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Day 104 (and Camp Nano Day 8)

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chipman, pruitt, bolton

Quick sketch - much of it, just a dry erase marker, not even a Sharpie - on Strathmore 9x12. Not completely terrible for the first two, but I sure did squeeze Bolton's head. Sorry, man.

chipman-pruitt-bolton reference

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

P.S. Only 250 words with Camp Nano, but then, I still feel that maybe-vaccine headache, so, ugh.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

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chipman, pruitt, bolton

tl;dr: Opponents of things should never be appointed to oversee them.

So President Biden has nominated David Chipman to lead the ATF - and he was wrong to do so.

It's not that Chipman isn't qualified to lead the ATF - he's a 25-year ATF veteran. It's that Chipman is explicitly disqualified to lead an agency that oversees firearms - because he's a gun control advocate. It's not that he can't be trusted to make good decisions: he can be trusted to make bad ones.

Previous presidents have made the same mistake. To lead the EPA, Donald Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, a noted environmental skeptic who had sued the EPA. To serve as ambassador to the UN, George Bush nominated John Bolton, a noted United Nations skeptic who said that it does not really exist.

Political cards on the table: I voted for Joe Biden, and I'm happy with him. And while I'm a gun rights proponent - if the Second Amendment didn't exist, we'd need to invent it - I recognize both the need for and constitutional legitimacy of gun legislation, which shouldn't be set in stone as our society evolves.

But intellectual and moral integrity demands that if I call an opponent out for their misbehavior, that I also call out allies for the same behavior. Calling out misbehavior only on one side is worse than hypocritical: it undermines trust in the political system, and encourages further distorted value judgments.

And humans are great at distorting value judgments when emotions are involved. From the most basic arguments all the way up to the most complex adjudication of fact and law, our moods and emotions affect whether we judge something to be true or false.

In a way, we should expect this: researchers like Antonio Damasio have shown that rational decision making breaks down in people whose emotions are impaired, because the value judgments provided by our emotions are necessary for making mental decisions.

But a functioning emotional system can also lead us astray: emotions can impair our judgments. Studies show we're more likely to screw up simple if-then syllogisms if they're emotionally charged. Even judges, trained to be impartial, are more likely to make mistakes with legal arguments on "hot" political topics.

Heightened emotion distorts perceptions, leads us to attribute our feelings to arbitrary targets we come across, and reduces self-control - precisely what you don't want to have in someone who needs to make impartial decisions about something, and precisely what you do have in the person of a political activist.

Now, I'm not questioning Chipman or Bolton's integrity (Pruitt's lack of integrity is well documented, down to his sound-proof booth), or Chipman or Bolton or Pruitt's patriotism, or their expertise. But all three of them are interested enough in the areas they later oversaw to have gone into them as opponents.

In our public life, there is politics, and there is civics, and the two should not mix. Politics literally means deciding how to allocate scarce resources, and it is right and expected for us to dive in rough and tumble to ask for what we want - a participatory political system grants moral authority to a government.

But government's purpose is to bring the use of force under rational control, and more broadly, to allocate resources correctly when policy has been made. Inevitably, decisions will need to be made on matters of fact at an agency - and a political partisan can be trusted to screw them up even if they're trying not to.

When a partisan appoints a opponent of something to oversee it, the person that they've appointed will, very likely, whether they want to or not, "lean their hand on the till" to make things come out for their own partisan ends - meaning they will, sooner or later, fail in their civic duty to make an honest decision.

If you're passionate about something, you might feel that it's all right to put a partisan in charge of it,  because then you'll get what you want. But that's evil, on two grounds - first of all, because you are subverting the political process to get a result through the back door that you can't through the front.

But more importantly, impartial decisions will need to be made - and by putting a partisan in charge, you're explicitly hoping for them to make a wrong decision to help implement your political desires. Tyrants, bigots and the corrupt throughout history have employed the same tactic. Stop doing it.

Regardless of our political desires, we need to step back and decouple our understanding of people into (at least) two parts: their politics, and their competence. If their political orientation isn't a direct conflict of interest for to the matter at hand, their basic competence is the primary qualification for doing the job.

I was happy when Trump picked Bolton as National Security Advisor: whether I agree with their politics or not, Bolton had the experience to do the job and the attitude towards the job to do it right. Bush should never have appointed Bolton to the UN: even when he made the right decisions, we couldn't trust them.

I might not have agreed with Scott Pruitt politically, but as a lawyer and state Senator, he was well qualified to be Attorney General of Oklahoma. It was morally wrong for Donald Trump to appoint a climate change denier to lead the EPA, and, predictably, that led to Pruitt lying about climate issues.

I thank David Chipman for his service at the ATF, and would approve of his nomination to another agency. But the moment that he joined a political movement against guns, he disqualified himself from overseeing gun law enforcement, and if confirmed, he will inevitably make some serious mistakes.

