Monday, January 29, 2007

thought compost

I received my list of names today of people to whom I'm to send my Valentine postcards. This sketch was what I came up with after doing my six preliminary drawings. I did this sketch actual size of the postcard. I originally envisioned a vertical format but it turned into a horizontal one after I added more elements.

I hope they will enjoy my final creation but they may find my interpretation of a "valentine" to be a little bizarre if not downright dark. I was talking to my friend L. about it and he asked me if it was satirical. First I said, "no" but then, "I don't know"; then I said, "yes". Then I got to thinking about the rock band R.E.M. and how people often asked them to interpret their enigmatic lyrics. I think it was Peter Buck who spoke for the band, saying, "They're just songs."

I often don't know where my art comes from or why it comes out the way it does. My experiences in life cause me to look at things a certain way and when I sift through scraps of paper some images take hold of my fingers and before I know it they're essential elements of a composition.

While thinking about why my valentine came out the way it did I've had to start thinking about what valentine's day really means to me and that turning-over process is generating some good ideas, just as turning dead leaves and garbage in an enclosed bin produces rich black compost that helps plants grow.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

ethics give me a hotfoot

One of the hardest things about working on Sunday is that I'm usually the only person at a work station on this side of the building and the heat is usually not on. I have a blanket in my file drawer that I cover my legs with and I have a fuzzy jacket hanging on the wall that I use to cover my arms. I haven't been able to find a way to keep my fingers warm. It only takes 5 or 10 minutes before I have popsicle extremities. I sometimes get a cup of hot water or tea and keep it near me so that I can wrap my fingers around the warm china. It keeps my fingers from being truly frozen but doesn't help keep them limber. Someone up here has a portable heater hidden away and has given me permission to use it. Shhhh! no one's supposed to know. We're not supposed to plug these things in as they may blow out the server.

So is it ethical for me to use it? If I don't use it my health and my work suffer. There's a small likelihood it could blow the circuit but it's unlikely since I'm the only one with an appliance plugged in. Yet we've been told not to use heaters. I think the burden of ethical behavior is on the employer to give the employees a proper warm place to work. Don't tell anybody, ok?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

early thoughts

ok, I committed to making some kind of postcard for the Valentine's swap. I don't think I'll have time to make ten different designs so I'll start with just one and see how things develop. I was too tired to think when I got home last night but I awoke a few hours later in the wee hours of morning and picked up my sketchbook and a pen. I was surprised that a few ideas came through my fingers and established themselves on the page. Surely this is a vote for the Zen No-Thought method. Think without Thinking. Draw without Drawing.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

squirrel girl

Here's "Rufina" the squirrel stealing the bird food again. One of my first pics with the new lens I got yesterday. It's sharp!

The smallest things can really turn your attitude around. Last night on that 40-mile drive home I noticed 4 or 5 times I was paying more attention to the neon lights that line the freeway than I was to traffic around me. I realized I had probably come to the point of tiredness that I usually come to after days of working overtime that my brain and body are fried. As if to prove me right brain & body slept an extra hour this morning. Yep, I'm Fried.

Then I got an invite to a Valentine's Day postcard swap which would require some creative thought. I hesitated. I don't have time. My eyes are bloodshot. My brain is a turnip. Then I remembered that a deadline can sometimes wring blood from a turnip. So I signed up.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


After many months of waiting I had almost given up on ever getting this lens. I wondered if every Nikon owner in the world was trying to buy the 18-200 VR lens. I had been on at least 3, maybe 4 waiting lists since last June. Many fellow photographers yielded to their desire to possess the thing and forked over several hundred dollars more than the retail price to dealers on eBay. I couldn't afford that luxury so I kept waiting. About 3 weeks ago I found another dealer who was accepting backorders. They told me delivery was averaging about 4 weeks but I hardly believed them as I added my name to another waiting list. Imagine my surprise when just 3 weeks later UPS delivered a very welcome package to my door.

Of course a few platitudes came to mind: "Patience is a virtue", "When you least expect it, expect it!" and "the meek shall inherit the earth" which I translate as "the patient shall inherit the bargain-priced lens."

