Arts 046B – Ceramics II Final

The Ceramics II (Arts 046B) final at San Jose City College was this past Saturday. We came to class to find our glazed pieces scattered among the many different shelves, sand or grind the bottom of each piece to smooth off the sharp edges, wash the dust off, and present our pieces for the final critique of our artwork.

My large piece,  Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, has one face representing humanity/past and the other machines/future. The two smaller faces are bookends that served as test pieces for visualizing the faces and the glazes. I brought in a copy of “The Two Faces of Tomorrow” by James P. Hogan, a science fiction novel that I read in the 1980’s about two possible futures for humanity when the computer network becomes sentient. An abstract teapot didn’t get glazed due to the confusion of setting up the annual three-day ceramic sale last week will be ready for pickup on the last day of the semester. Four test pieces of a test glaze I made from a recipe called “land shark blue” was a shade closer to black than blue.

It was quite impressive to see everyone’s work. Although the potluck and critique were the main events, the raku firing was the highlight. Fiery orange pieces from the kiln got put into small trashcans with newspapers to catch on fire for the smoke to enhance the appearance of the glaze.

Ceramics, DVD’s & Books

I was expecting a quiet day at my ceramics class on Saturday with many of us glazing our last pieces for finals next week. Since this week was the annual three-day ceramics sale that funds the ceramics program at San Jose City College, our studio space was overrun by former instructors and students who made the pottery wheels disappear, swept and mopped the floor, and rearranged the tables to display an overflow of ceramics coming out of boxes in newspaper wrappings.

Those of us still glazing our pieces got shoved into the far corner to share limited space among the numerous buckets of glazes. A pain since we our large pieces weren’t that simple to glaze. My large piece, Janus, the Roman god of doors and beginnings, in 25 pounds of recycled clay, took two hours to hand-paint a half-dozen glazes on. After that got put on the shelf for the kiln, I dipped an abstract teapot into two glazes, and made a test glaze from powder for four test pieces. I went home more exhausted than usual, spending the rest of the weekend watching DVDs and reading books.


“Battlestar Galactica: Razor,” a two-hour movie that’s being sandwiched between the end of Season Three and the beginning of Season Four of the popular science fiction TV series, set on the Battlestar Pegasus after Commander Lee “Apollo” Adama (Jamie Bamber) takes command. Newly promoted Executive Officer Kendra Shaw (Stephanie Jacobsen) recalls joining the Pegasus with Rear Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) shortly before the Cylons attacked the colonial fleet, and becomes suspicious of Captain Kara “Starbucks” Thrace (Katee Sackoff) during a mission to track down an old Cylon starbase. Meanwhile, Admiral William “Thrusher” Adama (Edward James Olmos) recalls his younger days (played by Nico Cortez) during the first Cylon war, falling out of the sky from an aerial battle that destroyed his ship to parachute on top of a hidden Cylon basestar conducting secret experiments on humans to create the biological-based Cylon. Past, present and future collides in a final battle between the Pegasus and the basestar.

“Flight of the Living Dead” (a.k.a, “Zombies on a Plane”) was a DVD that I wanted to get last month. Horror movies generally follow a set formula (i.e., teenagers involved in sex and/or drugs die a horrible death in the 1980’s slasher films). The formula for this zombie movie is that anyone with an attitude on the airplane gets killed by the zombies. A laugh riot ensues as you got all the crazy stereotypes—scientists “who should know better” transporting a sexy carrier of the zombie in the cargo hold, young lovers cheating on each other in the restrooms, a fast talking criminal handcuffed to a dour cop, an air marshal who looks like a drug rehab dropout, a professional golfer polishing a putter with a whiny wife at his side, and a nun overwhelmed by sinners and zombies alike—on a doomed airplane over the Atlantic Ocean in a severe electrical storm. The funniest zombie was the one who couldn’t undo his seat belt and desperately tries to bite at anyone running past by his aisle seat. The ending was somewhat predictable as the plane crashes somewhere with the usual assortment of humans and zombies surviving the wreckage. If you’re a zombie fan, this is a pure zombie fest.


“Genshiken: The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, Volume 9” by Kio Shimoku just came out. This is the first magna series I ever read, starting with the first volume that came out in 2005 and I’ve pre-ordered every volume since then. There’s no overriding story arc in this slice-of-life series about an odd assortment of Japanese college students who are fans of anime, video games and cosplay, but don’t fit in with any of the other clubs. The story I identify the most with is Ogiue’s decision to submit her work professionally. She asks her boyfriend, Sasahara, who has a part-time job as a manga editor, to critique her work and she reacts badly when he tells her that her 50-page managa lacks focus. When he visits her the next day, he’s surprised that she had revised her work overnight, which isn’t easy considering the amount of drawings and text involved without using a computer, and proclaims that the new version is better. When she pulls out an 80-page story for him to look at, he wonders if their relationship can survive the critique process. I’m disappointed that this was the last volume of the series, as most of the club members from the beginning are now graduates.