-the Centaur

Pictured: Chipman, Pruitt, Bolton

VAC-CI-NATE! (and Drawing Every Day #103, and Camp Nano …)

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vac-ci-nate

So! I got my first shot today, and other than a little arm soreness, a headache which may or may not be related, and some tiredness which may just be because it's 3:21am, I have not yet had any ill effects. I was totally lied to by my album covers though, and have not been able to hack into Bill Gates' secret global network through the tiny implanted computer chip in the vaccine, maybe because neither exists.

centaur, vaccine 1

Ouch. First picture failed for some reason, so we get this charming shot of the needle coming OUT rather than going in. But it didn't really hurt at all, maybe because I was fiddling with my camera. Our Dalek friend below is proud that he was able to contribute his catchphrase to our cause:

dalek toy

~500 words on Camp Nano, still behind, but I am too wiped to write more.

Drawing, writing, being a good citizen every day.

-the Centaur

Day 102

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mohawk drawing

Character study for a Dakota Frost picture, inks on vellum over a roughs with inks and blue on Strathmore 11x14. Required some Photoshop surgery as I didn't anticipate how the shading would riff off the hair and make it look like the model had a beard. Compared to the original, the forehead is too high and the nose too large. Back to practicing, sigh. I think the below is from the Peles Salon Instagram, though I actually found this picture from like 1,000 different Pinterest boards.

mohawk photo

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

P.S. Got 600+ words on Camp Nano. Picking up speed, more in a bit.

Day 101

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rapier centaur sketch

Aborted character study from the Lace and Steel box cover I did with a Sharpie. I think the drawing is improved, but the composition that I originally did straight on the box is too hard to work with. Better to start over with something that I can use to show off the various parts of the drawing like the rapier and the weird double-bladed fan/shield/thingy. This composition, of course, was totally off-the-cuff:

lace and steel cover

Based on the Lace and Steel RPG character book cover: you can see the inspiration, but the off-the-cuff composition was too slavish in recreating some of the elements. I need to start over with a wholly new composition to get the effect I want with this drawing.

lace and steel rpg

Apparently you can buy Lace and Steel online at Drive Through Fiction, with art by the incomparable Donna Barr, who has a video about drawing horses, which I am going to watch before trying again.

-the Centaur

P.S. ~400 words on Camp Nano, but that's OK, as I am going to bed "early".

Day 100

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dakota rough sketch

Quick Sharpie sketch of Dakota Frost, based on the model from the BLOOD ROCK / LIQUID FIRE covers. I tried to do this upside down at first, to "see" it better, and OH BOY it did not turn out well - the landscape was all off. So this is an even quicker sketch, because I need to get to bed early.

dakota skull small

Also, Camp Nano only got ~150 added words, but again, I need sleep. Rough draftiness:

“Your voice,” the priest said, taking another step back. “If not a vampire, surely … surely not a werewolf … but your voice … why do I know your voice?”

I spun, rolling my neck, unfurling more vines into a soft green halo that lit my face.

“Do you know me now?” I asked.

“Oh … God,” the priest said. “You were on the news, the mother of that weretiger—”

“That I am, and if she is here,” I said, “you should point the way … then run.”

“She … here?” The priest blinked, then his eyes flicked at the coffin. “But it’s not—”

My heart fell. The prisoner in the coffin was not Cinnamon—but as the priest’ eyes went wide in terror, I realized that in his shock he’d given away there was a prisoner in that coffin. I drew a breath, my face flushing, feeling my blood pounding in my ears.

Hopefully I'll pick up speed now that I'm out of the Lenten "Jesus and Godel" series. I wrote 45,000 words of nonfiction in Lent, which is nowhere near the needed Nano rate, but I think is probably the fastest rate and largest single body of nonfiction writing I've done since perhaps my thesis.

But what I really did today was move boxes into the room that's going to become my wife's art studio.

Drawing, writing, moving every day.

-the Centaur

Easter is Just the Beginning

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the empty tomb

And so comes an end to Lent, and my Lenten series, with Easter. To Christians, Easter not just the commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his Crucifixion, but an event happening in a very real sense right now, reverberating through time and space.

If the Crucifixion is when Jesus atoned for our sins, the Resurrection is when He brings the promise of eternal life to us, and begins his work moving the spirits of the people of the world towards the path of following Him into the Kingdom of God.

Forthcoming, at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, will take over that work; but now, we are in another time, not liminal, like Black Saturday, but celebratory, in which we give thanks for Jesus's Resurrection and worship with joy in the remembrance of it.

