Thursday, July 29, 2010

the first capitalist

Crow dropped by for a quick visit earlier today and told me about the first capitalist so I did a quick (and lazy) sketch to go along with the other story from his archives.

Imagine if you will a time long ago, an island filled with coconut trees, a veritable tropical paradise for all the happy monkey families who lived there. Although their diet mostly consisted of delicious coconuts, sometimes they went fishing or looked for berries just to add a little variety to their meals.

One day an odd monkey - one who had never fitted in very well with the tribe - decided to guard a particular coconut tree and charge the other monkeys a fee of a fish, or an oyster, or a handful of berries for the privilege of climbing the tree to harvest a coconut. The other monkeys laughed and ran off to get their coconuts elsewhere.

That night, while the other monkeys were asleep, the strange monkey fashioned an axe and chopped down every coconut tree except for the one he had chosen to guard. He gathered all the fallen coconuts into a pile near that last coconut tree and waited for the others to awaken.

I won't tell you the rest as it's a story you already know.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

baffling solutions

When you live in apartment complexes sometimes you're lucky enough to have windows on two sides but it's rare to have all of them overlooking mountains, rivers, or forests. We spent nearly eight years living in an especially nice townhouse where our bedroom had the mountain/river view. The back room, however, the one that served as our guest room/movie viewing/game playing space looked out on cat walk accesses to other apartments and would presumably allow people to look inside our lighted room. The good news was that window was at the end of a 'U' and faced west.

I don't like blinds and most curtains are boring; stained glass would have been perfect but I didn't have any so what I decided to do that first spring was to make something that would mimic its effect but be light enough to rustle like leaves when the window was opened.

How did I do it? tissue paper, transparent inks, bristol board, polymer varnish, and butcher's string. I spread plastic all over the living room floor and sprayed many dozens of tissue paper with a solution of ink and water. As they dried I stacked them and sprayed more. The process to get enough took weeks. Meanwhile, I cut wide ovals, and long rectangles from the bristol board, hollowing each one to about half an inch. Once there was enough colored tissue I laid the ovals etc. on the plastic, painted the edges with varnish and began layering torn pieces of the thin paper varnishing the whole. Each piece you see here was layered 6 times between front and back. As the groups were finished I trimmed the excess tissue and hole punched for the string.

The target date for finishing the project was midsummer's day when I knew it would light up as the sun moved across the building. This is the photograph I took that afternoon of my little personal installation called 'Summer Gate'. It's gone now but I'm glad of the picture.

This one isn't so pretty, nor was it as complicated to make, but by the time we moved here I was thinking about prayer flags. Every other panel says Om Mane Padme Om in Tibetan script and on a summer day like this one it's nice to imagine blessings on the warm breezes coming through the kitchen window. The extra good news is they blow both ways. I like to imagine every little bit helps.

Friday, July 23, 2010

me and my bright ideas

In the midst of packing, or at least thinking about packing, I kept looking over at the corner of the living room where the silk dyeing supplies live. There's a fair amount still in the manufacturer's sealed containers but there was a complication and that was the large number of little jars of colors I'd mixed myself.

The silk painting projects required a number of different shades that don't just arrive on the doorstep pre-blended and besides that, I also use diffusants and thickeners to control the flow while I paint. That means I had dozens of 2 oz. jars at least half filled with dye that just might not be very secure in containers traveling a long distance. I could almost hear the Canadian customs agents demanding that everything be opened because weird colored chemicals were leaking out of a couple of boxes. That's an ordeal I'd rather not experience.

My first thought was to paint a few more scarves to use up the dyes but next thing I knew I was mixing more colors to get the effects I wanted. Obviously, that wasn't going to solve the problem so I came up with another idea, which is the one I've been working on for a couple of weeks. You see, since I have a lot of small pieces of white silk - both heavy and light - I've been dyeing them using the jar colors. One week the yellows - gold, bronze, sand, yellow green etc. and the next week the reds - coral, copper, crimson, russet, vermilion just to name a few. Tomorrow I'll be dyeing blues and greens and once again I'll have a big area of the living room floor covered in drop cloths, newsprint, jars, water, rubber gloves, paper towels, brushes and plastic drying racks. Once again, I'll be hoping the landlord doesn't decide to bring a potential new tenant to see the place. I hate having to keep everything tidy just in case..

I let the etsy space fade away a couple of months ago; I'm just not very good at that sort of thing. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean I won't be working on some new projects. In fact, I have one or two in mind that will make good use of some very prettily colored pieces of silk. What do you think of little stuffed beings wearing silk and beaded costumes? Some may even have wings, or tails, or scales. I don't know what I'll get up to next in the crafty side of things but whatever I make you'll see them here first.

Maybe I'll re-up etsy or seriously consider a web page. Then again, if you come to Halifax you may find me sitting by a quayside with handmade treasures for sale. Nah.. likely not.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

dream homes

You never know what you don't know until you find something new. I've long had a soft spot for the ephemeral paintings of houses done by Daniel Merriam but I never thought such places existed in real life until I stumbled across an article about the Ottoman Yalis of Istanbul.

