Thursday, December 20, 2007


Driving over the bridge in the dune buggy we passed this van, which when combined with our vehicle formed the Scooby Doo fleet... It was kind of a marvelous feeling. Wouldn't it have been cool to just follow that van through San Francisco like a kind of mini-parade for those in the know?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Every day is sunset season

Lucky for me I see the sun set over San Francisco almost every day. Tonight's was especially spectacular: just at the end this cloud lit up and caused a blue rift across the orange sky.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wee Grub

Two days ago a wee grub hatched from an acorn I'd collected months ago. We found him crawling around on top of an old parmesan container. The way he moved looked as though he were stuck in a sleeping bag. We gave him some cabbage leaves to eat and he spread them around, but after a while his creeping slowed. I thought he should be archived (as any mortal should) and I began to take a video with my camera. He scootched, scootched, and then went straight out of exactly the top left corner of the video. It was as though he and I had prearranged it: as though I knew beforehand where he would go, or as if he knew I was filming it all. The video lasted thirty seconds. Afterwards I took him outside and put him in a potted plant, so at least he had a little more control over his own destiny (and diet). I took a single photo of him outside before he disappeared forever.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Edward Weston is alive and well

Okay, well, maybe just in my head.

Tower Real Estate

Many people are looking for real estate to purchase these days, whether it's their first home, an investment or a vacation property. I found many new multi-dwelling homes opening up right outside the tower where I work after recent rains. I was impressed by the many options available.

Here are apartments located in an industrial area. Very good rental property:

This one I'm saving for Jamie Schulte, who doesn't mind living in small studio apartments. Desert location, south-facing windows make it a good place to grow avocados and basil.

Comes furnished with a small upholstered ottoman.

Homes with large lots, good for gardening and sharing tools and tea and gossip with your neighbors on adjacent properties.

I think they did a lovely job with this remodel: I love the dusty browns of the exterior, don't you?

New parents: there are several playhouses on this property, and very nice high ceilings so you can have tall Christmas trees.

If you are looking for a property in a planned community, this would be your best bet.

An aerial view of the property gives you an idea of how spacious these lots are.
Here you see that you can easily move between the living-space and the outer cottage bedrooms without leaving the sheltering roof.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reusing Tea Tins

I hate to throw away those nice little round tea tins, but haven't found them very useful for holding anything else since I can't ever tell what's inside... I finally figured out that you can just wrap them quickly in brown paper and then write what's inside and the date. Then when that stuff runs out, I can cross out the old writing and write something new. In this way I can use the same brown paper for years! Alternately you could use pretty paper to wrap them (wrapping paper, newspaper, art store paper...).

To do it quickly, I just rolled the tin along the edge of the paper and drew a little dot where I wanted to cut the paper. Then I used the book as a straight edge and connected the dots. I cut the paper and then used that as a template to cut a few more sheets. I used Scotch tape to attach.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Pear Tree Lamp.

Nick Foley created this amazing lamp. Each bulb is composed of LEDS, an autonomous charging ciruit and a rare earth magnet so that you can pick a 'pear' off the 'tree', and it will remain illuminated for up to an hour!

I'm not even much of a home-furnishings kind of person, (Arwen and Andrea hold down that fort!) but it is just such a delicious (erm, sorry) mix of technology and art and fantasy. If only things manufactured in the world were as (and more!) beautiful, useful, and environmentally of low impact, I would be very pleased. Sometimes I really do think that aesthetics are the way to go, for better or worse, in terms of getting people to make more sustainable choices...

Thanks to Phil at the makezine blog for pointing it out!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Already it is the Future!

Here is a wonderful old propaganda film by none other than General Electric from the Prelinger Archives depicting the history of electricity in the United States. A great study of propaganda in general and a frightening/inspiring look at what GE was trying to accomplish back in the day, including a list of modern household, agricultural and industrial innovations, and possible new realms of electricity generation (they mention that home atomic generators probably won't be developed and they talk about harnessing the energy of the sun through photosynthesis).

I wonder a bit about the significance of the fact that the word communism is never actually used, so that the freedom from tyranny line seemed to me to come out of left field with no overt enemy. I suppose back then it really wasn't necessary to spell it out, however. Everyone knew that it was the domino effect we were afraid of, but I think it's an interesting manifestation of the way the Cold War was fought, in this underhanded, irrational, unspoken kind of way.

Look! Already it is the Future! Here is greater freedom from drudgery than ever before! Today Freedom and Power are inextricably linked. But now our freedoms are threatened by forces that would crush our liberties and tyrannize the minds of men. Against these forces we have the weapons of Freedom, Courage, Faith and The Creative Spirit. And we have the tool that built our way of life: Productivity. With this productivity we can add to our freedoms and defend them (this is accompanied by an image of an infinite stream of war planes).

