Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grimm Notes (see also: "Slithering, the Simplest of Gaits")

So if we're Facebook buddies, you already know about the recent call to artists which got me super excited. If not, here's the deal: in celebration of the 200th anniversary of published fairy tales by the brothers Grimm, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is asking artists to submit artwork springing from one of nine selected tales. How cool is that? On the one hand, these stories have centuries of illustration, tale re-imaginings and other artwork already, so what's new to say? And yet, they have also survived as long as they have, due to their complexity and weirdness. Of course, if you managed to come up with something intriguingly fresh, that would be a nice feather in your cap, right there...Even so, I ruled out a handful of their nine from ubiquity alone: Red Riding Hood, unless you knock on my door with a stunning basket of goodies, I'm SO not venturing near your Grandma's house.

Flipside: The White Snake is new to me and up my alley. Insight and power through transgressive eating! Talking animals! False accusations! I am about half-done the initial sketch for a prospective design. In some ways I love it, but worry it's a little too classic-leaning. It'll be a larger woodblock, with lots of carving details and possibly some hand-coloring post-print. Other notions are floating around my noggin; I'm currently in this sketch's pacing stage. Half of it is taped across the dining room table and I keep walking past, glancing over as if it's some person I'm trying to assess for conversational interest.

This is also the image gathering stage, which is meandering, but ultimately fruitful.

The hair band: surprisingly difficult to weed out. Heh.
I won't lie: the image searches for snakes and ants had me cringing numerous times, especially given a recent rise in popularity for my house as an ant destination. Luckily not snakes. Please no snakes, I say, just as I recently said please not the transmission. Hmm,  going that route, my next actual house problem could grandly surpass the snake worry... Hobgoblins, here we come!

Other Crittery Tidbits:
A search on snake scales yielded a study about "Limbless Locomotion," which has a great ring, doesn't it?

Figure 1.  How do land animals move without legs? Limbless animals tend to be long and slender, such as the corn snake shown above. One benefit this gives them is the ability to hide in narrow spaces under branches and leaves.  To move along flat ground, snakes use a variety of limbless "gaits" analogous to a horse's walk, trot and gallop. We study here the simplest of the snake's gaits, slithering.

Please consult figure 4 for my favorite part, "Enveloped in Cloth." Hee.

A raven search yielded a man's interesting blog post about a raven warning him away from danger.

Ravens also led me to some good photos posted on a pigeon forum; riiiiight, if Bert were real, he'd totally be on here! I was lured in by the novelty of it. The pigeon fanciers have the expected discussions -- common pigeon diseases, where are you in training your young bird, "Hall of Love" photo memorials, etc. Plus, it totally schooled me on one of those things I knew nothing about but was weirdly certain of: namely that pigeon racing exists. It's alive and well and at least a few people are out there "Looking for some good white racing pigeons..." Ginger: mea culpa, my apologies, you're totally right, pigeons are raced. But you knew that already...

Will post design photos when farther along...

Good Night and Happy Week, Everyone!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ersatz Parking Lots and Marker Sniffing

A couple days have passed after a short(ish) trip home to see my family and a few days left before I start my new job. The seeming wealth of free days, with accompanying idealistic notions of hours and hours on art projects (taming old ones into fruitfulness, bringing forth blueprints for new ones), throwing together impromptu dinner parties and finally, finally getting into shape, have lollygagged about and frittered away into a week's end, plus a day, which how much can really get done *then*? And yet, sometimes the sparks occur at the odd moments, when, say one is watching the weepy Grey's Anatomy, contemplating more sea-salted chocolate and fetching a load of laundry from the dryer.

