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Here is a little gallery of drawings and paintings of the Mauritius blue pigeon ((Alectroenas nitidissimus) a charming blue fructivore of the beautiful island of Mauritius (which is in the Indian Ocean, to the east of Madagascar).  You may notice that there are only artworks of the blue pigeon with the yeti ruff and naked smiling vulture head.  That is because the poor pigeon went extinct in the 1830s, a victim if drastic deforestation on the island.  The pigeon went extinct when the fruit trees it relied on for food were cut down.  It looks funny and personable and sad.

 

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Illustration of Venus, goddess of love and beauty

I promised to write about Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a book which I am planning on reading this year (after bouncing off of its deep moral ambiguity once before).  However before we get to talking about great literature and right and wrong and how to cynically manipulate people, let’s indulge in some completely frivolous daydreaming.

Longtime readers know that one of my favorite concepts for the not-so-distant future is the establishment of a floating colony in the skies of Venus.  A variety of considerable factors make this seem more attainable than the Martian colony which everyone is always talking about (plus I like tropical swamps better than Arctic deserts).

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Alas, I am not an engineer, and I cannot bring my dream closer to reality with a slide rule and a spreadsheet full of atmospheric measurements and rocket payloads…or with a thoughtful treatise about making plastics out of the chemicals present in Venus’ thick atmosphere…or with mention of the seemingly inexhaustible thermal energy on its surface.  Yet I am imaginative, and perhaps I can share a powerful passing fantasy with you.  The other day, while browsing goodness knows what on the internet, I came across the picture above and it struck me forcefully as a perfect structural component of Mary Rose or Constance [astronomical convention dictates that all features on Venus be named after women, so I decided to name my cities after my grandmothers…at least until I know what my billionaire partner wishes to call things]. I had to share the image with you, even though I have lost the real context of the actual inflatable structure 9avionic saftey equipment maybe? That doesn’t actually seem so far off).

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Dangit, this found concept art never looks right. I am going to have to draw my own.

First I imagined that this is the lifting body of the colony, which would be suspended underneath…but then it occurred to me that it might be the city (since breathable Earth atmosphere mixtures of gases float on the clouds of Venus).  or perhaps it is an agricultural pod or a park or a laboratory, or a factory.  Who can say what is in the lovely 4/5th torus, until we complete more of the schematics?  At the moment, it is a concept piece…like the whole colony, but the world is filled with clever people, and some of them read this blog.  let’s keep dreaming big!  Imagine this sparkling with lights as a huge yellow storm boils up beneath and a cloud of drones and gyrocopters approach from a nearby fleet of zeppelin buildings…

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I promised a post with New Year’s Resolutions, but we’re already up to January 10th. The year is whipping by fast. What happened?
On New Years Day I looked around to take stock and I noticed that I have become middle-aged and I am a failure on pretty much every level. I have no wife and children. I have no towering art achievements (other than those that hang on my own walls seen by no one but myself). I have no fame. I have no money. I have a new job which takes all of my concentration and plays to none of my strengths. Waking up every morning to go into that thing is like going to…well, there is no need to get into it on this public forum, but let it suffice to say I really have to expand my talents quickly.
I think my blog readership is dwindling, possibly because I write less because of time constraints, but also possibly because my content is slipping or just because my posts are becoming depressing (for example…this one). Not just that! My country is swiftly becoming a fascist failed state. After a few fat cow (fat cat?) years when the masters vote to give everything worthwhile to themselves and break everything else, there is going to be no upcoming boom in the future. Plus, in the not-so-distant periphery of doom, the machines are coming for all of us anyway.

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This is all a bit discouraging. Especially since, in our primate world, people tend to be drawn towards blustery self-confidence even if it is all false and made up.
All of which is a maudlin way of saying that this year’s resolutions are going to need to be really good. Here’s what I have so far, but maybe you can help me out a bit. In 2017, I resolve to:

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1) Finish the Four Great Classics of Chinese Literature: I have actually already read three of the four, so this is almost cheating…except each of these things is a thousand plus pages long. Also, they also all have casts with hundreds–or thousands–of characters (with superficially similar Chinese names) and Chinese literature is almost impossibly sad. But the final one, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is different than the other four in fundamental disturbing ways. I will flesh this resolution out more in tomorrow’s post.

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2) Get really good at boring transactional work with lots of numbers and pettifogging details. I have always fled from this horrible stuff, but there is nowhere left to flee. Whenever I try something, there is a spreadsheet, or a collections list, or an unimaginably complex tax bill, or some other organizational challenge in the way. It ends now. I have decided to change my attitude. I LOVE my dayjob. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow. I love nightmarish spreadsheets. I thrive on monetary sums and incomprehensible alphanumeric codes. From now on, I am going to be the best at . If you need help doing you taxes or refinancing, you just call me. You have to use the time.