You can read the article I linked to if you want but the brief story is that they were originally summer homes built by viziers on the shores of the Bosphorus. The earliest of them date from the 18th century and were considerably simpler than the ones that came later, but common to all was a central room called a sofa with a bay window set out over the water and an interior fountain. All were built of wood with tiled roofs and each had a men's wing where business and conversation could be conducted and a women's wing that was the family quarters. The first were painted red with ceilings arched and decorated like a traditional nomad tent, their inner rooms painted in rich colors with gold leaf and mother-of pearl highlights. As the European influence grew stronger they evolved into fanciful pale palaces with multiple salons, magnificent staircases, solaria and luxurious appointments hard for most of us to imagine.

I haven't been able to find any photographs of the insides of any private residences because, as you can well imagine, the ones that are left are some of the most expensive homes in the world. Since the fortunes of viziers came and went depending on the moods (or health) of a particular sultan, and as a result of them having been built of wood, many succumbed to rot or fire.

The day isn't far off when we'll be living in a place that overlooks the water and that will be nice, but oh, how much sweeter it would be to be on our way to an old yali on the Bosphorus. We could wake to soft, watery light pouring through stained glass arches, and drink strong Turkish coffee on the terrace while watching the brightly colored sails of the gulets dance toward the Aegean.

Friday, July 16, 2010

a Crow adventure

Crow himself is still away helping to guide his friends away from dangerous areas in the Gulf of Mexico but before he flew this time he left a story especially for all of you, his friends among humankind.

It's called educating Crow and can be found right next door at Adventure's Ink. I know it's been a while but I hope you'll enjoy it.

One thing that went a long way to inspire this tale was the magnificent storytelling ability of the famous Manga artist Osamu Tezuka. I've read several of his books this past month but my favorite will likely always be his interpretation in eight beautifully illustrated volumes of the life of Gautama the Buddha.

There's a good reason he was called the Godfather of Manga and that's because he invented the genre. Most I couldn't recommend but him I definitely would. Now I have to check out the next episode of 'Black Jack', the adventures of a renegade unlicensed surgeon.

and thanks to numb who helps keep me open to alternate art :-)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

what are words worth?

This is about some books I can't find. I think I had them here in Portland and if so, I must have loaned them to someone who forgot to return them or, knowing me, I probably gave them away. Italo Calvino's 'Cosmicomics' and 't-zero' would make perfect gifts for anyone who loves to read. In less than a paragraph, he can convey the vastness of the universe; in less than a chapter, he can describe the beauty of primeval Earth. It's amazing.

While looking for a place to buy the complete collection (both books plus some stories not published before) I found some paintings by Yan Nascimbene who began illustrating Italo Calvino's work a few years ago. They're beautiful paintings and this one certainly hints at Calvino's magic but I rather hope he doesn't attempt to illustrate my two favorites. These tales are best read and internalized in the old fashioned way. Visual media, even paintings by masters, can't compete with nuanced depths of well written prose or poetry.

Qfwfq is the narrator of 'Cosmicomics' and although it's hard to say simply who or what Qfwfq is, the truth is it doesn't matter because even though the stories are surreal they are quite ordinary events - except that they happen in quite un-ordinary contexts. Qfwfq may be understood as a sort of embodiment of life spirit, a being who has existed - along with family and friends - since the dawn of time.

In the beginning, before the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe was concentrated in a single point. Qfwfq can tell you about it: He was there.

"Naturally, we were all there—where else could we have been? Nobody knew then that there could be space. Or time, either: What use did we have for time, packed in there like sardines?"

All at One Point, in which people are "packed in like sardines," along with their furniture, their laundry, "all the material that was to serve afterwards to form the universe." They are stuck there until one of them, Mrs. Ph(i)nk0, exclaims, "Oh, if I only had some room, how I'd like to make some tagliatelle for you boys!" At that moment, Qfwfq and the others begin to picture "the space that her round arms would occupy," the space for the dough, the flour, the wheat for the flour, the sun on the wheat, the galaxy to harbor the sun . .

Calvino succeeds in making the unimaginable accessible to us, so that we can begin, at least mentally, to take leaps that span light-years.

"And at the bottom of each of those eyes I lived, or rather another me lived, one of the images of me, and it encountered the image of that beyond which opens, past the semiliquid sphere of the irises, in the darkness of the pupils, the mirrored hall of the retinas, in our true element which extends without shores, without boundaries."

While looking for excerpts to share I also came across his description of the time when the moon and earth were much, much closer than they are today. It's not a description you'd find in any astronomy text but his version is definitely a lot more fun to read:

At one time, according to Sir George H. Darwin, the Moon was very close to the Earth. Then the tides gradually pushed her far away: the tides that the Moon herself causes in the Earth's waters, where the Earth slowly loses energy.

How well I know!--old Qfwfq cried--the rest of you can't remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full--nights as bright as day, but with a butter-colored light--it looked as if she were going to crush us; when she was new, she rolled around the sky like a black umbrella blown by the wind; and when she was waxing, she came forward with her horns so low she seemed about to stick into the peak of a promontory and get caught there. But the whole business of the Moon's phases worked in a different way then: because the distances from the Sun were different, and the orbits, and the angles of something or other, I forget what; as for eclipses, with the Earth and Moon stuck together the way they were, why, we had eclipses every minute: naturally, those two big monsters managed to put each other in the shade constantly, first one, then the other.