I started reading “In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing The Second World War” by David Reynolds. Most people know that Winston Churchill as the widely quoted leader who led Great Britain during the darkest hours of World War II, but very few know that it was his writings that funded his long political career (which is quite different from today’s politicians panhandling for money). After being tossed out of office following the war, and finding himself short of money, he embarks on writing a six-volume memoir of the war as a follow-up to his five-volume memoir on World War I. If you’re a history buff and/or a writer (I’m both), this book will interest you.

The Mythical Wii-Beast of Black Friday

This past Black Friday was a Wii-less one. After I went into work to find out that I wasn’t needed for the special shift, my friend and I didn’t start prowling the stores until noon. If any Nintendo Wii consoles were available on this sacred shopping day, they were long gone after 5:00AM.

First stop was to Circuit City for my friend to pick up “From The Earth to The Moon” DVD box set for $15 USD (normally $60 USD). We found no mythical Wii-beast there. We told one guy in line that we were hunting for the Wii-beast; he mentioned that he got his own months ago through a friend at EA. When I was a lead tester at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis), I won a Sony Playstation 2 at the company Christmas party in 2003. I sold it to a friend unopened for $200 USD because she wanted one to give to her boyfriend for Christmas, but kept it for herself after the relationship went south. Since I was the Nintendo guru at work, it didn’t make much sense to have a Playstation 2 at home. That’s how video game company connections usually work.

The parking lot at Fry’s Electronics in San Jose was more interesting with three idiots for every open parking spot in front and no one going in back to park. (We did get a parking spot in front.) A sign inside the video game department greeted us with the bad news: “Wii Sold Out!” We didn’t buy anything at Fry’s since the line to the cash register was two hours long.

The sign at Best Buy at Santana Row was no better: “Wii No Longer Available!”

The mythical Wii-beast of Black Friday eluded us among the many boxes of the Sony Playstation 3 and Microsoft XBox 360 that no one wanted. Since I told all my relatives that I was looking for a Wii this holiday season, maybe the mythical Wii-beast will make an appearance for Christmas.

Painting – Turkish Watch Tower

This painting is from a BBC photo of a Turkish watch tower on the Iraqi border silhouetted against an orange sky. I often like to paint a black foreground image against a colorful background since it’s easier to paint.

Painted on an 8×10 canvas panel with Liquitex Basics acrylic paint that took an hour to complete.

Painting – Gaza’s Last Stand

This painting is from an International Herald Tribune photo of a sad Palestinian vegetable seller in Gaza. I painted the man and his vegetable stand first, and then added the desolated wasteland in the background. What does the painting mean? I’m going to leave that open to interpretation. This is perhaps my most “political” painting to date.

Painted on an 8×10 canvas panel with Liquitex Basics acrylic paint that took three hours to complete.

Painting – Finnish Lake

This painting is from a BBC photo of a Finnish lake in autumn colors. I might paint this scene over again as the trees are not distinctive enough and the water reflection is too mirror image perfect. These are two areas that I feel challenged to master as an amateur painter.

Painted on an 8×10 canvas panel with Liquitex Basics acrylic paint that took three hours to complete.

I See Zombies

I became a zombie game fan when I started blasting them in “Quake” with grenades and rockets in 1997, and a hardcore zombie movie fan after the “Resident Evil” movies came out. For whatever reason this weekend, I was knee-deep in the zombie dead. Halloween—like daylight savings time—came a few weeks late.

The zombie fest started with the installation of “Hellgate: London” on my gaming PC. When I tried the demo out a few weeks ago, I hated it since I thought the game play was tedious, no ending to wrap up the game play, and the game was too much like a “Diablo” clone. No surprise that this game came from the same people who created “Diablo II.” After readjusting my thinking from first person shooter to hack-and-slash (never mind that my marksmen character used guns instead of swords), I started enjoying the demo and pre-ordered the game.

