Some politician is going on about how the free market made our nation "the greatest nation in the history of the world."

Well, we can argue the role of the free market in the success of the United States, but that statement always irks me for one basic reason.

My buddy Alan, back in college, had this fold-out history of civilization. It covered half the floor when you folded it all the way across, and it went pretty much from Babylon to the modern day.

There was a band of color across this timeline. It might have been purple, I could be wrong. I think purple. And it went on, and on, and on, and on, several feet of purple ribbon across human history.

It was, of course, the Roman Empire. It got a little choppy at the end with the Holy Roman Empire, but for a stupidly lengthy span of recorded history, while dynasties rose and fell on either side, and things were discovered and religions were founded and people got plagues and wandered onto other continents and the Chinese invented almost everything worth inventing and then used it to make fireworks–there was Rome. Run by crazy people, run by competent people, run by indifferent people, run by military strongmen and religious wingnuts and democracies, but still…Rome.

While I know as well as anybody with a basic grounding in Classics (Okay, okay, I would’ve double-majored if it hadn’t required that I take Greek or Latin, and I am terrible at languages other than my own) that the Roman Empire lasted for a very long time, it was always a sort of blur of aqueducts and Pax Romana and decent roads and Visigoths and Et tu, Brute? I don’t think I ever really understood just how LONG the Roman Empire lasted until I sat there with this thing unfolded across the floor, and there was this band of purple and nothing else in the history of the world even remotely LIKE it. I could cover the paltry three hundred years of American existence with one hand, but I could kneel on Rome and it would still spill over the sides.

So, sorry. I love my country, really I do, it’s got a lot going for it, I’ll go so far as to say it’s the top dog of the current bunch, it has many wonderful ethical and moral virtues to its credit (and when it fails, it’s usually at least trying REALLY HARD) but frankly…we’re not the greatest that ever was. Rome kicked our asses before we were ever born.

Talk to me in seven hundred years, Mr. Politician, and then perhaps I’ll agree.

Owl Dream

I had a dream last night, right on the edge of waking up, that looked like it was going to be awesome. I was looking out the window, and an enormous owl landed on a snag right outside it. "A great grey owl!" I thought. "I’m so lucky to see one!"

Closer examination revealed that it was not actually a great grey owl. It looked more like the owl from Secret of Nimh, complete with weird mustache, and it was wearing an elaborate goggled headdress and a cloak with inset enameled panels in blue and purple. It held out a claw and beckoned me, then turned to fly away.

I went through the window–the glass ceased to exist–and followed. It was towing? or somehow leading? what appeared to be a bright crimson tortoise shell with gold barding. That flew. I climbed on, and we flew through the forests to a particular hollow tree. The owl flattened itself out like a cat and went into the tree through a hole. I followed, turning into a cat in the process (I was a Siamese of some sort) and crawled into the tree, which opened up near the top into a sort of chamber.

"Now what?" I asked the owl (thinking Oh god, this is so awesome, this is going to be seriously cool…)

"We wait for them to arrive," said the owl sternly.

And I woke up. I could feel the dream fraying, I could feel that Angus had decided to relocate and lay in the small of my back with his head on my butt (this is dreadfully uncomfortable for me, but he seems to like it) and I tried desperately to stay asleep, but the tree and the cloaked owl all unraveled, and I was in bed with Kevin in the bathroom muttering curses on the city that requires him to get up at that hour.

Damn. That was gonna be a good one, too.

Hey, rock on!

The first bit of niftiness for Dragonbreath 2: Attack of the Ninja Frogs just came in–the Junior Library Guild is making it a selection for Fall ’09! It gets featured in their magazine! Yaay! (They had also featured Nurk in Spring ’08–nice to get repeat business!)

Kevin informs me that it’s time for a new headshot. Good thing I’ve got that camera coming…

Okay, one more…one I start doodling, they’re hard to stop.

Boarjay

Also, I am officially 40% done with the art for Dragonbreath 3. *pant pant*

The third of my attempts at assemblage is languishing in the I-don’t-know-it’s-not-working stage, but the fourth one came out pretty well for a small and silly thing. Maybe I can only manage every other one of these things.

I gotta re-try this one thing as an ACEO…maybe after a nap…

ETA: I bought a camera! It should be here tomorrow! Hopefully soon there will be photos!

I have this recurring dream that I’m still working in a corporate office, probably because I did for a coupla years–not sure if that actually counts as "recurring," but y’know.

Last night I got fired for questioning Our Corporate Masters (Ha! Fools! I wasn’t doing any work anyway!) And then I wound up back at school, trying to get home on the bus, couldn’t remember the name of my street, and wound up on a bus that went airborne and went flying through an area full of very predatory dragons, who decided to eat the bus.