Double points if you decide to watch a newer piece of propaganda from the same company... Ah! The evolution of propaganda from the cosiness of your own Personal Computer.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Remembrance of Things Past

Conde Nast has done something quite wonderful: they're opening up the classic photo archive of House & Garden and selling the prints. While magazine photography has always been looked down upon by the art world, I've always been captivated by those glossy pages. And, in retrospect, the spreads are works of art; photographers like Andre Kertesz, Horst P. Horst and Cecil Beaton made their mark. Check out their store; it's like a who's who of classic design, with portraits of Aldous Huxley and Alfred Hitchcock, as well as shots of "An Elegant Tea" and "Leisure Furniture Heads for the Sun" (above). There's something absolutely magnificent about the head-on collision of dated parties and utterly timeless moments.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Clip-On Earrings

I have a ton of old clip-on earrings that I've either inherited from my great-grandmother or collected from junk sales (I can't shake the desire to be prepared for playing dress-up with ten-year-olds at a moment's notice). I recently came up with a new way to use them in the everyday, though. If you were giving someone money or just like to keep money in a drawer (I like to stash a little in case I can't get to an ATM) you can use clip-on earrings as a money clip. Depending on the sturdiness of the earrings, you can only do a few bills at once.

Monday, July 30, 2007

my prince of Egypt: an expression

In 1982, Mr. Bergman announced that he had just made his last theatrical film — it was “Fanny and Alexander,” a look at high society in a Swedish town early in the last century that was in part inspired by his own childhood.

“Making ‘Fanny and Alexander’ was such a joy that I thought that feeling will never come back,” he told Ms. Kakutani. “I will try to explain: When I was at university many years ago, we were all in love with this extremely beautiful girl. She said no to all of us, and we didn’t understand. She had had a love affair with a prince from Egypt and, for her, everything after this love affair had to be a failure. So she rejected all our proposals. I would like to say the same thing. The time with ‘Fanny and Alexander’ was so wonderful that I decided it was time to stop. I have had my prince of Egypt.”

—taken from the New York Times' obituary of Ingmar Bergman

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The notation of spaces and objects by frequency?

I found the RESONANCE OF THE SINK! I was doing dishes, and singing to myself, and all of a sudden, one note just rattled my skull, it was really loud, and I could hear it all through my face! (The frequencywas properly re-inforced by the shape etc. of the sink as I was leaning over it.)

My favourite contemporary composer, Maryanne Amacher talks about the size of sound in various mediums, and composes what she calls Third Ear Music, sound that exploits the hearing mechanism's tendencies at certain intervals to interpret tonal information as spatial information. She claims that in this process, the inner ear is caused to vibrate and also emit sound. Made up of specific combinations of intervals, it sounds like a rotating tone in your ear, and is different depending on where you stand in the room, or even how you move your head! Whatever is happening (I've been trying to get to the bottom of it for ages) it is truly an amazing experience. Although a lot of her work is difficult to document on cd, there are a few Third Ear pieces on an album called Sound Characters on tthe Tzadik label.

This is what I want to be an expert in. The notation of spaces by frequency.

P.S. I just heard about a festival in Scottland, called, (drumroll), Resonant Spaces, that takes place in various locations selected specifically for their unique acoustics. Ranging from an oil rig to cliff caves by the sea, the festival features different artists who focus on the physical properties of sound in their work. Guess you'll know where to find me next year...

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Here's a flickr set of the port of oakland as seen from the ferry ride between Alameda and San Francisco (I take it most every day to get to work and Arwen takes it quite often to come visit). Goods movement is not the greatest thing for the planet, mostly because the ships that sail internationally are not regulated (too hard to enforce?), but it is fascinating and I am learning about it over time. Stilgoe (Arwen's professor from back in the day) says that one can learn a lot from looking at the place around you and asking questions. In this way I have learned (among other things): where Monrovia is and why it is called Monrovia, which bird is a coot and which is a grebe, which shipping company is the biggest in Hawaii, and I have watched over months some of the process of steel recycling at Schnitzer Steel (my favorite because of an old sign they have by the side of the channel that shows a crocodile munching on three cartoon cars).

