Friday, February 26, 2016

art v. craft



Dear Crafty Person Who Uses Their Hands in Skilled Ways,

Years ago, I had a much clearer boundary drawn between art and craft-  it went like this:

      Can you use it?  It's not art.

      Is it photography?  It's probably not art.
These facile distinctions make for good jokes, but they don't shed any light on what art is or why it isn't craft.  Hence, I have retreated into the greyness between art and craft.  I no longer use my mind to attempt the double back flip of telling anyone what art is not.  Our discourse on what is art has become a little too vague to participate in.  We are not yet defeated, though, because we can define a related term:  Ornamentation.

Your coffee cup holds liquid for you to drink without Donald Duck being printed on it- The image of Donald is ornamentation, and your cup is a utilitarian item. 

Also, it probably isn't art.  It might not even be craft, but it is an ornamented object.  Ornamentation does not affect function.  Your cup works even if Donald wears off after years of use.  So, today, an ornamentation project of mine, please to not be confused with art, or even craft.



This is my freshly ornamented helmet.  Helmets, as you know, have a shelf life.   I suppose it's that the plastic becomes brittle, or the styrofoam degrades.  My beloved previous helmet was a shiny hot pink, dated 2008.  Helmet-wearers are advised to replace them every five years. 
Water-mounted decal paper was used in an ink jet printer to make this large pair of moths to adhere to my helmet.  The moth images came from a beautiful printed calendar a pal gave me years ago.  The decal paper is easily purchased online.  Like the decals you had in your plastic kit models, they are water slip decals- easily applied with water.  On very slick surfaces (like the top tube of my bicycle) they are also easily scratched off, but they leave no sticky residue or any trace of their existence.  I applied a matte acrylic varnish over the top of these moths on my helmet to help preserve them.  I have worn it and banged it around in my skate bag for 2 months now, and it seems to be holding up very well.

I bet you will find a lot of things in your immediate locale that call for ornamentation with water-slide decals:  Perhaps that coffee cup with nothing but two duck feet left on it could use a new decal....


Monday, February 22, 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Medium for the Message

Dear All,

A message today, an exhortation, for you, from the world of the poets.  Enjoy the subsequent scavenger hunt.

One of the props

I'm afraid I'm an evangelist
of sorts when it comes to

Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance
speech. I have quoted it and

paraphrased it, read it over
the phone to friends far away,

defended it, and listened to
Faulkner himself mumble speedily

through it. It has become part
of the fiber of my very being.

Most importantly, though, it
has, in fact, kept me alive

on many terrifying nights.
For your own good, read it.

-Todd Young.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016










Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pale Blue Dot Valentine



Dear Readers,
February is the month of the Dodo's birth, or more properly, its unveiling, its debut.  We enter our fourth year together, and it is a good time to renew our vows:  Of course I still love you.  Hurry and join me in loving all these things, all this world of variety and interest-  spice and sugar are everywhere!
To clarify further, I attended a recent pipe organ concert (I collect them, you know) and the organist, Cameron Carpenter, was speaking to the audience about Bach's passacaglia.   He explained that it contained everything, like *Mandelbrot; a mathematics thing that everyone loves to love but remains  arcane to me as a metaphor;  but the point that was clear to me was that he meant everything in the Universe and he very carefully delineated what all he meant by everything.  I mean to say to you here and now that you mean everything to me, and I mean that you mean everything in the universe.
* However, ask me anything you like about almond bread and we may converse fluently!
More on the pale blue dot.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ten Armed Bandit

Dear Every One,
The episode of the burnt cookies has not learned me one bit-   I continue to warn you about the dangers of communication technology, even as I use it to speak to you here.
I surprised myself by being almost outraged* by the idea of whole academic arenas and think tanks  devoted to keeping us steadily devicing (it's a new, annoying verb-form: shed a quick tear and file it with the other ones: sciencing, gifting, etc.).
Read it for yourself, here.  See the awful series of photos, too, if you can stomach it.
Until we meet again.
*  Usually I just feel very quietly sad and hopeless about this kind of thing.

The Invisible Woman.


Hello  Dears,

I had a plastic model kit when I was a youth: The Visible Woman.  Her skin was clear plastic, with veins, I think, and the skeleton fitted inside of it, and all the organs could also be fitted around the plastic bones.  You painted parts of it, as I recall, the lungs, a lot of things with interesting, sculptural shapes that I cannot remember the names of.  I really loved this model; to take it apart, and fit it back together-  I never wanted to glue it, because then you would not be able to take each piece out and feel its shape- what's more, you'd have had to choose whether you would glue in the fetus or not:  Was the visible woman a Mother, a creator of life, a nurturer of the future generations?  Or was she a care-free single gal, a free-spirited Muse who could toss her things into a ruck sack and take off for a month?  Hard choices.  I'd be damned if I was going to make them.

About a month and a half ago, I got that Carrie Brownstein haircut I have been wanting.  This wouldn't have been anything worth mentioning to you, except for the fact that I had let my hair grow quite long, over the last three years.  When I had it cut, two/thirds of it, old, ancient hair from the time before the big trees, was swept up and tossed out.  That was great- the entire reason I was willing to face growing it long in the first place was the anticipation of the delicious pleasure of seeing it fallen all around me.  Molly Ringwald calls long hair 'boyfriend hair.'  I was looking ahead, to a time where having long hair would have felt even more ridiculous, so I grew it longer than it had ever been in all my years.  But, you are right, this is nothing in geological time, and so what of it?

The thing is, only one person noticed.  Now isn't that odd?  I have been waiting for people to mention it to me, but now, nearly seven weeks later, I have come to the conclusion that no one is going to notice.  I have become, as they say that you do, old enough to be invisible.  Now, now, let's shed no tears over it- I knew this day was coming, you read about it everywhere!  The thing I was not prepared for was that I would become invisible to the people I know.  I thought it would be strangers, employers, silly boys, young women in form-fitting stretchy fabrics;  hip people, pop musicians, and the well-heeled.  I wasn't going to miss their notice in the first place.  But, the people I see each week?  Who knew I would become invisible to them? 

I think, because I like to think the things I like, that I will chalk this up to achieving a presence that has gone beyond the visible.  Yes, you should share this little joke with me, and then you should adopt it, preemptively, as your new mantra.  There is power, my dear sisters, even in being invisible.
If you doubt me, try something subversive and see if you don't get away with it easily.  Here is another little something.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Your Song to Play for Today.

Dear Lucky Stars,
Say, I thought you might need this song, because you might soon go camping, in California, in winter.  If you are not going camping, it is still an absolutely fabulous song-  why?  Because their are just three easy chords, it repeats and repeats, the lyrics are by Woody Guthrie, and the simple tune by Billy Bragg and Wilco.  Yep; it's a keeper!
Listen once and play it for the rest of your life!


California Stars

         D           A           E 

Verse 1:
I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight
On a bed of California stars
I'd like to lay my weary bones tonite
On a bed of California stars

Verse 2:
I'd love to feel your hand touching mine
And tell me why I must keep working on
Yes, i'd give my life to la my head tonight
On a bed of California stars

Verse 3:
I'd like to dream my troubles are away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from a starbed and make another day
Underneath my California stars

Verse 4:
They hang like grapes on vines that shine
And warm the lovers glass like friendly wine
So, I'd give this world just to dream a dream with you
On our bed of California stars