-force—out there.” Conrad gestured vaguely. “It’s like that big bubble under the ice, you see. And each of us is a little bubble that can merge back in.”

“Like a soul going to heaven,” said Hank. They were walking now, headed back toward the houses.

“And the big thing is that once a little bubble joins the big one, the little bubble is gone,” said Conrad. “The soul goes to heaven, yes, and then it’s absorbed into God. The drop of life-force slides into the big pool. Isn’t that neat, Hank? Your life-force is preserved, but your personality disappears! I’ve invented a new philosophy!”

Still riding high from his big first f*ck, Hank felt no need to burst his friend’s bubble. “It’d be cool to major in philosophy next year. Find out all the answers and then become a Bowery bum.”

That’s literally and no kidding what my pal Niles and I wanted to do when we were 17. Study philosophy and become Bowery bums—getting drunk every day for the rest of our lives. Hitch your wagon to a star! So clueless.

I took a big hike up a hill near our house, up through underbrush.

Cool view of a tree through a hole in the trees. A “new glasses” kind of view. God looking down at Eden.

I have this growing sense that I might be done writing. This fall I finished this other story that I had been revising for a couple of years: “The Sea Pig and the Sun.” It was rejected by Asimov’s for “Too much exposition.” The Lightspeed zine is closed to submissions now, F&SF has turned down the last umpteen stories I sent them so why bother. And I can’t face going the rounds of smaller zines. Also there’s the complicating factor that the first half of this particular story already appeared in the small, wonderful, but now-defunct zine Big Echo as “Everything is Everything.” So with high hopes I posted this orphan tale on the Medium site in the form of a table of contents “episode guide” to eight segments of the story. So far it’s gotten less than ten readers. Oh well.

Our friends from the old days in Geneseo, NY, stopped by. Lee and Susie Poague. Lee and I had our first professor jobs the state college in Geneseo. Susie and Sylvia were bearing children and starting their own careers as academics. Wonderful to see Lee and Susie …we had a dinner outside with candles, the table like a promontory above the dark seas of time.

We hit the fabulous Anderson collection at the Cantor Museum at Stanford. Dig the monumental Serra sculpture Lee, Susie, and me here with our human shadows. The sculpture is made of two giant steel S curves. Susie and Sylvia.

I’m having more and more fun painting. Although just now I’m once again waiting for an another delivery from Blick Art Materials—this time it’s canvases. I do have one very small canvas; might use that. Hard to believe I’ve made twenty paintings since January of this year. Over the years, I’ve sold 94 of my paintings—and that’s kind to believe too, especial because, as usual, I see myself as a total imposter.

But now I need to move some more product. I’m running a sale with insanely low prices. Krazy Eddie style.  Check out my Paintings Page.

Low prices do seem to help. I know painters who price their works at $3,000, and I don’t think they sell many. Better, I think, to drop the prices down and get the work into circulation. Preparing for the (eventual) posthumous spike in prices, followed by inevitable museum show.

Even if I drop writing, I might have a new career as a painter. Why not? Even though I can’t get it together to find a gallery. But the mail-order marketing does seem to work pretty well.

Why not be a collector? Like this guy.

Cosmic Cliff

September 24th, 2022

Still flipping out on clouds after Sweden.  One of those full-on “glory” sunrises here in Los Gatos, with those rays…odd looking split in the middle.  Uncool to paint such scenes, I suppose, but might be fun to try.

Can always throw in some UFOs. Once a painting teacher decreed or pleaded with me: “Don’t do blue dog art,” meaning that genre of work where an artist gets a house-brand logo image that they put into every painting. So now and then I hold back and omit the house-brand flying saucer.

Marc Laidlaw, my partner in wacky gnarl, stopped by. We wrote sevem surfin’ Sci Fi stories together over 32 years, that is, over the period 1987  – 2019.  Masterpieces starring, with one exception, our ne’er-do-well transreal stand-ins, Zep and Del. You can see them in my Complete Stories.