Friday, June 15, 2007

Drip irrigation

I saw this in the neighbor's yard—a very cheap drip irrigation system. This way the water has time to soak deep into the soil and you don't have to stand there watering for an hour a drip at a time or have all the topsoil get hard or run off. All you do is drill out a hole in a plastic bucket, put a stick through the hole and then fill the bucket with water so that moisture seeps out slowly through the cracks and fibers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Plant Gallery

On my way to and from work I pass a long, empty and abused parking lot. People fish from its edge, which abuts the channel between Oakland and Alameda (we look over the channel at the Port of Oakland, one of the busiest ports in Northern California). From drainage pipes that dot the curb sprout weeds that began to look like gallery pieces to me after a while, kind of like natural bouquets because a few plants were isolated against a neutral background. These photos hardly do it justice. They were taken at sunset, which is now at about 8:30.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Painting with Stuff

This fairy-tale spread in Le Figaro (I'm guessing this is the French equivalent of the New York Times Style section) completely caught my imagination. Not because I'd actually want my dining room to look this way, but because every single item on the table and in the room is literally dripping with such exquisite attention. Overall, the look is a bit much for my taste, but I love the idea that everything in a room should have as much attention paid to it as everything else. It takes the idea of the still life to the next level: in a photograph or painting, each object is hallowed by the glance, made important by its inclusion. Without being documented, it's not always clear why things are the way they are. In the vein of living as art that I am currently pursuing, since making art as art didn't really work out so well, choosing each object in a room is like painting with stuff. Plus, now I really want to figure out how to crochet that damn chair.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What You Need to Grow Old Gracefully

So we've been thinking a lot about what it takes to grow old gracefully. We know people who have, so it can be done. (Despite what Nora Ephron says. In an interview with Deborah Solomon for the New York Times, the author of I Feel Bad About My Neck responded to Solomon's comment "If nothing else, the aging process has furnished you with some good 'material' " with "Any catastrophe is good material for a writer." Don't break our hearts, Nora. We know it can be better than that.)

Our godmother, Rosemary, herself a glowing example of the beauty of old age, introduced us to Colette, who wrote the following passage:


You ask me to come and spend a week with you, which means I would be near my daughter, whom I adore. You who live with her know how rarely I see her, how much her presence delights me and I am touched that you should ask me to come and see her. All the same I am not going to accept your kind invitation, for the time being at any rate. The reason is that my pink cactus is probably going to flower. It's a very rare plant I've been given, and I'm told that in our climate it flowers only once every four years. Now, I am already a very old woman, and if I went away when my pink cactus is about to flower, I am certain I shouldn't see it flower again.

So I beg you, sir, to accept my sincere thanks and my regrets, together with my kind regards.

This note, signed 'Sidonie Colette, née Landoy,' was written my mother to one of my husbands, the second. A year later she died, at the age of seventy-seven.

Whenever I feel myself inferior to everything about me, threatened by my own mediocrity, frightened by the discovery that a muscle is losing its strength, a desire its power or a pain the keen edge of its bite, I can still hold up my head and say to myself: 'I am the daughter of the woman who wrote that letter—that letter and so many more that I have kept. This one tells me in ten lines that at the age of seventy-six she was planning journeys and undertaking them but that waiting for the possible bursting into bloom of a tropical flower held everything up and silenced even her heart, made for love ... Let me not forget that I am the daughter of a woman who bent her head, trembling, between the blades of a cactus, her wrinkled face full of ecstasy over the promise of a flower, a woman who herself never ceased to flower, untiringly, during three quarters of a century.' "

Here's our list.

Things to help us grow old gracefully:

Kiehl's sunscreen, maybe other kinds too (Vichy)
Colette's Earthly Paradise
beet, carrot, ginger juice (or any other combination)
subscriptions to Vogue

Regular river/pond/ocean swims
M. Minnaert (he wrote the book about light physics.)
vintage acid in your freezer

homemade ice cream
cool water
midnight hot tubs
toenail polish
fresh flowers
temporary tattoos
the mens (particularly their bums)

lots of music
dinner with friends (particularly at a long table out of doors)
candlelit baths
beer gardens
bulbs, and other flowers
basil seeds and other vegetables
small vases
nice textiles
books, lots of them
canes not walkers

Friday, May 25, 2007

Paper Cuts

I've lately been falling in love with a new generation of art works on paper. While drawing is clearly some part of the process, Peter Callesen and Kako Ueda are using the fragility and clean lines of paper to create works that are half drawing and half sculpture.

Peter Callesen's technical mastery and delicate hand take my breath away, but his utter fearlessness as he marches through some seriously sentimental topics, coming out largely unscathed, gets a nod of respect. I wouldn't touch fairy tale castles, caged angels, or hummingbirds and flowers with a 10-foot pole, but I mostly love it when he does. I'm also tickled by his dedication to process; most works proudly display just how each work was crafted. A skeleton rises from the silhouette of its former body, a fairy-tale castle looms over the shores of its own floor plan, and colorful flowers droop from white outlines. While he seems to relish the whiteness of plain paper, he also loves the shock of mixing the two (check out those flowers, which seem to literally bleed color). Callesen plays with the border between two- and three-dimensional space, and creates a surprisingly sturdy magic from the flatness of paper.