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3) Keep up my art production. Despite less than ideal circumstances, I made an immense amount of art last year. I improved too (albeit in a direction towards beautiful visionary madness rather than towards realism) . This year, I will work even harder and produce even more. And I’m going to take it out in the world and show it to people too (if for no other reason than the fact that my walls are full). Just you watch! Also, do you maybe happen to know anybody in the art world?
4) Speaking of jobs and the art world. I am going to get much better at applications, and I am going to send them out by the score. Last year I resolved not to be upset if my applications were rejected, and I failed at that somewhat (grumble). This year i just resolve to apply more. Who cares how I feel afterwards so long as the darn things get written and go out.
5) Apologize less. for example I was going to apologize for this ridiculously autobiographical post…but 2017 showed that those who apologize for themselves are crushed by society.   What I have written here is unflinchingly honest and nakedly forthright. if life is an emotional roller coaster than so be it.  There are ups and downs, but you can’t doubt who you really are.

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I have not thrown away my sword. I will not lie down in the frozen mud and give up . There are wonders ahead, readers! Come with me. I know there has been some raggedness around the edges these last few years and I don’t pretend the coming years will be any easier. They may be a lot harder. Yet we have come so far, and it was amazing! We cannot let ignorance and greed win out. We mustn’t give in to despair. Life is so beautiful, and we are not so far from all of our goals as it seems. Not at all.
Ahem…cough. Anyway those are my goals (plus eating more vegetables and taking my cat to the vetrinarian). What do you have planned? Please tell me. I know I have been responding slowly (uh, i vow to better about that too), but I really read them all and they mean alot to me. Happy 2017! Come Tartarus or grievous flood, or any other damned challege WE ARE GOING TO  AND MAKE IT GOOD.

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I colored a flounder drawing I made last Halloween with watercolor and colored pencils.  This is “The Sole and the Souls” (Wayne Ferrebee, 2016, Ink, watercolor, and colored pencil on paper).  It features a sole covered with parti-colored fungi swimming through a Roman cemetery of late antiquity.  I think those might be Charun’s snakes in the sky (and his servitor dragging the gladiator into the darkness).

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M-type asteroids are high albedo (i.e shiny) asteroids made partially or mostly of metal. Of all of M-type asteroids currently known in the solar system, 16 Psyche is the most massive.  It is a hunk of iron and nickel (and other heavy metals?) which has a diameter of 250 kilometers.  Psyche orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter and is believed to be the exposed core of a planet approximately the size of Mars which was obliterated by a catastrophic impact.  The asteroid is named after the intrepid mortal who found love and ultimately apotheosis in an “Eyes Wide Shut” type Greek myth of great suspense, horror, and beauty.

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Are you curious to know more about 16 Psyche based on this description?  I certainly hope you are, because NASA has just announced future missions for the 2020s and 16 Psyche is on the list. As currently conceived, the Psyche exploration mission will send a robot probe powered by solar electric propulsion out to the obliterated core to examine the planetoid.  The probe will be equipped with a magnetometer and a gamma-ray spectrometer to find out more about the composition and history of the enigmatic relic.

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Of course other long term aspects of the mission are of interest as well.  Although we have not yet mastered nuclear fusion, safe comprehensive control of such boundless energy is probably only 20 years or so away [winky icon].  What if humankind had sophisticated manufacturing robots and near infinite energy?  In such circumstances 8 million cubic kilometers of steel might come in very handy indeed.  So far the good news keeps rolling in for 2017.  This Psyche mission can’t happen fast enough for my taste.

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OK, time to get 2017 started in earnest! I have some resolutions and ideas–and I’m looking forward to hearing your New Year plans too. But first there is extremely good news in the paper, so let’s lead with that:  the People’s Republic of China has announced that they are shutting down their national trade in ivory by the end of 2017.  The world’s most populous nation is by far the world’s largest ivory consumer: estimates suggest that it accounts for as much as 70% of ivory demand.  The tusks of slaughtered elephants reach the nation illegally and then become part of a vast economy of carvers, traders, dodgy antiques merchants, and suchlike sellers.  All of this is to feed the growing appetite of China’s new middle class, who are hungry for anything which confers status (but who do not necessarily understand just how sapient, compassionate, and irreplaceable elephants are).

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The ban is said to be a direct result of a meeting between the world’s two most powerful men, President Xi Jinping and President Obama, who laid the groundwork for a comprehensive ban when they met in Washington in 2015.  Obama tightened up surprisingly lax ivory rules in America in an effort to save the last proboscideans.  It is a great pleasure to see China’s leadership follow the same path.  The New York Times has noted that the ban is not just sound environmental policy, but also makes sense both politically and economically.  Perhaps other ivory-consuming nations will follow suite! I will be sure to praise their far-sighted leaders as well.

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However elephant conservationists must not pretend the Chinese ivory ban alone has saved our big gray friends. Elephants are in deep trouble. Climate change, habitat loss, and, above all, poaching still threaten the giants. Powerful forces in China (and even here, in the increasingly reactionary United States) will conspire to restart the ghastly trade.  Additionally the mayhem in central Africa which has allowed poachers to flourish is far from over.  Yet this unexpected boon from the Middle Kingdom is a cause for great hope. Let us thank our friends in China for their thoughtfulness and use their fine example as a cause to redouble our own efforts.  If we keep working together we can make sure elephants are still with us not just in 2017 but in all the years to come.

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