Sylvia, daughter Isabel, and I went out to good old Four Mile Beach north of Santa Cruz.  If you walk south along the beach you get to this rock tower with super surf and lots of birds.  I think of the spot as a shrine, a sacred place. I often go there to, like, say a prayer to the Muse when I’m hoping to get some writing going.  I like to write a slogan into th wet sand, “EADEM MUTATA RESURGO” which means “The same, yet changed, I arise again.”

The Swiss mathematician Jakob Bernoulli put this slogan on his headstone in Basel. He was referring to the self-similar logarithmic spiral often seen on growing things like the nautilus shell.  He wanted a picture of this spiral on his stone as well, but unfortunately some pinhead inscribed a dull Archimedean spiral (like an LP record groove) on the stone instead.

Stopped in at the fabulous Whale City Bakery in Davenport and admired the red Monkeybrains.net sticker at the lower right.  The bar/grill has amazingly good crab cakes, made on site from fresh local crab (rather than being frozen pucks assembled god-knows-where).

I don’t think I’ve blogged about the Cosmic Cliffs yet. I’m completely obsessed with this image from the new Webb telescope. Our solar system is about the size of one pixel in this image. Nine lightyears high. The hexagonal star points are an artifact caused by the telescope mirror being a hexagon.

Galaxies. Acrylic, 24″ x 30″, July, 2022. For purchase info see my Paintings page.

The Webb telescope sees via infrared light as well as via regular light. This is based on an image taken before the Cosmic Cliffs; it’s a painting of a cluster of galaxies some 300 million lightyears away. I started thinking about these galaxies, each of them with something like a million stars, and surely with hundreds or thousands of habitable planets, and about all the other galaxies scattered hither and yon…and it gave some perspective on the headlines that I see when I fetch the morning newspaper from our driveway. What a strange, improbable world we live in! I painted a cluster of galaxies, giving them odd colors to reflect the notion of seeing via infrared light. I tried to make them look as if they’re living beings, interacting with each other. And the black holes at their cores look a little like eyes.

Rudy Jr took us to Free Gold Watch, a pinball parlor one block off Haight Street in SF. So great, although a game now costs $1.00 and you only get 3 balls. Used to be you got 5 balls for a quarter. But there’s a lot of action in these games, and if you get the hang of it, one ball can last a long time. Such a funny name for the place, “Free Gold Watch,” such a classic thing that a con man might promise you.

Here’s Penny Thomas outside the place. The Haight is quite a respectable neighborhood once you’re off the main drag which somehow never sheds it’s raffish air. Kind of lovable.

“Outside the Fillmore,” Acrylic, 24″ x 30″, August, 2022

Speaking of the Haight, I have a recurring fantasy about being at a convert at the Fillmore West in San Francisco in 1967. I’m standing outside the hall in an alley, with the wonderful rock sounds echoing out. Peaceful, peaceful. A woman parks her flying saucer and walked down the alley to talk to me. We’re on the same wavelength, very spaced out, without even being high. And then I notice that, how great, it’s Bo Diddley and his band on stage. Well, in reality it’s maybe it’s Quicksilver Messenger Service playing Bo Diddley songs. But I painted it as Bo Diddley. I figure the woman from the saucer came here from the Cosmic Cliffs.

The sun was insanely hot for about a week. Thermonuclear! A beam slants in our window and across the dining-room table.

“Saucer Party” Acrylic, 28″ x 22″, September, 2022. And again, for purchase info see my Paintings page.

Following on the heels of Outside the Fillmore, I painted Saucer Party. This is supposed to be the view out the windshield of a saucer. I love the concept of space squid, so we’ve got one of those. And a threesome of festive aliens, and a dancing couple Perhaps that’s my wife Sylvia and me. Or me and the saucer woman, which is kind of the same thing, given my transreal ways of writing. Attended, of course, by our trusty dog Arf.