Yesterday, against my better judgment, I decided to drive the moribund car to Royal Oak, to stock up on random art supplies at Utrecht. Craig's list has yet to yield a car prospect that I trust enough to actually follow up on (ohhhhh, good, good~~"Likes a lot of oil." Ohhh. CASH ONLY. Hmmm. Or: 6-CD changer!!...mileage not mentioned. Eh.), though I had pinpointed this week for follow-ups. So, with a certain amount of impatience/defiance, I settled on Utrecht yesterday. I recognize that it was mainly a cupboard trip: recently, I was shocked to learn that the last good local art supply store closed, so now there would be nowhere outside of a Michael's for any emergency replenishments! Yes, I have heard about the internet. But shipping costs! And wait times! Ugh. Just as I always keep backups of olive oil, soy milk, garlic, etc., it now behooves me to look forward re: turpenoid and sketching pencils...

So off I went, with just enough time to avoid rush hour traffic...and so it was that the highway became a parking lot, or worse, because we all shuffled along, resentfully lurching forward; some periodically jutting their cars out to the right, after deluding themselves that it was only the immediate truck in front of them assholing it up and keeping them from speeding along, unfettered. Noooooo, Deluded Ones: we are all stuck. foiled, thwarted, our days hijacked. But mostly stuck, and stewing, to various degrees. And also: not mashed and crimped between layers of seared sheet metal, totally finished, or at the beginning of one very long road, indeed. But still: Five Miles in a Hour. For me, I managed to not get pissed off, though it did frequently feel that my "5% brakes" were delivering their last bit of friction and that, under protest. It was a good time to revisit Beck's Guero CD, which still holds up as one of his strongest, for me; and to play "Emergency Exit"* at least ten times in a row.    

*I know, right? But I didn't even know the title until I was looking it up this morning. And apparently, I was like a football field off on a lot of the lyrics. Oh, "my sign" and not "my son"? A "roosevelt dime in a bucket of rain"? ...Yeah, no, I never would have come to that on my own. But these parts I got and love -- and their inclusion caused most of the replays:

"Now hold your hand onto the plow
Work your body till the sun goes down
What's left of death is more than fear
Let dust be dust and the good lord near
It's a little too much to ask of faith
It's a little late to wait for fate..." 


"Kindness will find you
When darkness has fallen
Round your bed
Kindness will follow
Children will wander
The end"

Eventually got there, shortly before rush hour would begin to set in. Which actually wound up being a nice excuse to lure Ginger out for drinks/dinner**, as he works in that end of town (kinda). He even suggested a nice bookstore to while away more of my time before meeting up. Instead the cupboard filling impulse went into overdrive and I felt compelled to test out tons and tons of broad-tipped markers. "These are a bit fumey, but the ink flows really nicely," the staff guy said, referring to the Chartpak display. I waved away the fumey remark, as if I somehow had a tolerance, or didn't care about the brain-killing chemicals. I got a little light headed after awhile, but you know: pretty colors. It would clearly be good for me to have lots and lots of these. Though I didn't have a project in mind, or a color spectrum to focus on. Silly coveter.

But! Art hoarding justified! Circle of Art is fast approaching and I have yet to donate anything. I figured I'd color a "Not His Own Cake..." print, to differentiate it from the edition.

Before yesterday's trip, I was happy with this:

But during a commercial last night, this idea suddenly seemed much better!

What do you think? In today's light, the green background still holds more appeal for me. One version will go to Circle of Art, the other to a friend who was ultra helpful and supportive during the final leg of my job-hunting. If these also appeal to her. Woohoo!

Well, so much more to do and to blow off, before the day is through. Happy Friday, Everyone!

 **Also at his suggestion, we went to One-Eyed Betty's, in Ferndale. I totally recommend it! Good atmosphere, strong beer selection (daunting, if you go by the menu, though they were out of a number of brews listed -- howEVER,I was indecisive and our waitress suggested three beers, based on my leanings, ALL of which I liked.  Most surprising: Schneider Weiss Aventinus, surprisingly fruity, but not cloying), and solid bar food-with-a-twist. My burger was cooked to specification, the bun was actually flavorful and the aoili was lovely. I was too full to try their maple-bacon doughnuts, which are made in-house.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jim Henson's Fantastic World (or rather, WWJD?)