My current character is Level 7 marksmen with some tricked out armor and modified guns. My favorite weapons are the RPG/flame thrower that’s good for clearing out small groups of zombies, and the machine gun for larger groups and bigger-sized zombies. The game had several memorable moments. I blew off the top half of a zombie only to see the lower half do a twitch dance before falling over. I came roaring around the corner after throwing a grenade, where I expected to find a half-dozen zombies, to run into 20+ zombies waiting for me. After falling down to the bottom of a three-story staircase, all the zombies from the upper floors came banging downstairs and all the nearby zombies became aware of  my presence, which took all my ammo to get out of that mess. This game should keep me busy until “Unreal Tournament 3” comes out in two weeks.

I went to Borders at Santana Row to locate “Flight of the Living Dead” (a.k.a., “Zombies On A Plane”) DVD. The woman behind the information counter gave me a weird look when I asked about the title, almost as if I was asking permission to eat her brains. Alas, no such luck. So I got the “Black Sheep” DVD instead.

If you thought zombie crows in “Resident Evil: Extinction” was weird, try zombie sheep on a small island country where the sheep outnumbers people by ten to one. When two animal rights activists in New Zealand steal research material being disposed of at a sheep farm, they get more than bargain for when the canister cracks open to release a zombie lamb. People bitten by the zombie sheep turn into were-sheep.  All the traditional elements of a zombie film are here: the New Age animal rights activist airhead playing the dismal in distress, one guy being stretched out to have his guts ripped out be a pair of sheep, and the usual genetic research versus mother nature debate. Plus the standard redneck farm jokes about inbred family and lovelorn sheep. This movie is so hilariously wrong on so many levels.

If that wasn’t enough, I was watching a “Star Trek: Enterprise” episode called “Impulse” that was about… drum roll please… Vulcan zombies!

The Harry Potter Line

My friend and I stood in line for the “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows” by J.K Rowlings. Well, not quite. We went over to Borders at Santana Row three hours before release of the newest and final Harry Potter novel. No lines other than a short line to confirm the reservation for the book and get a wristband for the midnight madness. Masking tape on the floor outlined the line to cash register, starting at the romance paperbacks, running through the aisles of horror, science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, and the last mile loaded with Harry Potter merchandise.

The upstairs seem normal enough as we made our counter-clockwise prowl of the floor. The children department had way too many young schoolgirls for a Friday night. When we got into the nook and crannies of the computer department, where young couples try to make out, we find witches, wizards and more schoolgirls. The line outside has grown longer when we left. I’m glad no one mistaken me for Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogswarts gamekeeper, because of my long beard. The last thing I needed was a bunch of schoolgirls chasing me down the street.

We drove briefly by the Barnes & Noble store on Steven Creek Boulevard to check out the Harry Potter line over there. We found a Harry Potter party for the kids inside the children department. The last time we drove by was when Bill Clinton was signing his memoirs in June 2004. Traffic was a mess with the Secret Service vehicles and the Clinton limo trying to get out of the parking lot that night. Bill and Hillary stepped out to wave to everyone for five minutes before the traffic jam cleared up and the motorcade departed. We were three cars away from the former first couple. The closest I ever came to a president was a quarter-mile from George H.W. Bush in San Francisco when my father and I drove home from our construction jobs just hours before the Loma Prieta earthquake.

I never got caught up in the Harry Potter craze enough to read the books. I saw the movies that I thought they were all entertaining even if I didn’t understand some of the details. I been reading too many other books series in recent years, including Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” (seven books), Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” (eight books), Kim Harrison’s “Hollows” (four books), E.E. Knight’s “Vampire Earth” (four books), Karen Traviss’s “Wess’har Wars” (five books), and various re-readings of fantasy classics from David Eddings (16 books) and Terry Brooks (six books). Now that the last Harry Potter book is out, I’ll wait until the paperbacks for all seven books come out for Christmas (hint, hint) before I start reading that series.

The End of The Road

After attending San Jose City College on a part-time basis for the last five years, I finally got my associate degree in computer programming. Well, almost.  I missed the filing deadline for the graduation petition by one day. My official graduation date isn’t until the end of the summer session, and my diploma won’t arrive in the mail until late August. I’m finished with my second tour through college (2002-2007), although I’m still taking another year of ceramics for my own personal enjoyment.

Computer programming is no longer the hot field that it once was five years ago. I couldn’t get classes five years ago because there were too many students. I couldn’t get classes in recent years because there weren’t enough students. Now that healthcare is the new moneymaking major that everyone is flooding. That’s fine. I’m looking forward to when China and India will stop exporting their workers to the U.S., and the baby boomers start retiring en masse within ten years. I’ll be making serious money from the forthcoming I.T. crunch where jobs will be more numerous than available workers.