We went up to Point Reyes and stayed in a cottage a few days. Sitting on a tiny beach on the Tomales Bay…this spot is called Chicken Ranch Beach…a seagull, creamy bright in the sun, staring at me, waiting for me drop a scrap of food. I imagine he’s saying, “You talkn’ to me?” Tougy guy.

Tomales Bay is the very essence of a wetland, with those curved inlets within inlets, and clumps of saltwater grass.

I love magical looking tunnels through trees, with light at the end. The door into summer. The gate to Narnia.

We drove to the north end of Point Reyes. Tapers up to a point with rolling hills and a herd of “tule elk” living there. Lower down is preserved old collection of buildings called Pearce Point Ranch. Very photographable. Like the diamond squre inside the triangle, and the Monderey pine.

Another classic shot, with nature’s gnarly stump, and the striving for order barn. The doughty pioneers. I once wanted to write about space settlers, and call them ioneers, after their ion-jet rocket engines.

The tiny town of Point Reyes Station’s supermarket had a ta-da first display of Haloween punkins I’d seen this year. More variety than there was sixty five ago when i was a boy.

Impressive old Point Reyes Station garage with super-duper clouds.

A sawn log on the hills above my home. Wet from a miraculous rainstorm. Hurray. Reminded me of Poincare’s image of a hyperbolic plane, where the edge is infinitely far away, and straight lines are circular arcs that hit the edge at right angles. Now scale this up a dimension to showing hyperbolic space inside a sphere. A character’s skull. A blockhead. Another short-short story idea. “The Woman who had the Universe Inside her Head.”

Cosmic Cliffs. Acrylic, September, 2022.

Meanwhile I’ve finished my painting of the Cosmic Cliff.  I really like this one; and I spent quite a long time on it.

Kind of ludicrous, the gap between my work and the space telescope image with its hundreds or thousands of stars. My work being crude ape-man daubs of colored dirt on a stretched piece of fabric. But I try. Still needs a blue dog saucer? Not this time. Don’t drag this comsic vision into the gutter of SF. But…for my next painting, I’ll do a bigger Cosmic Cliff with lots of saucers.

And I wrote an SF story based on this latest series of paintings, and it was only, um, a thousand words long. What you call a short-short. Like my writing powers are dwindling. A Zenonian collapse to zero. Maybe I’m morphing into a painter; a new stage splitting out of my literary pupa.

But, nah, I don’t really think I’m not done writing yet.

Stockholm Joy

September 7th, 2022

After I gave my talk in Helsinki, Sylvia and I went and spent five days in Stockholm. I had no idea what Stockholm would be like, but it was wonderful. The city itself is on a number of islands crowded together, and the sky—at least in the summer—is a lovely parade of clouds, very crisp. View from one island to another shown below.

The older Stockholm architecture has an Art Nouveau or Art Deco quality, which I like a lot.

There are really a lot of blond people in Scandinavia. In this shot, we’re riding on a city ferry route, a good cheap way to see the surroundings. We got a four day pass that worked on trams, buses, and ferries.

That’s the building with our Hotel Esplanade. I’d thought the whole building would be the hotel, but was only in two stories, only about thirty rooms. A pleasant place, on a canal where a lot of tour boats and ferry boats had stops. We were in the room at the left corner of the 2nd floor in the first white building from the left.

Our legs get tired from touring, and we often go to museums to dial back the pavement-pounding. The main museum had crafts along with art…something I enjoy. Dig the glass and the decanter. Martian martinis!

The museum had a show about “Swedish Beauty,” including work by post-Impressionist Swedes. I loved this self-portrait, by Bo von Zweeigbergkt. Amazing how he did those colored lines.

And Bo’s name kind of makes sense, as a name. Swedish isn’t as impenetrable a language as Finnish, but it’s enjoyably odd.

Here I am being all Jean-Luc-Godard-movie in our hotel room.