Shortly after that fabulous New Orleans vacation, I was lucky enough to make a super fast jaunt to New York City. Prime objective: pilgrimage to Jim Henson's Fantastic World, in its last days at the Museum of the Moving Image. I had missed it in various locations, with the Chicago miss rankling the most. With this exhibit traveling for a couple years, how could I possibly be careless enough to miss it before it disappeared entirely? When HE has long been one of my most admired creatives ever, with a personality and approach to life that actually seemed worthy of admiration and inspiration? Plus, this exhibit would not only feature ACTUAL Muppets, but glimpses behind the scenes, to his and his workshop's creative process? OooooOOoooo, it was really too much. So! Second-to-last weekend of the exhibit, with life still settling back in from Louisiana, and with minimal planning otherwise, it was off to stay with dear friends M&P. Woohoo!

We planned the trip to Astoria on the afternoon of my arrival. I was tired from the early flight, but determined that we go on a weekday to minimize the family and children attendees. I *know* -- Muppets and Sesame Street and suddenly I was going to be uncharacteristically scroogey about kids? You say nonsensical, but I was completely earnest about getting as much out of the exhibit as possible.

The Mighty M wisely decided we needed fortifications prior to our museum trip and guided me to the oh-so-tasty Shake Shack. We shuffled along in line, contemplating the burger options and watching the aggressive metro squirrels, which shamelessly leapt onto the heated tables while people dined. One squirrel seized a mayo packet and ran away with it. Another shook a woman by her polar fleece collar, slapped her cheek and absconded with a steaming packet of curly fries.* Meanwhile, I talked myself out of a 300,000 calorie chocolate-caramel shake approximately five times. 

*No, not really. But the mayo packet! I had never seen squirrels steal condiments before. What, the tree hole already has a club sandwich at the ready? Are you sure you wouldn't rather some mustard? 

Satiated, we waited on the subway platform, with life swirling about us. Buskers and suits and hipsters, oh my! I gazed beseechingly at each oncoming train. "R train, boooo!" said MM. "That's the wrong letter to see the Muppets!! We need the *N* train! Today's visit was brought to you by the letter N!" Adult me: Well, that's silly. Younger me: grinning, clapping hands excitedly. I interlaced my fingers.

Another train pulled to a stop and an attractive, polished woman in her mid-twenties was framed between the opening doors. She held an old fashioned white cake box tied closed with thin string; she looked utterly petrified as she stepped gingerly from the train. MM was in fine narrative form. "Wow, she looks like a deer caught in headlights! The must be *valuable*!" In a whispered falsetto: "I have a cake made of gold!" He chortled. "What does she know that we don't know? Is she with the bomb squad??" Sternly: "Do you have a bomb in that cake box??" Ahhh, he made me giggle. 

So, after a few line changes and walking a couple blocks in the wrong direction, we arrived at our destination. My camera was all charged up, I was ready to buy lavish commemorative coffee table books, we were READY. Surprisingly, I was told that photos were allowed (no flash) -- total score. So, maybe not fabulous shots, but something, right?

Naturally, Kermit was front and center, ushering us lucky attendees into the larger space. That's just his way, isn't it? So warm, so humble, so down to earth, frustrated with ludicrous circumstance, but forgiving of foibles. Let's just take a moment.
Doesn't he just lower the blood pressure? Yes.

"No PHOTO-GRAPHY." The female guard appeared from thin air, as they are known to do.


"NO. PHOTO.GRAPH-IE." She frowned and shook her head at me. Alas. I mean, it would have been unusual, what with a traveling exhibit. But! Alas.