Kako Ueda, on the other hand, loves white as the background, the wall serving to highlight the dramatic red, black, or multi-colored silhouettes. Taking a page from 's book, she (he?) plays off of the exaggeratedness of old cartoons, but pulls in imagery from botanical illustrations as well, fusing them into a joyous but sometimes uneasy relationship. Ueda, too, plays with the fairly serious themes of nature, death, monsters, and beauty, proving that you don't need a pen to tackle the world. Paper and Scissors Rock.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Harry Smith Anthology Re-mixed

I recently contributed to my first art show, a visual tribute to the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music. The show opened on Tuesday in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, and features the work of 84 different musicians and artists who were each asked to illustrate a track from the Anthology.

For those of you that aren't familiar with Harry Smith's Anthology, it is truly a staggering collection of folk songs recorded in the 1920's, and compiled by Smith, an avid collector, in the 1950s. Many musicians in the collection, such as Mississippi John Hurt, experienced a resurgence of interest in their music in the years after it was released, and went on to have successful careers on the folk circuit. (Not surprisingly, Smith collected other things as well! He believed himself to be a leading authority on string figures from all over the world, and his extensive personal collection of paper airplanes can now be seen at the Smithsonian Institute's National Air and Space museum.)

For my contribution to the show I chose Hurt's Spike Driver Blues, track NO. 80, and this is some of the information that I gathered about it in the process of drawing:

Spike Driver Blues is part of a roster of songs about the working
man's hero, John Henry. These songs are often traced back to an event that purportedly occurred about ten years after the emancipation proclamation, in which a man challenged a steam engine to a race, and won, only to die of exhaustion. In a bittersweet twist of fate, just as freed slaves began to enter the work force, (often labouring in conditions little better than
slavery), their jobs began to be usurped by new forces of technology.

The significance of Mississippi John Hurt's dignified and intimate version of the story lies partially in this balance: refusing to die like John Henry, a hero, he lays down his hammer and walks away from the mountain.

P.S. FYI, there was a mix-up, and the original tracks that my band-mate Kyle and I chose to illustrate were switched! (I am shown and justified as having illustrated K.C. Moan.) The mistake is corrected online, but alas, not in the booklet accompanying the show. You can see both versions of the commentary and works here. (It's actually kind of funny seeing each of the drawings justified as two different things!)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Old ladies are beautiful

My grandmother and her sister came to visit a few weeks ago, and I took them to their favorite clothing store, the Goodwill. (Actually, we went to the Goodwill outlet, which is really taking it to the next level.) Grandma couldn't decide about a shirt, and then said: "Well, not that it matters what I wear anyway!"

I wanted to tell her how beautiful I think she is, but I knew she wouldn't believe me. So I took this photograph of her a few days later, breathing in the scent of some huge pale pink rhododendrons (her favorite shade of her favorite color). I think old ladies are just as beautiful as young ones, or maybe even more: their translucent skin, and halo of white hair, and everything they know hidden in their eyes. There's something particularly ravishing about old ladies in spring, still full of rapture, the soft pink of their faces up against the soft pink of blossoms, neither here on this earth for that much longer.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Greening the Desert

My father is a man of the earth; that is, he knows how to analyze soil by sight and what to add to make it soft and rich and fertile. When I was young he would brag that he could turn the Sahara into arable soil if he were given a chance (his plan involved some B-52 bombers that would spread compost and rock powder over vast tracts of land). Obviously it was a little impractical but I always liked to imagine it anyway, since desertification is such a seemingly unsolvable problem. This video, however, makes me think that perhaps my father wasn't so far from having a solution as I thought he was. Hearing about a land that was salty and dry that is now producing dates and figs is a good antidote to all the other stories I've been hearing lately about dying honeybees and global warming.

Pelayo in Andamarca

A very short video clip from Andamarca, in the Andes.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Flight Patterns

Absolutely beautiful New York Times article about birdwatching by Jonathan Rosen. Richard Barnes’s photographs will be shown at Hosfelt Gallery in New York this fall and were taken over two years in EUR, a suburb of Rome that Mussolini planned as a showcase for fascist architecture. In a single article we learn about starlings as pests, as poets, as augers and as a metaphor for ourselves as Americans. I love the last paragraph (the last three, really) but it won't do to just repost it here, because without the beginning the end would mean nothing at all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Green Revolution

Interesting thought in a New York Times article. "A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature and terrorism."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Christmas Tree Project

What happens to all the Christmas trees that get thrown away?