Painting Tablet 3

tablet3_3This painting tablet is an odd assortment of landscapes and people who caught my interest during a difficult six-week period when I graduated from school, got laid off from my job, and started a new job. Most of these paintings are from pictures that I downloaded from the BBC, Los Angeles Times and New York Times websites. The Easter Island statues came from Wikipedia, and the empty room came from an issue of The New Yorker. My favorite painting was a large water drop on a leaf since that one turned out perfect. Painting people—Kurt Vonnegut, Turkish politicians, and a Star Wars pilot—were the hardest to do.

Arts 046A – Ceramics I Final

setup1Ceramics I (Arts 046A) has come to an end with a larger-than-life self-portrait head, several small statuettes, a large water jar and a square bowl. The self-portrait head was the biggest piece with ~23 pounds of recycled clay that took six weeks to finish. Revealing how I view myself instead of how I want people to see me, I described the bust as “a modern shaman and philosopher” on the name card introducing my work. My instructor wrote down in her comments that this was the most successful self-portrait in the class.

After having a potluck lunch and brief tour of the student art gallery, we displayed out finished work, wrote down comments on the paper set out for each set, and stood before the class to explain our work. The sad part was packing up our pieces and saying goodbye. The instructor wasn’t kidding that the semester would go by fast. I’m planning to take Ceramics II next semester.

Student Art Gallery (Spring 2007)

gallery1Before my class started the final critique in Ceramics I (Arts 46A), the instructor took us over to the student art gallery to check out the ceramic pieces done by students from the other classes this semester. The last time I was in the student gallery was 15 years ago for my first associate degree in General Education, taking an art appreciation course that reviewed historical arts in all its various forms. What a trip down memory lane.

Arts 046A – First Project

Arts 046A First ProjectThe first project in Ceramics I (Arts 46A) was creating six bowls on the kick wheel. It took 20 balls of clay to create eight bowls (one bowl got set aside for the next project). I enjoyed this part of the class even though it was hard work and I came home covered in clay dust as if I spent a day working in masonry block construction. Glazing the bowls was an unpredictable process as I tried different colors and techniques since I wasn’t required to form a set based on similar design and/or color.

Painting Tablet 2

tablet2_10I’m still learning how to paint without numbers and trying to develop my painting style. These paintings are copies of pictures from the BBC, Los Angeles Times and New York Times websites that caught my interest. My favorite out of this set is my third attempt at doing a British sunset at Blackpool after the first two attempts were disasters. I also like the fishing boat on a dried riverbed in Southeast Asia that’s affected by global warming.

The Road To Graduation, Part III

I’m entering the home stretch as I graduate with an associate degree in computer programming from San Jose City College in two weeks.

  • Ceramics I (Arts 046A) is pretty much finished as all I need to do is glaze my final four pieces—a self-portrait bust, a large water jar, a square bowl, and a Egyptian figurine—this week, and get ready for the potluck and critique next week.
  • A Directed Study (CIS 098) course substituted for Object Oriented Programming (CIS 059) that hasn’t been offered this semester or next got done in ten hours. I previously completed an online HTML in six hours on the last day of school, as I’ve been writing HTML code since 1997.
  • Data Structures (CIS 055) is proving problematic. I want to do anything else but figure out how to link data nodes this way and that. I might wait until the very last day to finish the assignments for that class.

Although I’m still planning to take Ceramics II (Arts 046B) and Ceramics III (Arts 047C) for fun next year, this is the last semester I can qualify for academic pricing on certain software packages. I bought Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium and Lightroom for $600 USD (retail is ~$1,800 USD), and I got Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Professional on order for $99 USD (retail is ~$800 USD). If you’re going to have a career as a web developer and programmer, these heavy-duty and very expensive applications are must have tools.

The Road To Graduation, Part II

Midterm madness is finally over. My sleeping pattern is returning to normal. The extra weight from eating food at odd hours of the night is burning off at the gym. What brought me back to normalcy was reading “One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School” by Scott Turow, his semi-autobiographical story of being a first year law student at Harvard Law School, which was more insane than my accumulated ten years of college (1990-1995 / 2002-2007). Admissions & Records accepted my graduation petition after the initial paper chase a few months ago, and, if I successfully pass my programming classes this semester, I can pick up my diploma in late August.

My programming instructor returned a 3.5″ floppy disk that I submitted to him in my first programming class in Spring 2002. Now that’s spooky. None of my computers today have a floppy drive installed. I still have a few floppy drive units in storage and a USB floppy drive for those rare occasions where I need access to a floppy. Five years ago I turned in my source code and executable files on floppies. Today I print out the source and/or email the files in a zipped archive. For a directed study class, I turned in the completed project with source code, executable, sample data, and documentation files on a CD.

The Data Structures (CIS 055) class is getting hard. I’ve always relied on the instructor’s lesson and reading the source code to understand the material without reading the textbook. The assigned textbook for this class dribbles out the source code in bits and pieces, and then buries the completed source code in overwritten comments that makes a bad science fiction novel enjoyable. My superficial understanding of the C++ language doesn’t help either. Cruising through my final semester isn’t an option.