Luckily, a fine upstanding person subsequently also appeared from thin air --POOF! --*after* her and was of the mind that really, I should be someone who gets a few Muppets photos. I much preferred this mindset.
{"I hear his name bandied around a lot, but I don't know who Henson is. He seems to have his hand in a lot of things around here*." -- Kermit

"He's sort of a comfortable middle-of-the-roader -- very much what I am. I have the feeling he's desperately trying to keep things rolling. And he's surrounded by all these crazies."  -- Jim Henson, about Kermit

*Wocka wocka! That's the other thing that is so fantastic about the Muppets and Sesame Street: yes, the puns, but really all the self-referential quips and asides make it, but without straying too far into jaded hipper-than-thou territory. Sophisticated innocence, if you will. I spoke with a friend today, who told me she watched the newest Muppet movie with her young kids. They were all: "They know they're making a movie!!"}

And it was a good thing, too, because of all exhibits not to have adequate merchandising, this one, which I have trouble imagining is anything BUT extremely well funded, had NO book capturing the exhibit's focus, which is to say the process underlying the genius. Seriously? No books with photos of the sketches, the early advertising years, the scrawlings between Henson, other Muppeteers and monster creators, showing the great and serendipitous growth from a doodle with personality, through discussions of character attributes, fabric ideas, down to actual Muppet becoming? A sad, sad affair. Luckily the exhibit itself explored exactly this kind of growth. And it was mesmerizing.

"Jim wants you to make a doggish thing"

At left is one of my favorite sketches from the show, as well as one of the best illustrations of that process. I initially mistook it for the background for Sweetums, but apparently not -- it is "Dog Lion" (1977). While this is probably the case for most any artist or creative type -- and forgive me for being rather obvious here -- but what was so exciting to me was that in the initial stages they were just...doodles. Mere scraps! Nothing so exalted -- even -- dare I say it -- along the lines of some of my own hastily scribbled something-or-others. Slapdash, on yellow legal paper, with notes written in different inks and pencil lead. One sketch has coffee stains, alongside noses of varying sizes. Through the sketches, he and his co-conspirators are feeling out the nascent ideas. It just feels like home to me. And then~~! It comes so far!

Other notes on the above doggish sketch: "somebody is inside," "very long sheepskin and ostrich" "Ominous," etc. On other drawings: "eyebrows go up or light up also" "garment made of skins," etc.

"I look at the sketches until they seem to have a whole quality of the personality. Then we begin building the muppet." -- Jim Henson

One thing the exhibit strove to convey was Jim Henson's endless creativity, which roamed across media:
  • In high school he did screen printing posters (and by college? I think) he was advertising a screen printing poster service for fellow students. 
  • An eye mobile, inspired by Alexander Calder (natch. who can make a mobile, without ascribing at least something to Calder?), which delivered different (wonky) emotions in answer to shifting air currents
  • Extended experimental art films ("Time Piece" from 1965 paired strong visuals, with a mild strain of dark humor).  
  • Documentaries, including Youth68 ("Everything's changing...Or Maybe It Isn't) and "The Ordeal of the American City" (aired on NBC News in 1968).
While so many sensibly associate Henson with Sesame Street and extrapolate a certain amount of creativity-for-its-sake-or-at-least-higher-causes, Henson's puppets were also closely associated with marketing and commercialism from the get-go. Which is not to take away from the passion of creativity, but it's worth noting that a lot of the earliest projects laid out were created specifically for commercials. While Taminella Grinderfall was evil in The Frog Prince, she also attempted to thwart Hansel-and-Gretal send-ups in "Compax Presents Shrinkel and Stretchel." The less avid Muppet followers may be surprised to note that Cookie Monster and Rowlf the Dog began showbiz in commercials during the 1960s.
Sorry for the blurriness.

< -- These two were featured in commercials promoting  coffee.

"With this camera I shot pictures of people who don't drink Wilkins coffee." (*BAM*)

Being a multi-media museum, they had great old advertisements, rare Sesame/Muppet footage, a documentary and "Time Piece" running in loops throughout. There was a hysterical bit where the Viking Pigs sang "In the Navy." The opening animated sequence for the first counting film happily marched along... And naturally people couldn't help adding their own. A mother started singing "Rubber Ducky, You're the One" to her toddler, as they stood in front of the Bert and Ernie stand. Another baby, held by his Mom, too young to be able to get proper words out, nevertheless exclaimed "Buh-Ber!! Buh-Ber!!" in front of a large black and white photo of one of the best perennial six year olds ever, Big Bird.

