Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Legalize Drugs? Read This. (By Jack Cafferty)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Here's something to think about:

How many police officers and sheriff's deputies are involved in investigating and solving crimes involving illegal drugs? And arresting and transporting and interrogating and jailing the suspects?

How many prosecutors and their staffs spend time prosecuting drug cases? How many defense lawyers spend their time defending drug suspects?

How many hours of courtroom time are devoted to drug trials? How many judges, bailiffs, courtroom security officers, stenographers, etc., spend their time on drug trials?

How many prison cells are filled with drug offenders? And how many corrections officers does it take to guard them? How much food do these convicts consume?

And when they get out, how many parole and probation officers does it take to supervise their release? And how many ex-offenders turn right around and do it again?

So how's this war on drugs going?

Someone described insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. That's a perfect description of the war on drugs.
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The United States is the largest illegal drug market in the world. Americans want their weed, crack, cocaine, heroin, whatever. And they're willing to pay big money to get it.

The drug suppliers are only too happy to oblige. The Mexican drug cartels now have operations in 230 American cities. That's 230 American cities!

And we're not just talking about border towns, but places such as Anchorage, Alaska; Boston, Massachusetts; Atlanta, Georgia; and Billings, Montana. They're everywhere. And they don't just bring drugs, but violence and crime as well -- lots of it at no extra charge.

They have been able to infiltrate those 230 cities because we have not bothered to secure our borders. In addition to illegal aliens who come here to work and avail themselves of our social programs, we have criminals from Mexico bringing drugs in, taking money and guns back, and recruiting American kids into their criminal enterprises while they're here. iReport.com: Is it time to legalize pot?

What do you suppose the total price tag is for this failed war on drugs? One senior Harvard economist estimates we spend $44 billion a year fighting the war on drugs. He says if they were legal, governments would realize about $33 billion a year in tax revenue. Net swing of $77 billion. Could we use that money today for something else? You bet your ass we could. Plus the cartels would be out of business. Instantly. Goodbye crime and violence.

If drugs were legalized, we could empty out a lot of our prison cells. People will use this stuff whether it's legal or not. Just like they do booze. And you could make the argument that in some cases alcohol is just as dangerous as some drugs. I know.

Like I said ... something to think about. It's time.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jack Cafferty.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Comparing portraits

Igor V. Babailov is a rather famous portrait painter. He is commissioned for formal oil portraits by presidents and by popes. Me? I just started oil painting. I'm basically "feeling my way through the dark."
I thought I'd compare an oil painting of Igor's with one of mine, as a learning exercise. I took his oil of George Bush and my oil of James (a welder by trader), and placed them side by side. Interesting. I need to improve.

Further Explanation...

The Simulation Argument, further explanation, personally:
OK, OK, I'm not saying that I actually think another, earlier civilization created a simulation of our universe, and that we're all just computer programs. But I think now that there IS something more going on around here, something more than just dumb matter.

Let me explain. ... Way back when, I used to like to read books about physics. Nature is mind-boggling. And one of the most interesting things I read was this: Nature apparently behaves exactly like a simulation. This idea had actually popped-up in physics some decades earlier, I think, and so it's not a new idea. Just a curious observation.
...And I know from philosophy-reading that for centuries individuals have fancifully conjectured that our cosmos is "an idea in God's head" or "an immaterial abstraction" running its course... or a dream God once had (or NIGHTMARE?). I don't actually remember the descriptions, but it was something like that.

...So all these strange ideas have been floating around in my head for some time. And then I came across The Simulation Argument on the WWW. Wow, I thought. A powerful, simple, logical argument for the existence of a greater intelligence. Wow. It blew me away. I looked at the stars in a new way. I looked at granules of sand in a new way. All was suddenly instilled with intelligence.
I mean, from the physics side, think about this: Everything is made of atoms. And what is an atom? An atom contains NOTHING, basically. Just a set of FORCES, which can be described, in a sense, as a set of INSTRUCTIONS. There really is no "stuff" in atoms, and thus there is no "stuff" in any physical entity, not in the stars, not in grains of sand, not in our bodies. Just forces/instructions. The job of physics and science is to "figure-out" these instructions.
But the obvious question is, "Where the heck did these dang instructions COME FROM??!!!" That particular question just about killed me, literally. For years I read and read, got more and more depressed, but kept getting up each morning and looking at the grains of sand, and I would just shake my head. And then, for me, something amazing happened: I kept living. I kept finding that I would indeed awaken each morning, over and over, days and days, and nights and nights... And the years passed. That's an amazing thing.
So I relaxed. I stopped thinking about all this gut-wrenching stuff, the questions of ORIGIN. And somewhere along the curve of my lifetime, I got a job as a truck driver (somehow) and drove cross-country, alone, alone with my thoughts, FOR TWELVE YEARS.
And now I find myself in the 21st Century, living as an artist (somehow: another miracle), getting up each morning, and shaking my head at the grains of sand in my sandals, and I'm amazed, because the simulation argument has helped me APPRECIATE the cosmos again, and appreciate the questions, and, really, wonder.

