Marina Kukso's Blog!:
Discoveries, how-i's, and commits

on fear

i have a fear of physical violence. an alone in the woods kind of thing. this keeps me indoors at night and it makes me unwilling to put myself in situations where i'd be the only woman among a group of men in relative isolation (see: being female among fishermen and the movie "wild"). this is very limiting! here are some of my thoughts about fear and keeping your wits about you.


try to never find yourself in an emergency (defined as a situation where you have no options). most women i know are experts at this.

it's actually not accurate to say "i fear having violence happen to me." i navigate an environment filled with the possibility of violence (for example, cars), but i'm not scared around cars. i'm attuned to the risk and i try my animal-best to navigate through the dangerous situation (see: the movie "gravity" and this perspective from frank de winne, an astronaut on the ISS).

fear paralyzes you when you need to do rapid problem-solving to get out of a potentially physically dangerous situation. you are so gripped by the "but what if i get hurt!" thought (aka fear) that you can't start figuring out a solution to the problem.

the solution to fear is to accept that something physically dangerous and/or painful WILL happen to you. (for example: property crime). you accept that when you cross the street you may be murdered by a car, usually (barring personal circumstances) without experiencing the kind of paralyzing fear that might make you freeze and grab onto your seat when the plane starts shaking with turbulence.

if you find yourself in a potentially vulnerable situation, try to find the most defensible position. then you can feel confident while you improve your defenses.

if your defensive strategy is to retreat into the shadows (see: "revealing the leopard" documentary), just remember that you might find yourself in a corner, boxing yourself up in a box that is too small for you to actually live in. don't kid yourself into thinking that you can actually live in a too-small box. one's humanity has a way of leaking out. so if you do find yourself in a box, start looking for escape hatches immediately - ideally before you even start boxing yourself up. and beware denial! there is no shame in discovering that you have been trapped. there's only forward.

on the other end of the spectrum is "hmm...how could i MOST take advantage of the situation i find myself in?" it's a learnable perspective (see: carol dweck "growth mindset"). if it doesn't come naturally to you, that's ok. just try to remember to ask yourself that question when you're in a tough spot. with practice, it'll become more natural.

2016-07-04T14:05-0700

moving forward when you can't predict what you'll be capable of doing at a given time in the future

keep at least 3 ideas in your head at any given time. move on the ones that it's easiest to move on. reevaluate where you're at regularly. if you're able to make consistent progress on one idea, just follow it until you run out of easy juice ("juice" meaning "the stuff that comes out when you squeeze your brain out). then decide again what to do next. when deciding, it may help to write out all of the ideas you can think of. and if you've forgotten some, guess they weren't that important anyway and if they pop up again, you'll act on them then.

i've started this blog to keep track of things i've figured out that seem useful to remember

do most people have too many thoughts to have time to write them all down? in my mind "having too many good thoughts" is the province of the self-deluded. of course the only way that you can trust your own judgment of the quality of your thoughts is to convince yourself that you're NOT one of the self-deluded. but that would be pointless because you'd never have access to whether or not you were being "rational" about that - whatever "rational" could possibly mean. so given the knowledge that you, too, might be one of the self-deluded... and this is where i pause and remember that my discoveries and thoughts are useful to myself, and are therefore worth preserving.

au naturale hamster habitat

having recently become co-guardians of a hamster, my friend and i needed a way to contain the hamster because it had chewed through the cardboard box it came in. my friend found a large goldfish-bowl-vase in the backyard and jokingly suggested we use it. but it was actually a good idea - the hamster can't climb up the glass walls. we filled the vessel with things that were around: grass and dried leaves, some flowers, two large pieces of apple ("this will be your food and your drink"), and large, dry magnolia leaves to create a bit of a tent.

we watched to see if our enclosure was working (can the hamster get out? will the hamster be ok in it?) and made adjustments here and there. the magnolia leaves actually ended up being very effective because they are too big and slippery for the hamster to climb very reliably, so they offer shade without providing a way to escape.

here's what our habitat looks like:

the hamster has successfully overnighted in the habitat. i refilled it with a few fresh flowers and grass and readjusted the magnolia leaves as necessary. the hamster is calm and hidden in its nest.

a few lessons learned:

  • the hamster likes shade, cover, and dark. whenever it got very active it calmed down significantly if given more roughage to nest in, better shading, a spot away from lights.
  • if it escapes, it may not go very far. our hamster escaped the habitat once but we found it under some papers about a foot away.
  • an au naturale habitat smells like nice potpourri and looks pretty cool.
  • the habitat is like an ant farm for the dogs. the two dogs here have really enjoyed watching it so far.
  • if you have cats or an easily-escapable habitat, you'll need a cover.

new mosaic: metal and shells on wood

i made this while visiting my parents in chicago.

the tiles are leftovers from my parents' recent kitchen remodel. they are on a mesh and include natural stone tiles and stone tiles that have metal strips glued on them so that they look like metal tiles.

the shells are from my mother's collection of shells she's gathered.

at first i was planning on only using the tiles and making something in the visual style of nude descending a staircase. (NOTE: photographs of all artworks discussed in this post are below.) but then my mom showed me her shells and they were so cool that i decided to use them as well.

in the end i tried to go for something in the vein of "metal garbage under the sea that's being taken over by sea creatures and broken shells" without hiding the hard edges and lines created by the tiles. by that point i was mostly being inspired by the work of lee bontecou: "Her best constructions are at once mechanistic and organic" [from wikipedia].

finally, i was inspired by a mosaic i saw recently by lazar vozarevic at the belgrade youth center. it's a huge work that uses a muted palette of natural stone and smalti. i returned to the youth center the day after i first saw it to take a closer look, and began to more appreciate the palette, materials, and colors. i realized the extent to which i had ignored this type of palette and that it is very much possible to create an interesting palette with colors that evoke the junkyard. given that i find myself working with garbage a lot of the time, this is a useful thing to keep in mind. so i kept this bronzey, tan, black-with-soot palette in mind and it influenced me when i made this piece.

"nude descending a staircase" by duchamp (1912). image in the public domain.

"untitled 1959" by lee bontecou. photograph CC-BY-NC-SA by Dave.

lazar vozarevic mosaic in belgrade

closeup of lazar vozarevic mosaic in belgrade showing the use of natural stone and smalti tiles.

lazar vozarevic mosaic in belgrade

lazar vozarevic mosaic in belgrade


metal and shell mosaic details:

  • materials: shells, rocks, sea glass, wood, glue, natural stone tile, stone tile with metal glued on top.
  • back: wood i found in my mom's wood pile. i sprayed it with deck waterproofing laquer from a spray can. i left it to dry 24 hours before beginning to glue.
  • glue: liquid nails "small projects" glue
  • i left the mosaic ungrouted because grout gets into the nooks and crannies of natural stone and shells and would probably ruin the whole thing. also i liked the effect of everything piled up like sea floor garbage. and the wood looked fine peeking through.


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