« Learning to Love Frank BlackTwo Paintings »
03.03.2003

New Beginnings

A good month for new beginnings. People who know me or who have read the little bio on this site will know that I used to be a painter. The last time I did any painting was on September 11, 2001. Easy to remember. I wish I could say I had been moved by the events of that day to create a heartfelt tribute to the fallen, but it was nothing like that at all. I had come home early from work to finish a still life that I had been working on for many days. It had to be finished that day, because the pears were about to turn brown, and I spent the afternoon with the radio on, listening to the live coverage of what was happening in New York and elsewhere. It was a perfect day for painting, warm and sunny, with no clouds at all.

It never occured to me as it was happening, but that day was just like another beautiful summer day many years earlier, when I was working as an assistant in an organic chemistry lab. I remember preparing a dry ice and acetone bath as the announcer on the radio talked about a massacre taking place at Srebrenica. It was actually taking place right then - not being reported after the fact. No one was on the scene, but they knew people were being killed. It was just awful.

I stopped painting for a long time after September 11. It didn't have anything to do with some crisis of sensibility, it was just laziness and a generic fear of failure. It is very easy to find excuses to give up on something difficult, in a way that makes you feel both noble and thwarted by fate. The still life was done, and I found plenty of reasons not to start any more pictures after it.

But this weekend I finally hauled out my easel and paints, on the premise that it's better to try and fail at doing something I love than to just give up and play with computers for thirty years. So there are now two pictures in the works, with more to come. If the digital camera comes out of hiding, I will show them to you.

--

Dan Hartung over at Lake Effects wrote in and called me to task for some things I wrote about the Space Shuttle in my last post. He was kind enough to grant me permission to post the resulting email smackdown. Dan disputes some of what I have to say about complexity, and in the process gives a lot more detail about the shuttle program, along with some interesting sources for the insatiable.

Right after Dan wrote in, Slashdot posted a link to a panel discussion on the future of the manned space program. It's an intelligent and devastating critique, better than anything else you'll ever read on the topic. Really, I promise!

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