"with Bert, the whole personality is in the eyebrow"
You could just faintly hear mahna mahna through the glass. Aren't the Snooths sweet?
While I didn't care about the Miss Piggy on display, Mahna Mahna was rather fun.
Earlier Kermit incarnation, with tiara and wire hair.
There was more, much more than I could detail, from Fraggles to puppeteers' bios, photos and quotes; to an anthropological-type display of Podling artifacts within the Dark Crystal display (also! the evil Skesis language was based on Greek and Egyptian dialects!), all of which would fall short of being there. But ultimately, perhaps the most important thing to me from the exhibit -- and this was so clearly imbued in his Muppets -- was his approach to life:

"I believe that we form our lives, that we create our own reality, that everything works out for the best. I know I drive some people crazy with what seems to be ridiculous optimism, but it has always worked out for me." -- Jim Henson

We could do worse than to follow such a model, within our lives, creative or otherwise. As Henson noted, each of us must determine how to best live our lives. But I also imagine that if you knew Jim Henson, and he were to give you his seal of approval, you had to have been making pretty good use of your life...

Last idolatory quote:

"Jim was like a sailor who had studied the compass and found that there was a fifth direction in which one could sail." -- Jerry Juhl

On that note, I'll sign off. Yesterday, I worked my last day at the old job, where I worked for almost ten years. Tomorrow, I get to visit my family for a little bit and then it's time to start the new job! In between the two, I'll be car shopping, sketching and just generally settling into the new variations of my current life. 2012 has definitely been a year full of change, so far! Best to Everyone.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Alas, I Have No Jet Skis. Lockouts, Brewcakes and Biscuits? Yes.

Well. So, the car and I are still talking, but I no longer know what to say.

On Thursday, Marv from Imperial Auto called. I was overly optimistic in my worry about a potential transmission replacement. "Well," said Marv, "I think it may be time to begin letting go..." The laundry list included bad ball joints, off-kilter timing chain adversely affecting the camshaft, paper-thin rear brakes, ominous rattles and the likely need for a new catalytic converter. Amidst the overload of bad news, I swear he said a biscuit broke loose within the exhaust. I didn't bother to get further clarification on that one, due to the volume of woe. The volume did not, however, stop me from asking numerous theoretical questions. About how long did I potentially have before it was really "done"? About a month.

"Now, your ball joint on the left side is really bad. The one on the right is just bad."

Hmm. "So, if any of these things gave out while I was driving, would it cause me to have an accident?"

"Well, on the left hand side, it would cause you to veer into oncoming traffic." As usual, his delivery was upbeat.


"On the right hand side, you'd just go into the ditch."

"Right, okay!" As if, armed with this knowledge, I could do anything other than go questing for a new car. Points to me, for the pointless questions.

"Now. I'm not saying anything *bad* about your car. I'm not *criticizing* your car...But maybe you could...upgrade a little. Get something five, ten years newer.** Perhaps a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla! I just think there are other models out there that are less expensive to maintain." 

**I realized with a shock last week that my Saturn's 18 years old. But! it was a mechanic's first engine rebuild and so many of its internal parts were new(ish) when I bought it for a song six-some years ago! Not sure whether he replaced the exhaust biscuits.

I frowned and nodded at the cell phone. While it was super-sweet to put in that disclaimer about my car, I can see how it was needed, as another part of me felt quite protective. And who knows how many times he has delivered such news? My neighborhood friend laughed when I conveyed the conversation to him. "Hahaha, your car's in hospice!" This, coming from a hospice counselor...

So, now I'm spending more time on Craig's List than I ever have before. I have been receiving helpful tips from friends and family, and am sure something viable will come together. I am alternately lured in and dissuaded by random descriptions.