So did an earlier civilization create us? Maybe. I don't know. Did a "Godhead" fashion this reality from a type of machine? Maybe. I don't know. But what I FEEL is that there is definitely something going on here. Here, within this set of instructions we call our lives, our jobs, friends, pets, thoughts.
Here, looking at my keyboard, I am shocked to feel its warmth, a living thing, this keyboard, living with intelligence, its smooth surface communicating with my skin: "Feel this? Feel this? Good. I feel you too."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?

Don't laugh just yet. A professor at Oxford, Nick Bostrom, a few years ago published a scholarly article which examines the possibility of our reality being, in fact, a computer simulation rather than what we might call a "real" reality, or a "first reality." I've read it, and its logic is undeniable. It is so astonishing, actually, that one fellow commented this:

"The Simulation Argument is perhaps the first interesting argument for the existence of a Creator in 2000 years."

And I agree with that. I've studied religion. I've studied philosophy. (Although I'm certainly no academic, and a number of years of partying have certainly diminished my faculties and memory, to be honest.) Religion relies on faith and, frankly, not asking too many questions. Now I'm not talking about any PARTICULAR religion, simply religious faith in general. Faith is a separate consideration from logic. And none of this DENIES any religious beliefs, actually. It's just that the great religions of the world were not created in an atmosphere of criticism or debate, and were never intended to be scientifically scrutinized in their original forms, because, simply, science was a creation of the Greeks, formally speaking (although they didn't call it science) and did not exist in other cultures, other religious-making cultures. Religions do not have very interesting arguments on their side, by default.
My point is, this "simulation argument" can be taken as an extremely logical suggestion that a "supreme being," so to speak, does exist, most likely. It's still rather vague, and but it does suggest that God is a lot more than some white-bearded fellow sitting on a gold throne in the clouds sort-of-thing. Read the argument for yourself. Do a search on google, if you like, too.
Note: To really blow your mind, watch The Matrix after a couple of hours of reading about this stuff. As Keanu Reeves would say, "Duuuuude."

Why I don't use drugs

Of course, I have more than one reason I don't use drugs.  For instance, most mood-altering drugs tend to degrade other pleasures and interests, which I find more important, like clear thinking.  Clear thinking is a miracle, really.  To be able to see the world in our minds, and fashion it as we will, and communicate these thoughts to others, clearly (as I'm trying to do now) is a blessing from the Cosmos or from God, or however you wish to characterize it.  But drugs all too often inhibit this.
     Another reason I don't use drugs: I don't want to support drug cartels.  The suffering we Americans hand-down to these poor nations is reprehensible.  I shall not be part of it.  This video is yet another example of this specific horror visiting our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, in Mexico:

And here's yet another horrible story just today (by Anderson Cooper, CNN):


Honda's Android Project

I am fascinated by technology for several reasons. And robotics is at the fore of this fascination.

Many don't realize how far robotics has come. With cheaper and more powerful integrated circuits and computation, and clever programming, we are moving closer to the paradigm-shifting appearance of a "universal robot" on earth. A universal robot is a robot which can be programmed to do just about anything a human can, if I understand the concept properly. Perhaps these marvels will appear, even, within the next decade or so.

Honda has the most advanced robot to date, Asimo. See high-def video of him here:

Asimo is a stunning revelation for those who haven't been paying much attention to robotics. Usually robotics stories come at the END of a newscast, a little "human interest" story, so to speak. But robotics is developing rapidly, and its reality may soon overwhelm us. I know I indeed was stunned a few years ago when I learned that Honda had created a robot which walked like a human, even up stairs and inclines. And now Asimo is handling objects well, and interacting with humans, and even charging-up his battery pack by himself.
There are about 100 Asimo robots so far, and, of course, they're still in beta, or alpha, testing (although they CAN be rented for about $160,000 a year). They are constantly being upgraded. They recognize faces, and they speak a limited Japanese. They can hold your hand and walk with you, smoothly. They can bring you a drink.
The appearance of a universal robot is near.