I got my midterm worksheet back in Ceramics I (Arts 46A) with an “A” and a comment from the instructor that I have excellent focus and control of my work. That’s being put to the test with the larger-than-life self-portrait bust that will probably weigh 30 pounds in clay when I get done. Mine is the biggest piece in class as I have the biggest head. This week I’ll be carving in the details, getting back a glazed statuette and the other statuette will be ready for glazing.

Project four is stacking three or four separate pieces into one object. My design is a tall Japanese water vase that I saw in a ceramics book. The bottom bowl, sprout and collar will start on the kick wheel, coil building for the middle to combine all the pieces, and using nylon rope to impress a spiral design on the outside. After working in the studio for six hours straight, I come home to collapse in bed as I’m exhausted from all that focus and control.

The Movies of Spring Break 2007

As young man going to college in the early 1990’s, and as a working adult now going back to college for a career change, I never had a traditional spring break of heading for the beach to ride the waves, drink the booze and enjoy the girls. If only haven’t become a Christian during my second year of college. Anyway, since I work during the week off from school, my spring break for this year was watching the three hottest movies in the theater.


300movieposter“300” retells the Battle of Thermopylae when the Spartan city-state sends 300 soldiers and their king to stand against the 300,000 strong Persian army while their queen rallies the other Grecian city-states to arms. The Spartans lost the battle after inflicting heavy casualties on the Persians. Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, who served as executive producer, the movie reproduces the graphic novel almost on a frame-by-frame basis for this stylized battle to the death. The overall story was interesting but historically inaccurate since the Spartans left their breastplates at home.


The Reaping Movie Poster“The Reaping” has a former missionary (Hillary Swank) who leaves the church after her family got killed in Africa and goes around the world disproving miraculous events with scientific explanations. When the ten plagues of the Old Testament gets unleashed on a southern backwater town, the town folks blames a little girl living in the swamp. Unable to find a scientific basis for the mysterious events, she has to rely on her faith in God and the little girl as the final plague unleashes a battle between good and evil.


Grindhouse Movie PosterThe third film was “Grindhouse,” homage to the 1970’s exploitation double feature with “Planet Terror” by Robert Rodriguez and “Death Proof” by Quentin Tarantino.

The movies within the movies had fake trailers. “Machete,” a Mexican revenge flick on the Texas border, reminding me of the original trailer for “Death Wish” with Charles Bronson. The other trailers included “Werewolf Women of the SS” and “Thanksgiving,” spoofing the horror movies that became prevalent in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

“Planet Terror” is the most funny, over-the-top zombie movie since “Shaun of the Dead” came out a few years ago. As is typical of zombie movies, you have a group of misfits forced together for whatever reason while a zombie invasion is underway, realizes what is going on, and escapes to a tropical paradise. Rose McGowan plays a woman who loses a leg during a zombie attack, gets a chair leg to walk around on until she dispatches a military guard (Tarantino) with it, and replaces the chair leg with an assault rifle to kill zombies.

“Death Proof” is the story of two groups of women being stalked by Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) in his “death proof” muscle car. He kills the first group of women with relative ease, leaving behind the bodies in “accidents” that the local authorities can’t prove otherwise because the women were under the influence of pot and booze. But the second group of women is a more difficult challenge, being professional stuntwomen willing to take him on and unafraid to inflict great bodily harm. How they took care of him in the end made the audience cheer when “The End” flashes on the screen.

As for the nudity and heavy sexual action, it’s not there as there are some “missing reels” and you’re have to wait until the unrated DVD comes out. Twenty seconds got cut from the movie to avoid a NC-17 rating, which is the kiss of death in mainstream theaters and even some art house theaters. Something that exploitation films in the past didn’t have to deal with as most went unrated.

This Week’s Weird Snail Mail

I got a chain letter and a circular item in a square envelope in the snail mail this week.

This was the first time I ever got a chain letter in the mail. (I’ve gotten chain letters in email from people who clicked on the naughty bits and got a spyware infection on their computer.) This chain letter stated that you too can make $800,000 USD per week, as seen on the “Oprah!”, if you send a dollar bill to the following five people and add your name to the list. Yeah, right. Straight to the recycle bin. Although it’s bad luck to break a chain letter, I’m still working off all the bad luck from all the mirrors I accidentally broke as a teenager. The emails from a former Nigerian minister wanting my bank account info to smuggle a huge fortune out of his country are more entertaining than this.

The circular item in the square envelope was smaller than an LP record, larger than an 45 record, and too padded for a CD or DVD disc. The mysterious object was a mouse pad for subscribing to The New York Review of Books. Whoopee-a-do. The funny thing is that I don’t recognize a single literary author from the pencil drawings on the mouse pad. Although I took many literature courses during my first tour through college in the early 1990’s, I guess I missed the course on early 20th-century literary giants. You would think that the NYRB could update their pencil drawings to include latter 20th-century literary giants like, say, Stephen King.