"motor runs but has engine noise i could put gear oil in it to make motor quiet but im not that kind of guy most likely it only needs rod bearings...firm on price possible trade for jet ski sit down or stand up"

Following an intensive work week, it was time to blow off some steam this weekend...But not before locking my keys in my moribund car, in the parking lot grocery store. Excellent! A  woman observed as I stood next to my car, glowering and shaking my head.

"You look like you locked yourself out!"

"I sure did! VERY happy about it!" The calm imparted by an afternoon yoga session seemed to have evaporated. This exceedingly nice stranger offered to drive me back to my house so I could get my spare key -- which was primo, until it became apparent the neighbors who had my spare house key were out. But still! Talk about random acts of kindness. I thanked her and trudged inside to tick items off my grocery list, while repeatedly feeling my pocket for keys, in the same way that one repeatedly thinks,"The blackout's okay, I'll just watch a movie...Oh." I came outside again and hopped onto my trunk, glancing at the storm clouds racing overhead and chatted with CG.The tow truck managed to beat the rain.

Got home later than expected, but early enough to roast a chicken and go out dancing: not too shabby. The weekend was a mixed affair, but worked out after all... Good people and good people watching last night; creepy individuals kept at bay by the mysterious filtering system of one's dancing group. This morning, I woke up to the sound of rain and met up with Ginger to sample the new brunch at Ypsi's Corner Brewery. Few things are better suited than brunch on a rainy Sunday, don't you agree? I wasn't entirely bowled over by their offerings, but I liked the flavors of their banana espresso-love-stout pancakes  ("brewcakes") and was pleasantly surprised by their version of a mimosa: oj + hard apple cider. I think I may actually like that mimosa better than the traditional! Springy, light, and smooth. And as always, I love the atmosphere there, which often trumps any other perceived deficiencies. It simply feels good to be there.

So. We eventually drove off (or Ginger drove us off, with him casting unnecessary slights at my poor car) and set our sights on the rest of our Sundays. Ginger has another night of dj'ing.

"...So I need to figure out the rest of what I'm going to play. I need to figure out what I'm going to wear~~"

"A cute little dress."

"Probably. And guyliner."

"Hah! I usually hate adding guy/man/gay to every thing to make it male, but I like that one.Yes."


"Yes!...Have fun with that."

Maybe I'll cook, or sketch, or clean. Or maybe I'll lay on the couch and watch more Closer episodes. That also seems appropriate for a rainy Sunday. I do so like to do what's appropriate.

Have a fine week, All!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Unfortunate Exchanges While Commuting

My Car to Me (conversationally): Soooooo, I hear you're getting a tax return. When's a good time to talk about that large cement block we drove over?

Me to Car CD player (in monotonous drone): One, you lock the target, two, you bait the line, three, you slowly spread the net, and four you

My Car: You know. Just because you'll have a shorter commute, you still NEED me

Me: ...catch the man. Lock the target, bait the line, spread the net

My Car:..This is just childish. I...clearly have...trouble...accelerating. I could die RIGHT HERE. And maybe I will! Then you'd be sorry.

Me: Oh stop. You're not gonna die. Don't die.

My Car (pettishly): I *might*

Me (imploring): Please don't.

Car (in a burst): I drive you EVERYWHERE! Do I *ever* complain??? AND you're a nervous driver, to boot!

Me: -- I'm less nervous than I used to be. I'm better about that -- 

Car: It's annoying! But really! ANYWHERE YOU NEED TO GO, *I* TAKE YOU!!

Me: No, I know, it's great and I totally appreciate that --

Car (hotly):  -- And you can't even bother to vacuum me?? And my ceiling light??? Do you think dangling is *normal*? Were you really confident that strapping tape would do? Anyone would think you just don't even care --

Me: NO. I *do*, I DO care. Look! You're the *first* car I ever bought, the only one I have owned. Of course I care.

Car: --Wait, how old are you?

Me: Oh. Seriously? That's the road we're going down?

Car: Hah!...not really. I'm familiar with your license. But look: I may not be transmitting.