This was perhaps the hardest Lenten season I have ever undertaken: writing roughly 1,000 non-fiction words a day every day on top of all my other responsibilities was quite the challenge. But Jesus can resurrect anything, and He certainly resurrected my connection to the faith this Lent.

And now, on this day of rest, I close this Lenten series. I've much more to write on the "Jesus and Godel" thread, but I am going to take a break, and be grateful for the glory of the Resurrection, the promise of eternal life, and most importantly, for the Christian values that guide me towards Jesus.

-the Centaur

Pictured: a quick graphic of the opened tomb.

Camp Nano April 2021, Day 3

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dakota skull small

Day 3, just under 600 words, still behind. A lot of today was spent on planning the scene.

Rough draftiness, with Dakota infiltrating a church using her magic tattoos:

My eyelids flickered as the orchid petals infiltrated the lock, a jumble of images and feelings flooding back to me as the interlocking parts of the stamen column felt the tumblers. It was hard to see and “see” at the same time, much less guide the—

Click.

I drew a careful breath, then turned my hand. The petals and sepals closed on the knob and turned it, softly, and I gingerly opened the doors. My vines and their floating leaves shifted as the heavy wood parted, but did not otherwise react: no security system had been triggered.

The church was spacious, almost cavernous … but not wholly dark. An eerie blue glow filtered in from the twin rows of stained glass, but the white light glinting off the rows of pews came from a pool of spotlights, pinioning before the altar a gleaming silver coffin.

“My friend,” came a quiet Asian voice. “You should not have come here.”

Instantly I whirled 270, twisting mana up in my body, murmuring shield just as I came face to face with … a priest? A typical, nay, stereotypical long-cassocked priest, stepping from a confessional, bearing an ornate pectoral cross and carrying a gun … no … a water pistol?

“Let this be a warning to you,” he said, and fired. “Begone!”

Writing every day.

-the Centaur

 

Day 099

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capaldi eyebrows

Quick Sharpie sketch, sans roughs, of Peter Capaldi's eyebrows.

capaldi eyebrows picture

Not terrible, but still needs work - the eyebrows are more angled in the realz, and the eyes are more round, and there are subtleties to the hair and temple that need work.

Nevertheless, drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Death is not the End

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capaldi eyebrows

Black Saturday commemorates the day that Jesus lay in the tomb. If the Crucifixion is the great sacrifice, and the Resurrection is its great reward, the Tomb is the liminal space between, the moment between before and after, the place in time and space where Death reigns as supreme as it ever will.

Death is a funny thing, and does funny things to people's brains. Some people fear it; others welcome it, perhaps grudgingly. Some seek it; some try to move heaven and earth to avoid it. Strangest of all is what death does to otherwise rational people's perceptions of reality - of what is "ontologically possible."

Nicholas Meyer, director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which Spock - SPOILERS - dies, is said to have complained that Star Trek III: The Search for Spock wasn't realistic, because Spock - SPOILERS - comes back from the dead, along the lines: "It's a fantasy - people can't come back from the dead."

Yeah, well, people used to not fly in space either, Nick, but you still directed a movie about it, almost a decade and a half after humanity successfully landed on the moon. A friend of mine had a similar complaint about another movie because "coming back from the dead isn't possible."

Put bluntly, this isn't a rational analysis. This is treating death as Death with a capital 'D', elevating it into a permanent part of the City of Myth, like Neil Gaiman's Endless or Terry Pratchett's Four Horsemen. But Death isn't a perky, photogenic goth or a cloak-wrapped figure made wholly of bones.

We are three-dimensional patterns persisting through four-dimensional space-time, and, one day, those self-maintaining patterns may cease to maintain themselves and dissolve. Put simply, someday, everybody dies. But those patterns, one day, might be restored, by any number of methods.

Despite the cliche, neither death nor taxes are an unavoidable part of the structure of the universe, and that should be obvious if you engage in informed speculation about possible futures. Thinking of taxes alone, we might have a universal basic income in a robotically-powered post-scarcity utopia.

While the resurrection method in Star Trek III leaves a lot to be desired - it's beyond scientific speculation and fully in the realm of "treknobabble" - if you're already talking about starships traveling faster than light crewed by psychic space elves, please, don't start talking to me about the realism of Death.

Death doesn't deserve its capital letter. One day, we might scientifically conquer it - I wear a cryogenic suspension bracelet around my wrist for precisely this purpose - and, to Christians, Jesus has already conquered it, with His ministry providing the gateway of belief to His death and resurrection.

Black Saturday remembers this time. One day, death will reach us all - it is inevitable, even though it might be reversible - but the promise of Jesus's resurrection is the promise that one day we all may go beyond the dissolution of our physical patterns and into a new mode of existence that is eternal.

-the Centaur

Pictured: the eyebrows of Peter Capaldi, known for playing a man who knows something about coming back from the dead.