...And did you know that there are cars which drive themselves? I mean, REALLY drive themselves. Through city traffic, or out in the desert and mountains, with no driver whatsoever, no remote control. Of course, they're still in beta testing, too, or maybe I should say alpha testing, actually.
The military already uses robotic planes, although humans make the important decisions, like when to fire their weapons.
And you thought The Terminator (movie) was stupid. Shame on you. ...lol...

So, yeah, I'll take a robot. A female version, please. Maybe blonde hair, or a bright red, with aqua eyes. She'll teach me French, and she'll hold my hand. She'll enjoy talking about history, and art, and she'll giggle sometimes. She'll be smarter than me in some ways, but she'll envy my oil paintings. Of course, she'll get upgrades, and one day her new emotion service pack will be downloaded, and she'll leave me.
You can't have everything.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I was thinking about what is essential to certain faces ... what LINES are essential... and then drew this.

Another couple...

Just posting this photo (of a brother and a sister) on a whim. Lots of mistakes, and a bad SuperHero pose, but there's a certain solidity and speed to this rather new style of mine. I like to make kids look like kids in their body situations, thus a kid superhero, coming to a stop in mid-air. Each kid was a pre-schooler. ... Oh well... Whatever.

Some of my first caricatures since getting back to Orlando

I like the fact that each caricature is completely different from the others, rather than that old "sameness" I once had. You know the kind: everyone looks "related" or even "twin-like." I'm proud to capture the individual in the individuals, or at least try to.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Watercolor/ Gouache

After gaining pastel and oil skills, to a degree, I thought to try using my new color knowledge in watercolor portraits and a quick pin-up. Just practice, but I was surprised how easily I could bring this (formerly incomprehensible) medium to life.

The Problem with the boat...

This was the problem with trying to be an artist on a small boat. Anything over 30" X 24" had to be taken outside. This was a little project I abandoned, trying to make the best of an incomplete Beyonce photo, and intending an acrylic life-size painting. But it was good practice. I completely freehanded the whole thing in graphite, using only my eye. Beyonce is rather short-legged and stocky (for such a beautiful girl) and I tried to be as realistic as possible. I think this was the day I screamed, "Give me a studio again!!"

Sketches Recently/ First Day of Caricatures

Wasn't sure what was going to happen as I started to caricature again. But I found that I was enjoying it, truth be told. I'm even faster, and I'm using Chartpaks more. I think, certainly, I now recognize that caricatures are SIMPLE, taking only a few minutes, while real portraiture is enormously complicated and long. Doing one defines the other.
...And here's some sketching I've done recently. I'm working to improve my imagination and anatomical knowledge.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Back in Orlando

Well, I don't think anyone follows my blog anymore (if ever!), but I'll keep posting. (Self-pity, I know... lol )
But, yes, I've moved back to Orlando, and am working for Caricature Connection at Disney again, and living with my friend Mike Duron.
After some brief adventures with my sailboat down around Tampa Bay (for a few months) I realized I want to emphasize my art life over my sailing life, so to speak. I mean, even when I left Orlando last summer, my emotions were mixed. My art was improving greatly, and I was broke, with continuing shoulder problems, and a sour disposition...
Hmm... And now, well... I guess I should say that everything's changed, in a sense.
During my rather lame time on the boat, I met a host of interesting people, and experienced real hunger a couple of times, and other things, but the overwhelming thing was that my sailboat was not really ready for traveling, and I had no savings... I sold my car and most of my possessions, but that netted an amazingly meager sum. My engine died, my VHF radio died, my jib sail got torn to shreds in a storm, my anchor was BENT badly in another storm, and on an on... And I wasn't anyplace where I could easily make money with art, and I don't have much experience sailing anyway, and I was running out of beer!
The whole thing bent something in me, too. I see the world differently, I believe. I could have easily lost my boat and my life on one particular bad October day offshore, and that bent something in me. I see the world differently...
It's strange too, all this, all this stuff we call life, jobs, art, desire. I taught myself to oil paint while on the boat. I learned to wake up to the aroma of linseed oil, with no food and no money, and to not worry too much. I had my home, my boat, I would think, and I had water, maybe a package or 2 of noodles somewhere maybe, and a little wine maybe, and a good book, although no electricity or companionship or...
Well... I don't know where I'm going with this post... My mind is a little fried. But I feel like I've returned HOME, somehow. And that's always the most powerful of experiences.