Me:...No. NOT the transmission. Let's not have it be the transmission.

Car: Who's to say? But in any case, that tax refund may come in handy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Studio Time: The Cake of Others

Happy Easter, Everyone! This post has nothing to do with the holiday, unless printmaking makes your Easter complete....

Last Sunday and Monday afternoons were devoted to studio time. I think I pulled a bit over 50 prints, though I haven't assessed and numbered them yet, so not certain of the edition size.
Ahhh, repetition!
I was aggravated by the lettering this time around, but happy about the frosting. I wanted the cake to convey: I am *special*! In my own confectionary way, I mark a milestone. The loss of me would be upsetting. I think I succeeded in this. At least, *I* would be upset if someone stole it from me.
Maestra really pared down the things in her studio since I had last been there. As always, cutting, mashing, burning, and sawing tools all had their places; and newly found old objects waited for use in upcoming art projects; but now there were more luxurious swathes of cleared off table tops, and window sills with carefully chosen objects occupied the foreground against a backdrop of Spring greenery. Sigh!
So, I hummed along, feeling happily productive. I inked my block, laid a sheet of mulberry paper across its surface, covered it with protective felt blankets on the printing bed and spun the wheel to roll it beneath the metal drum. Lift the felt, hold the paper in place while peeking at half the paper -- does it need more pressure anywhere? Ink touch up? No? Peeling the paper away and sailing it over to its design neighbors, drying on a table.

Ink, paper placement, felt, wheel, peek, sail.
Ink, paper, felt, wheel, peek, sail.

It's not long before things change, right? Even between the first and second day, boards can degrade. Examine the photos below. What's different?
Right! You're so observant. Indeed, the rim of the cake plate is now missing an expanse. I had certainly weakened that area by both puncturing the wood AND cutting the surrounding wood away, close to those holes. Submit that repeatedly to heavy pressure, after you have applied moisture and wood bits are bound to race for the hills. Often you notice something is wrong when you spot a inked up morsel of wood on your inking plate: uh oh. Where'd that come from? It's not always apparent. You keep inking your board and hope it's not a damning defection. The tinier the wood fragment, the lower your chances of fixing it. Glue will only dissolve that smallish nubbin. The above scenario is one of those cases: you just need to be okay with it. This is a good exercise. You get frustrated, irritated. And then you have to let it go. And decide the print is still worthy of something. So. You continue printing.

What's this look like?
Wrong. it looks like trouble. I know: trouble is often not immediately identifiable as such. See also: trouble. But look again -- there's a shadow where it doesn't have a right to be. The lower part of the S has peeled itself away from the board, in the wake of my inked up brayer. What's excellent? It hasn't separated yet and isn't super tiny. This, we can work with. I search around the studio for a bit of wood glue. Clean up the board a little and weigh it all down with an old wooden box, mysteriously labeled as "Gasket Kit," plus additional heavy items.
Now is a fine time to text friends, walk down to the Drowsy Parrot for a Mexican Latte, and  read part of a Smithsonian article on Casanova (so much more than a lover!). Talk to the butterscotch cat about why you're not going to pet her and then the board should be sufficiently dry.

And it is. So:

Ink, paper placement, felt, wheel, peek, sail.
Ink, paper, felt, wheel, peek, sail.
Ink, paper, felt, wheel, peek, sail.

A good couple days' of work. Give the prints some alone time to dry and then determine which ones make the cut. Fifty did, this time around.

Sign, number, and toss them into the air. Who will catch 'em?  Etsy listing here.

Wishing Everyone the blessings of the day, whether you're religious, spiritual, or just happy it's Spring... Have a good week.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Champagne, Magic Ingredients, the Joy of Anticipation

Good Morning, All! I took a spur-of-the-moment day off today and had a lovely sleep-in, following an absolutely delightful treat last night! Life has delivered a couple great turns recently and Compatriot and a mutual friend told me they'd take me out for dinner to celebrate. Comp and the mutual go wayyyyy back and we have also been friends for several years now. What shall we call her? She has a lively mind, likes to establish plans and solve things. The Fixer? This probably springs to mind due to several Closer watchings over the past week, but I think we'll leave it there. On Wednesday, the Fixer leaves me a message that they will meet me at a restaurant of my choosing, whenever. I decide on Logan because I haven't been in several years, so it feels like a special treat. They make a reservation for 6 PM and we're off to the races!