By the time I finally got home, I was a small anthropomorphic pig. But a pig that burned with vengeance! Bastards ate my bus!

…yeah, this is why I’m skeptical about all those dream dictionaries. I don’t think I dream in the same language they do.

I am nearly done with this piece. I think. It’s bloody hard to tell. It’s a little hand-sized shrine to a long-nosed gar, and I have no idea if it’s good or not. I think it’s art. Maybe.

I might put it on my wall, which means it’s enough not-like my art to satisfy me on some level.

I am infinitely more sympathetic to all those people doing art in galleries that I’ve looked at and felt smug because I was a realist and obviously these people were doing this because they couldn’t paint their way out of a paper sack. Would that I could collar that younger, more judgmental self and give myself a severe shake and say "Idiot! Don’t you realize what a gift it is to be able to know when you’re DONE!?"

URSULA (brandishing thing): I need an aesthetic opinion.
KEVIN: It’s…interesting.
URSULA: Good interesting, or Midwestern well-isn’t-that-interesting?
KEVIN: …It’s art, anyway. Definitely art. I like what you did with the wires. Very Tim Burton.
URSULA: Should I put these little hands on the ends?
KEVIN:  That’d be more interesting.
URSULA: Good interesting, or Midwestern–
KEVIN:  I don’t know.
URSULA (increasingly frustrated): Is it done?
KEVIN (increasingly alarmed): I don’t know! What does artist brain tell you?
URSULA: ….artist brain’s an idiot.

There’s a mystical school of thought that you just gaze at a piece you’ve been working on and feel a mental click and know that it’s done. I hope this happens for somebody because it’s a load of bullshit for me on anything, let alone this. I will stick little hands on the wires, and then it’ll be done enough.

ETA: Added hands. Showed Kevin. He looked startled. Confirmed that yup, that’s art all right.

Well, at least I’ve attained my goal of doing something wildly, wildly different.

Since people are asking, the rust stuff I’m using is called "Sophisticated Finishes" from Triangle Crafts. It’s the iron metallic surfacer and the rust antiquing solution. (They sell ’em together or separately.) It’s got a tacky cherub on the front, but so far, it’s working quite well. Results aren’t instantaneous–most of mine are sitting overnight, and require multiple thin coats of rustifier, and you may have to clear-gesso surfaces first to get it to stick, but the results, when done, are really rusty.

So lately I’ve been fooling around with assemblage art. I seem to be building shrines to fish. (I am dying to build a shrine to somebody called the Sardine Madonna, but the image is stubbornly not coming. Putting a fish head on the Virgin Mary is not working. (I know, right? It totally should!) She might want to be a cormorant, but something’s just…not gelling yet. Hopefully it will, because the name is really ringing in my head. I resign myself to building a very small shrine for what appears to be a long-nosed gar.

This may be one of my do-it-twice-and-never-again-things, god knows, but it’s fun so far. It’s part of what I was looking for artistically, in that there’s a lot of problems that I haven’t already solved. My first attempt is languishing largely unfinished because something’s missing and I don’t know what yet, but the second one seems to be working out. (It’s oddly slow, since I don’t really know what to do next at any given stage–unlike a painting where you just keep going until you’ve covered all the white space and all the chickens look like chickens, this has no set point of done-ness that you have to reach.)

Also, I got this gunk that allows me to rust pretty much anything–it’s a paintable iron, and paintable corrosive, and dude, I’m totally going nuts with that. Corrosion is probably not a power I should have been granted.

As part of this, I wound up at the flea market today, roaming around looking for…things. Artist brain seems to know what it’s looking for, but it can’t actually communicate this to conscious brain, so it was kind of a process of holding up things in front of artist brain and waiting for a yea-or-nay from somewhere in the back of my skull. So I wound up with a bunch of old keys and some small bits and pieces of architectural salvage, a very small tin that used to contain phonograph needles, some rough jade beads, a very small copper oranda charm, and two latex glove molds (which look like large, blocky flat hands.) At least one bit has already been useful, we’ll see about the others.

I had just finished buying an old metal plate, and gotten three bucks change, when my eye fell on some old plastic welding goggles. I picked one up–there were two–and turned it over. It’s the sort of thing that people are steampunking the heck out’ve these days. It was awfully dusty.

"I’ll give you both pairs and all the lenses for $3," said the guy behind the table.

"Astonishingly, I have $3," I said, reaching for my wallet.

"I know. That’s why I said it." 

So now I have two pairs of extremely dusty but rather nifty welding goggles and about twenty lenses in various colors (mostly clear and green) for said goggles, for $3. I kinda want to steampunk ’em up, but I’m not sure how to start…I can make them rust, but I don’t think that’s neccessarily where they should go, since it’s steampunk not decayed-industrial-apocalypse (although that would be neat, too.)