Category Archives: Paul

No Worldcon For Us – Again

My calendar reminds me that right about now is when I was supposed to be finishing a long drive from LA to San Jose and checking into our hotel for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention (aka “Worldcon”).

That’s not happening. I’m not thrilled.

About six or seven weeks ago we cancelled our reservations and told friends that we weren’t going to be there. The Wings Over Camarillo airshow is this weekend and as the Finance Officer for the Wing it’s sort of critical that I be there. Last year I wasn’t (it was the total solar eclipse!) and for that I made the trip. And then had to work twice as hard for quite a while to get caught up. It was worth it (TOTAL FREAKIN’ SOLAR ECLIPSE!!) but as much as I love going to Worldcon, I have to do the responsible, “adulting” thing this year. There will be another one next year.

But as I saw the posts of friends from all over the country and even all over the world heading to San Jose, I got to thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve been to Worldcon. Then I got really depressed.

Nine years.

The last time we went was 2009 in Montreal. Which was great, because we had gotten to Denver in 2008. And the family got to LA in 2006. (I didn’t since I was doing my MBA program at Pepperdine and had class that entire weekend.) And we all went to Toronto in 2003 and San Jose in 2002! And from 1978 (my first con of any kind) in Phoenix through 1984 in Los Angeles I went for seven years in a row!

But since Montreal I’ve missed Melbourne, Reno, Chicago, San Antonio, London, Spokane, Kansas City, and Helsinki. Fine, London when I was unemployed for a while might have been a reasonable, responsible call. And Kansas City was fairly soon after I started my current job and I probably didn’t have any vacation time accrued yet. But what’s up with that Reno, Chicago, and San Antonio stretch? What was the excuse then?

I’m sure it was something along the lines of, “There will be another one next year.”

So next year it’s Dublin. And in 2020 it will be New Zealand. (Okay, the 2020 site selection voting is going on this weekend, but no one else has a bid, so…) And likely to be (only one current bid) Washington DC in 2021 , Chicago in 2022, and Minneapolis in 2073.

Too early to start planning my excuse/reason for missing it next year?

I’ll watch the Hugo awards and masquerade online… Wait, it just hit me. No, I won’t. They’ll be on at times when I’m tied up with my job at the air show.

Y’all have fun in San Jose. Say hello to fandom for me. I’ll be over here being adult, boring, mundane, and contemplating the similarities between a rut and a grave.

(Wow, THAT escalated quickly!)

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No Context For You – August 06th

Of course, tonight at 23:55 my internet connection decides to go to hell.

Enjoy a picture of…something.

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No Context For You – July 29th

Busy weekend.

There are those who say it’s better than sitting around bored all weekend.

I wouldn’t know. It might be sort of nice to try, just to be able to make an informed judgement, right?

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Seventeen Years Ago

Two years ago, actually, I had pictures of the all new, mid-five-figure full-line replacement sewer that we had “bought for each other” as our fifteenth wedding anniversary. So much for crystal, timepieces, or red roses, we go for a week of having our yard dug up and being able to flush a live armadillo all the way to the Van Nuys sewage treatment plant at Mach Two instead!

That math means it’s now seventeen years. The sewer line is still going strong, but it belongs to someone else now and we live here instead. With that change we’re seeing others, so this year we bought each other a very nice new bedroom set for our anniversary. The pieces replaced are the ones that I got at a garage sale in 1975 when I left Annapolis, moved to Southern California, and got my first apartment prior to starting school at UC Irvine. More stuff being left behind, with things shared replacing them and new memories to add onto the old.

Here’s to the Long-Suffering Wife who for some reason still puts up with me. Here’s to the future, the next seventeen years and whatever adventures, joys, and heartaches, trials and triumphs they might bring.

Here’s to wondering what the hell we’ll get for each other for our eighteenth anniversary next year. Google says it’s “feathers” and “porcelain.”

Kinky!

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No Context For You – July 20th

Some things look so complex but really can be so simple – if you know the key to cutting through the Gordian knot. I don’t know if I do, but I might be getting closer. Maybe.

I might be making it harder than it really is.

I might be grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to delude myself.

It might be none of these.

It might be all of these.

Time will tell. Time has a way of doing that.

Even doing nothing and cowering in fear of failure, time will rat your ass out and expose you. So you might as well give it a try, right?