Thanks, Samy's!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Trucks

These four women from Bellingham, Washington are at once raunchy and ethereal. Their "I ain't takin' no crap from some jerk" attitude makes me wish I'd had role models like them when I was growing up. Most if not all of these tunes will never be played on the radio as there is profanity and/or sexual innuendo in abundance. The vocals range from punk-style screams to sweet rapping against electronic-pop backgrounds. Not for everyone, but I enjoyed almost every track.

My favorite rap from "3 a.m.": 3 am, drivin' my Mack, revved my engine when I saw him: boy in a dress, in distress, that's the kinda boy makes me arrest.....!" Do-wop vocals backed by pulsing bass.

or the sweetly nostalgic little-girl voices of "Bike" wafting from the jump-rope circle or hopscotch squares: "pedal, pedal, chain and metal, we went riding with the devil"

Rock on, Ladies!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

icicle chimes

The sun came out for a little while yesterday and here is one result of the melting and re-freezing of yesterday's ice. The chime's pipes are temporarily stuck together so I cannot tell how their tones would change with their icy coats.

For BEATLES fans: A two-hour program that originally aired in March 2003 playing an discussing some lost tapes (since recovered) made during the filming of "Let It Be". I what I said about the world not needing another Beatles' remix. These tapes are mostly PRE-mixed, raw energy. Enjoy!
The Lost Tapes
Mac users (I am one) won't be able to view the accompanying video but you can listen to the audio portion by clicking on the "windows media" button. I know, ugh!

Monday, January 15, 2007


I spotted a new visitor to the bird feeders. I think this is a yellow- rumped warbler. It definitely has a big yellow spot on its rump! There are several differently-named birds with similar markings but now I have this photo to help me identify it. It's noisy but I think the grain evokes the feeling of cold.

It's 23 degrees outside which is pretty cold to me. I listen to weather reports about Denver being -1 or Minneapolis being -14 and am so glad I don't live in a cold place. I'm like a bear when the temperature dips near the freezing zone. My blood turns to sludge and all I want to do is hibernate. I didn't go to work yesterday but the predicted disastrous weather conditions never materialized. The roads are worse today but I have to drive those 40 miles. I called my boss and everyone else got to work okay. I'll have to alllow myself 2 hours for the drive in case the HighFive overpass/mixmaster is frozen over.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

wintry weather

Today we're in the initial throes of the Arctic Blast that's pushing through North Texas. This is a view of the condensation on my 1890's window.

There was a time when these masses of cold air were called "Northers" by the local newscasters. Now it's "Arctic" air that gets pushed into the region. I wonder if this is a result of the media's efforts to avoid offending the many people who have moved to Texas from other parts of the United States. There was a time when, if you lived further north than Oklahoma or Arkansas, you were a Northerner or "Yankee" as most Texans called them. The word was almost spat from the lips and there was always that impression that the War Between the States was neither forgotten nor forgiven when you heard the term. I know, because I myself was one of those poor pathetic Northerners who moved to Texas before the great migrations of the 80's had begun and regularly had the term applied to my being. Now that the non-native Texans outnumber the natives you don't hear the term much, but when the invasion by legal U.S. citizens began the word "Yankee" was even subdivided into 3 separate terms: a "Yankee" was someone from up north; a "damn Yankee" was someone from up north who moved to Texas, and a "god damn Yankee" was one who moved here and brought a family with them.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Love by The Beatles

I've been briefly reviewing some of the music I listen to over in the "on my iPod" section, but the length of my critiques has been getting longer and I hate deleting all that mental exercise. (ha, ha!) I've decided to keep the iPod section as a teaser and let the longer critiques run as posts. I may change my mind but it's MY blog, after all.

Do we really need another Re-Mix of Beatles material? Maybe it's because I grew up listening to the "original" mixes of these songs, but I don't understand the popularity of this album. Aside from the a capella version of "Because" interspersed with the bird twitters of "Across the Universe" and a reverse-rendition of "Sun King" I felt this album was nothing more than an exercise in cleverness. It is indeed, very clever, and I'm sure Giles Martin may have as successful a career as his dad after working with him on this piece, but cleverness alone wears mighty thin mighty quickly. These pieces are meant to accompany Cirque Soleil's latest Las Vegas production and they're probably ideal as a backdrop to graceful acrobatics, but the album as a whole comes across as mere muzak. I prefer the energetic life of the originals.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

the past? what past?

excuse me, I am brain dead today. The 10-hour shifts are catching up with me and I have had to resort to a thesaurus to find the words my memory won't share with me.