Orbit? Oh, elliptical, of course: for a while it would huddle against us and then it would take flight for a while. The tides, when the Moon swung closer, rose so high nobody could hold them back. There were nights when the Moon was full and very, very low, and the tide was so high that the Moon missed a ducking in the sea by a hair's-breadth; well, let's say a few yards anyway. Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath, prop a ladder against her and scramble up.

In these stories linked together to describe the beginnings of everything and the end of some things human emotion is the one constant. In the Cosmicomics we discover jealousy, irritation, pride, generosity, and love. The most beautiful of all the stories may be that one quoted at the start, "In the act of making pasta, the universe can be imagined." In that moment of generosity, imagination, and love, Calvino says, our world and all of us were born.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

and the winner is:

Good morning all and felicitations for your fine efforts in cheering me up. It's been a difficult few months for my friends and I for reasons I'm sure you're aware of and so far there's no end in sight. The idea a problem can be solved by ignoring it is a foible strictly related to less evolved humans.

But never mind that for now. I'm here this morning to announce the results of the poem for a painting contest offered by susan earlier last week. The entries were all charming and if I could paint I'd send each and every one of you an original Crow. Alas, there is just one and keeping with the tradition of total randomness I awoke this morning to find sealed envelopes on my breakfast tray. I've chosen one of them:

The winner is Nancy. susan will send the picture, unframed but nicely packaged, when she gets your address.

Please forgive the brevity but I have an appointment far away in the Gulf of Mexico later today. One day soon I'll tell you a story from my fledgling days but for now I must fly.

➹ ψ

ps: Joe Bageant waxes eloquent this summer.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

summer night

Summer night -
even the stars
are whispering to each other.

a poem by Kobayashi Issa

It's been a while since I offered a small artwork as a prize but it's summer and the giving is easy. If you'd like an opportunity to win this miniature painting all you have to do is leave a poem (or a favorite verse) about the season as a comment. Oh what the heck, a poem if you like or if you prefer prose, just mention something about summer that brings you happiness.

Crow will choose a winner this coming weekend.

Friday, July 2, 2010


regarding susan's latest post, i can only add that my own personal feelings as far as this whole moving situation in general are best captured by this :) :

Thursday, July 1, 2010

getting from here to there

is fairly easy. All you have to do is check one of the airline booking agencies once you've decided when to go, then choose whatever connections appear easiest. They let you decide whether to ride up front in the big fat seats or in back where you may be less comfortable but won't have to put up with the nauseating stench of expensive cologne and filets mignon.

There are no new drawings or paintings to show and not because my work table has been covered in forms and legal documents, although that's been true as well, but because my mind has been full of such stuff. Over the past 8 months neither the Canadian nor the American governments have been a cause of delay. It's all been about the attorney, Phlegmatic Q. Stupor, taking a lot of time in his process with a few intermittent questions and weeks going by before he sent a few more. Our most recent concern was when he didn't send the documents for our signatures as promised. When we called to inquire he had his secretary, Ms Longsuffering, tell us lies about important conference calls. I mean, just how much crime and international intrigue could be happening in Halifax, NS? I guess we made a mistake hiring a firm called 'Apathetic, Dawdling and Idle'. Next time we'll know better. The papers finally arrived 10 days late and we only had to correct half a dozen of them so it all worked out.

Another pile of papers relate to our retirement income. Pension claim documents are lengthy and complicated affairs that contain all sorts of niggling details about paying taxes, post mortem spousal benefits, financial planning etc. Considering what we can expect to receive all of it is laughable even though it must be signed and documented.

Cleaning out our storage locker made the people at a local record exchange very happy when they got 8 cases of free cd's. Most of the stored books and movies went to Goodwill which left us with not too much to carry home. Since then we've been visited by representatives of a couple of large moving companies and are in the process of choosing one that's familiar with the complexities of moving stuff across borders. I politely refused their offers to pack everything including my underwear but they'd be happy to transport our little car.

We expect to be homeless (not having your belongings handy being our definition) for 10-12 days while the stuff travels so we have a decision to make whether to fly directly to Halifax and hang out while we wait or to have an adventure and drive ourselves the 4300 miles between here and there. I do know that neither of us ever wants to drive through the factory pig farm countryside of Iowa again, which is where Rte 87 goes. It's also true neither one of us enjoys flying anymore. That means our likely plan would be to drive the northerly route through Fargo, ND to Winnipeg where we could link up with the Trans-Canada Hwy for the rest of the drive.

Our 94 Geo Tracker has low mileage and has visited her mechanics often enough that driving ourselves may be the way to go. She (Fuschia) won't be the most comfortable ride but I'm sure she'd be happy to take us over the Cascades, through the Rockies and across the Great Plains to the Great Lakes and beyond to the Atlantic.

It might be fun but we're still mulling it over. Meanwhile, perhaps I need to go for a walk and look for a few stones that need a ride back.

¿ ✈