What could possibly go wrong?

The answers to that stretch on into infinity – and we know it.

But – what could possibly go right?

If we could just focus on that a little bit more…

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Sticks – (Kapitel Zwei)

I’m surprised that I haven’t shared this story before. It seems that I at least mentioned it back in June 2017, but only as a tease that never got followed up on. At least, until last night.

The UC Irvine art classes. How did a physics major end up in the wackadoodle UCI performance art classes? And how did he survive?

First of all, what do I mean by “wackadoodle”? From Day One I was told about a guy who was a legend there, a guy who, for his master’s thesis, locked himself naked in a locker out in the middle of the campus for days, counting on the kindness or strangers passing by to give him food and water. As a topper to that, for his PhD thesis he did a performance which ended (as planned, it was part of the piece) with someone (a marksman?) shooting him in the arm with a .22 caliber rifle.

It was “art.”

(As a side note, I wondered for years if the legend had grown over time with repeated tellings and associated embellishments. Then I saw this article in May 2015 about Chris Burden, UC Irvine class of 1971, who had just passed away. The masters thesis was called “Five Day Locker,” the locker was two feet by two feet by three feet and is still there today. The piece where he was shot was called “Shoot” and was done in 1971 – no word on if it was a PhD piece, but it was done. Beyond that, I learned that he’s the artist who later did the “Urban Light” exhibit at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) which I’ve so, so, so much wanted to see for years. Now I’ll have to make it a priority.)

Back to our physics major. What happens when we go from “read chapter five and do problems five through twenty” to “take sticks and strings – make art?”

It’s entirely possible that a cranial short-circuit will happen and green brain goo will start to run out of one ear while wisps of smoke start to come out of the other.

It was touch and go for a while, believe me.

Then something amazing happened. The physics major found a different way to think, a different way to look at problems. There was a whole new world out there! All problems weren’t all right or wrong, true or false, black or white. There was a spectrum there, a rainbow. (Isn’t a spectrum a physics thing as well, come to think of it?) If I were able to toss my preconceptions and expectations just allow my less analytical side to play, interesting things could happen.


The other project I remember vividly was in spring quarter. “Take 100 or more identical objects – make art.” Physics Paul would have imploded. Art Paul said, “Cool!”

At the time I was working my way through college by working for Marriott, back in the kitchen in purchasing and room service. In an industrial kitchen you buy LOTS of food and staples in “number 10″ sized cans. Most of them come with plastic lids about 8” across, sort of like the lids you get on butter containers or cheap, imitation Tupperware. I started gathering them instead of throwing them out and quickly had more than a hundred. Some were already colored or white with food logos on them but many were clear. I took them and spray painted them different colors.

UCI didn’t have a football team, but they already had a great stadium. I took the class out on a sunny morning and sat them in the stands, while I went out to mid-field with a classmate. I put a stick in the ground to hold on to (hey, guess where I got that stick??!!), blindfolded myself, and grabbed onto the stick with my left hand. My classmate then started handing the lids to me one at a time, I walked in a circle while holding onto the stick, and flung the lids like Frisbees all over the field, at random, blindfolded. When I was done, they made a nice, pretty, random colored, and randomly scattered array across the green grass.

Art!! (Jerry loved it.)


Did I get my breadth requirement fulfilled with my art classes? Yes, that and more.

I ended up taking all three quarters of “Art 101” and I got straight A’s. Which really, really pissed off a lot of the art majors who desperately needed a good grade in this class in order to succeed in their chosen major. They were so, so earnest and trying so, so hard and getting so-so grades, while I had nothing to lose, didn’t really care, just did whatever fun shit came to mind, and got A’s. (There might have been a lesson in there for them, but it wasn’t for me to teach it to them.)

When I got to my senior year at UCI I only needed a couple of physics and math classes to graduate so I had plenty of open space in my schedule for the year. I seriously thought about trying for a double major, in both physics and art. A couple of “real” art classes (painting and drawing) convinced me that there might also be a certain level of artistic talent necessary for that plan which I wasn’t in possession of. I had fun in the “Drawing the Human Figure & Anatomy” classes, but the teachers there were more concerned with actually being able to make a recognizable human than being enthusiastically goofy.