This news item exemplifies one of the reasons I had wanted to leave Dallas for so long. The caption reads, "Preservation officials say the Haskell Avenue YWCA is one of East Dallas' few institutional buildings left standing from the early 20th century." There are many wonderful houses from the 1920's, 30's and 40's that I wouldn't have minded living in but the land is more valuable than the housing as people can buy a city lot, tear down the old house and build themselves a 3 or 4,000 square foot McMansion in its place. My friend M renovated a 1921 Craftsman house that had been set for teardown but in the meantime the house next door to her was demolished and a two-story duplex erected, and two houses across the street from her have been razed to make way for condos. Her house is so nice, but the neighborhood is being destroyed.

Dallas is one of those odd places which seems to have no history, and anything that seems to point to a hazy past is slated for destruction, unless there's a chance it might attract a major professional sports team to the city. I lived more than 30 years in the city of Dallas in Dallas County and I can't tell you from who or what or where the name originated. What attracted me most to McKinney was its celebration of its past. And I know that the city of McKinney in Collin County was named for Collin McKinney, who established the city in 1849.

Monday, January 08, 2007

the sofa syndrome

I couldn't resist ignoring my paperwork on Saturday to take a short walk in the sunshine. There's an old skateboard park nearby that I'd been wanting to shoot and I thought I'd best get over there asap as the bulldozers arrived last week and are busy demolishing the parking lot. I guessed the building would be next. I parked where they hadn't bulldozed yet and what did I find but a perfectly good, well in need of repair, but still what looked like a fairly good oversized chair. Of course I have no place for it in my house and it may have been out in the all-day rainstorm we had last week, but still I think of the potential. People will dump anything. Someone once told me they'd never seen so many mattresses on the side of the road as they'd seen in Texas. I think though that it's not so much a case of people deliberately dumping their mattresses as it is mattresses falling off poorly packed pickup trucks or the tops of cars as people try to move their belongings from one place to another. I've seen many a subcompact car driving on the freeway with mattresses perched precariously atop the roof and someone's arm reaching out the passenger window attempting to balance the thing. I realize it's very expensive to have someone move your stuff in a proper truck but these DIY attempts at moving just put the rest of us on the freeway in grave danger. Once I came around a curve on Stemmons Freeway and there was a huge sofa setting in the middle of the road. I was able to avoid it but the vehicle behind me was not so lucky and hit it head-on, sending sofa parts flying everywhere. Yesterday on LBJ Freeway I saw a bright red something up ahead on the freeway and on approaching it I saw a man apparently dragging a body across 3 lanes of 65mph traffic. It turned out to be a headless Santa Claus that had fallen from the back of his pickup truck. Wish I could've taken a picture of it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

paper pusher

My neighbor in Dallas has been picking up the mail the postal carrier keeps stuffing into our mailbox there. Even though it's been almost two months since we submitted our change of address information to the Postal Service we still get at least several pounds of mail at the old address every week. I understand their policy of not forwarding junk mail but I was surprised and a little shocked to find that my federal income tax package had not been considered important enough to forward to my new address.

Looking through the bag of letters I found they also do not forward letters from medical facilities or the monthly water bill; yet we recceive all duplicate offers for satellite tv service and the LL Bean clothing catalogs. I have to wonder if there's a "forwarding dictator" in each post office who arbitrarily designates which items are to be forwarded and which will languish at the old address to eventually become part of the landfill when the new tenants deposit the letters in the trash bin. I can see the tyrannical tsar, now, leaning back in his cushy office chair with his loafer-clad feet propped on his desk (I say "he" because I don't see the postal service assigning such a position to a woman). He's got a stack of stuff on his desk and he sifts through it a handful at a time, sailing letters to the left or to the right side of the office depending on his mood. Later, his minions gather the discordant piles and place yellow forwarding stickers on the paper from one corner, while simply tossing the rest back into the stream of usps confusion.

lucky me, I have my tax forms even sans yellow sticker. Today I begin my calculations.