The main tourist site in Stockholm is an island called Gamla Stan. It was about half a mile from our hotel, and Sylvia and I walked there quite early one morning. We found an enchanting old world cafe in a corner of it.

Dig this old Svenska (Swedish) ocean-liner poster on a wall. If you’ve followed my blog, you know how I love rectangular blocks of color, preferably with some peeling plaster.

And, ah, the chestnut leaves overhead, quite wonderful. The living chaos, the peace, the life.

The cafe was actually a bakery. The classic Euro symbol for a bakery is a pretzel. They’ve been using that symbol since the 1600s. The sense of long time there…refreshing to be away from the frantic, tedious, today’s-news-breaks of our US life.

The funny thing about the Hotel Esplanade is that they weren’t super organized about the rooms. This is the room we ended up in, a dream come true. But the first night we were in a fairly crappy room next door to it, about a quarter the size. And in the morning I complained, and said we’d probably leave, and the woman at the desk said, oh, try the room next door, and we got this one. Same price for the two rooms. A stroke of luck, a gift from the Muse of travel.

Colored buildings in Gamla Stan. The museum of the Nobel Prize is in this same square…somehow I didn’t have the energy to look inside. I was more set on seeing old stuff.

A view of a tram perhaps being powered by those solid-looking whipped-cream Stockholm clouds.

Right behind Hotel Esplanade was an enormous city-block-sized Armory from the old times. Gorgeously intricate brick work with a few green bricks mixed in. Forget Legos, man, this is the true source of brickery.

Another cloud picture. At this point we’d gotten on a ferry that went farther than we expected…about ten miles out from Stockholm, weaving among dozens of islands and ending up at this kind dry-dock, ship maintenance, Antonioni-movie zone.

The ferry also passed a really gnarly amusement park with some highly elevated “Swiss swings,” those things that put you on a little board held by a chain—like a playground swing—and then the Swiss-swings assemblage rotates, and you’re completely unprotected, like a lure on a line that’s fishing for Death.

My reaction to Swiss swings. (An ad photo on some wall…I couldn’t tell what it was an ad for.)

The deadly amusement park also had a twisting DNA-molecule-type roller-coaster with no floors in the cars. Sylvia really wanted to ride on it—not. Neither did I.

I’m still recovering from my ride on the Santa Cruz Big Dipper this spring. Beautiful evening light here, and the Swedish evening lasts a long time, up through about 9:30.

We went twice to Stockholm a restaurant called Prinsen. They’ve been open a hundred years. Wonderful, wonderful food. Seems like I never get food even close to this in the US, and I do try. No corners are cut here, everything is perfect, and there’s no fuss about it. Sounds simple, but it takes real determination to follow through.

This bus-stop map made me laugh. As I tend to do, I then got fixated on the phrase Här är du, and repeated it very many times.

There are a few Black people in Scandinavia. They look relaxed. You see a lot of giant plastic bags like in the foreground. They even put bricks and rubble in them.

This building was also behind Hotel Esplanade, I think it housed a museum of theater design. Great cafe on the ground floor, the kind I long for, with the classic gravel garden outside with metal tables beneath huge trees.

More Stockholm clouds. Sylvia and I made friends with two local guys in a restaurant, and they were interested in hearing what we thought of their city, and I went on about the clouds, and they kind of laughed. “Very different in the winter,” says one of them, making a horizontal gesture with his hand. “Just one cloud then, very low. All day. And it gets dark at four.”

I’m thinking of a Sesame Steet routine here. “This scene is brought to you by the number 2!”

I mentioned the Art Nouveau. Wonderful ironwork here.

Sylvia took this photo of me looking out the corner window in our room. Kind of like a Magrite painting.  Looking at the water and the sky? Um, wait, maybe I’m looking at my laptop. Well, let’s hope I’m doing some creative writing.

My view out the side window. Definitely looking outside here. You know that condition they call Stockholm Syndrome? My version was that I never wanted to leave.


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