However, on the other side of campus (literally), many’s the time, particularly on tests and finals, when that Art 101 mindset proved useful. As much as they might want you to learn HOW to do some problem or calculation in the homework, when it comes time to the finals they love to start throwing curve balls to see if you can apply what you’ve learned to problem solve instead of simply regurgitating it by rote. Being able to flip that switch in your head over to “art mode” momentarily to look at a problem often showed me the way when I was stuck.

Sometimes today I can still do it. When I remember to. It’s like a muscle that needs periodic exercise to stay strong.

I found that, similar to what I’ve heard about improv comedy, the biggest obstacle people have in “making art” like this is the fear of failure, the fear of being embarrassed, the fear of looking stupid. I understand. There are times that I’m drowning in those feelings and those exact thoughts.

When you’re drowning there, here’s your life preserver – “Make Art.”

Once you figure out what that means and how to flip that switch (and having no fucks to give on whether or not you fail or are embarrassed or look stupid) it’s amazing what you can get done.


Postscript – While proofreading I was curious and went looking for more on the Chris Burden “Shoot” piece.

Oh. My. God!! Watch this 5-minute documentary (including the shooting!) done by the New York Times in 2015 after Burden’s death!!! Amazing!!

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What I Left Behind – Sticks

No pictures for this one – I remember it was dark, reasonably early in the process, before the truly major panic mode set in, when I still thought that I had time to sort and save instead of cull and trash. This was one of the moments when I realized that I didn’t.

Out on the back porch, which had become something of a dumping ground for yard equipment and old pet stuff and a couple of dead barbecues and so on, I found a dozen or so wooden dowels. They were all 36″ long, about 1″ in diameter (maybe only 3/4″), all dirty, all very old. Replacing them if I needed to would probably cost me $1 each at Home Depot.

Wooden. Dowels.

One might think that they were there as debris, their origination and original purpose forgotten. How insignificant they were, how worn, how used, how old! Just some crap that for whatever reason I hadn’t bothered to throw out years ago, right?

One couldn’t be more wrong.

When I was an undergraduate studying physics at UC Irvine in 1977 or 1978 I had to take some “breadth” requirement classes. History. Art. Economics. English. Literature. Something other than math and physics and computer programming. I picked art.

Art 101 A-B-C at UC Irvine was not your typical class. UCI was (and still is) world renowned for modern art, avante garde art, performance art. I was expecting painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, that sort of thing. I got performance art (and a little bit of painting, drawing, sculpture, etc).

At the first session of class I got the usual information about how the class would be run. We would meet three days a week and do various things in class, while we would also have a weekly project to work on by ourselves outside of class. The first week’s project – “Take sticks and strings – make art.”

Let us pause to look at our 21 year old physics major who is expecting and used to assignments such as, “Read Chapter Five and do problems 10 through 25.” There’s some confusion, some ambiguity, some anxiety here.

WTF does “take sticks and strings – make art” mean??!!

I couldn’t get an answer to save my life. The teacher, Jerry Green, looked like he was ready to bust out laughing in my face the more I protested and asked questions and tried to pin him down. “Take sticks and strings – make art.” That was it. It was all in there. Figure it out.

The most I got from him was “something between toothpicks and telephone poles, thread and the ropes they use to tie a supertanker to the docs – make art.”

That wasn’t helpful.

In desperation, the day before it was due, I went to the hardware store (I don’t even remember if there were Home Depot stores that far back) and got about two dozen 36″ wooden dowels and a big ball of heavy-duty twine. I went early to the art department campus and outside of the classroom I started tying knots on a light pole there, then suspending the sticks. Sort of like a big spider web, almost random, not real stable, not really blowing in the breeze, some of the sticks tied together so that they made a bit of a 3-D form around the light pole.

It was a “thing.” It mean nothing, there was no symbolism, it was just a stupid thing that I did out of desperation and panic to fit the instructions I had been given. I hated it. I hated the class.

Jerry loved it.

It’s late, I’ll talk more about the art class tomorrow. But those sticks that I found in my back yard two months ago? The ones that were filthy because they’d been used to hold up plants and muck out drains and all sorts of dirty, disposable jobs over the intervening 40 years or so?

Those were the dowels I had bought for that class.

One by one I snapped them in half. It wasn’t hard, most were already rotted through or cracked. I tossed them into the trash and moved on. It didn’t take five minutes.

That’s one of the things I left behind in this move.

A dozen or so 36″ wooden dowels.

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