Friday, January 05, 2007

unexpected art

Today we drove down to Dallas to work on the vacant house. It was disheartening to see how much work apparently needs to be done. I had to run an errand to a local store and passed by this Jiffy Lube station that has been closed for several years. I'd always wondered how the taggers missed it, as the blank white walls and plywood-covered windows would seem to be an ideal spot for artists out there on the edge. A few small tags appeared every now and then and once a piece of stickerart, but today the cinder blocks were adorned in glorious colors and crazy characters. It seemed to have been the site of a "Creature Party" apparently brought on by a vehicle with a flat tire. At least that's my conjecture from the note I found scrawled on one of the bricks. See more: Party at the Jiffy Lube

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I'm an Addict...

and Sugar is my Drug. I'm turning this blog temporarily into my own private meeting of S.A. (Sugarholics Anonymous). Probably will not do much good as I'll be stumbling on one of the 12 steps before you know it. Sometimes I think I can justify my addiction by consuming those lovely dark chocolates with the creamy centers, but then I find one of these ugly tasteless (and stale) honeybuns from Wal-Mart lying about the kitchen and I can't seem to stop myself popping it in the microwave for 12 seconds to get that gooey sickly icing all melty and then stuffing the damn thing in my mouth.

This has got to stop.

Sadly, my mom is an enabler and my main connection to sugar. She knows I have little willpower regarding sugar yet she buys these things and leaves them out where I can see them. I've repeatedly asked her to hide them when she buys them but I've become convinced she wants me to eat them. I don't know why. Is it possibly a nurturing thing? a regression to the times when Mommy provided sweets for her little darlings? Is it conscious or subconscious? I tend to think the worse, that she has some perverse reason for wanting me to fail. It's going to be a lot harder to kick this habit than it was when I lived alone and just refused to have the stuff in the house. Maybe I should ------- oh, that would be evil. Bwa, ha, ha.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

make a fuss over me

Yesterday I discovered Michael's blog of interesting records that he finds at boot sales (See "Boot Sale Sounds" link at right) and thought I'd post some pics of the few old items I still have in my collection. I have tended to collect all kinds of old objects, some found, some bought cheaply, but have had to part with many of them as I downsized my living quarters over the years.

This is probably the oldest record I own. It's not a wax cylinder but I don't know what it's made of except it's a black brittle shellac-like substance about 3/16" thick. The title of the selection is "Make a Fuss Over Me" from the Columbia company. In parentheses is the word (Baritone). I haven't done any research but maybe the title is familiar to someone (Michael?). Unfortunately I have no device on which to play this record and it would do me little good if I had as the cylinder is broken. But I treasure it just the same.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

the Chi of Pipes

I was asking myself why I've been having so many problems with my plumbing lately when it occurred to me that the flow of Chi is sometimes equated with the flow of water. When you design or decorate a house using the principles of Feng Shui you must take into account the flow of Chi through the house. You don't want it to be blocked yet it mustn't rush through like a torrent. So I got to thinking maybe I can learn about my own Chi by thinking about my home's drainage problems. However, as "Mr. Ekko" from "LOST" warned, "Don't confuse coincidence with fate."

There are two things that my pipes may be telling me. First, the warning that my creativeness is being blocked and I must work to unblock the obstructions so it can flow better. Second, that the obstruction to the flow is a lot of old crap in my psyche that I need to let go of. So maybe I should be thanking my pipes instead of cursing them.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Day One

January 1st, the arbitrary day set by most of western cultures to begin the new year. It will be a first Monday and my first day of work this year, unlike the majority of folks who will have their first holiday of the year and probably their first major hangover to go with it. To those who read my blog, I thank you, and wish you and yours a happy and prosperous Year to Come.

More than that, I hope you can make each step and each moment new, that you may see with new eyes the everyday things that make your life special, that you may live in the Eternal Now with as much joy as you can muster.