Yesterday afternoon, The Fixer texts me:

Change of plans. Dinner at 6:30. We're coming to your house at 5:30. There is a surprise.

Yay! A treat on top of the treat! People, for your friends, or for your s.o.s,* never underestimate the power of building anticipation! You know, don't over do it, but add in just a little and it makes things that much more special. The surprise itself could be small, but that sense of being thought of -- wonderful! 

 *unless they're surprise-hating wet blankets.

I did my early work day (currently starts at 4:30 AM, no exaggeration), went to get my taxes done**, surveyed my closet for something pretty to wear to dinner and then settled into another Closer episode. 

**I slumped in the cheap office chair, while she entered everything in. "I looove having you do my taxes!" She laughed, double checked her numbers. She likes me because I have organized folders for everything and don't traipse in saying, "I *think* I spent/earned/deducted around this much? But I couldn't find the receipts~~" This apparently happens a lot. Eeek.

The surprise was a nice blush champagne, paired with a slightly sweet rosemary bread with an almost cakelike crumb. Little tidbits!

Dinner was faaaabulous. The interior was all dimly lit and swanky. There was much debate over who  would be getting what, how appetizers would balance with the entrees, which cocktails would be the most appealing. The Fixer asked on my behalf whether the Osso Bucco had tomatoes within the prep (stupid allergy); Comp suggested an alternative to me: "You may be interested in the short ribs, then because that features similar flavor components." I eventually chose the Thai scallops, though I am always leery of getting Thai or Indianesque dishes from restaurants that aren't devoted to those cuisines. The entree was really surprising -- though it featured coconut milk, kaffir lime, lemon grass, garlic, chilies, it did not call up thai food for me at all, nor did it call up curry (both things I totally adore) -- and yet it was still wonderful. The scallops were succulent, the sauce rich and creamy and the dish overall delivered lovely pops of flavor. Each scallop was perched on wee nest of pickled mustard greens. Also satisying: the greek leg of lamb and the gnocchi with swiss chard. Compatriot praised the former for being a full flavored meat, in direct contrast to a lot of lamb available here, blanded down for American tastes. My favorite part of the tuna sashimi was the onion marmalade; and the refined lincoln log stacks of tempuraed asparagus spears rested upon a dreamy tamari dipping sauce.*

*It certainly should have been dreamy, as the menu listed it as follows: "Lightly battered and deep-fried asparagus served with Chef Thad’s magic tamari and sesame dipping sauce." Magic! Similarly my first cocktail, the Belle Otero (sp? "Beautiful Stranger") listed love as its final ingredient. Though we all tried, we couldn't quite isolate the love flavor. But we suspect five spice was in there. All the cocktails were fantastic. 

Early on, Compatriot accused me of torturing the waitstaff* and noted this automatically corresponds with a bigger tip. In the same way that waitstaff calling you ma'am several times should automatically decrease the tip left. The latter part referred to the other night I was at a restaurant (when I wrote, then erased that blog post), where the hot young waiter called me ma'am no less than 7 times. I really don't *tend* to care, but it grated after awhile. Dude. Seriously.

*I was just kidding! But maybe he didn't feel that way. I am sorry. Waiter, we liked you. I did not mean to be pesky.

The night ended with dessert, naturally. My chocolate mousse arrived rolled into a solid ball about the size of a small orange, with a shallow gazing pool of creme anglaise off to the side. In terms of texture, Compatriot pronounced it ganache instead, which we agreed with, though it was still quite good. We also agreed that it was clearly bested by their fennel creme brulee. I really didn't expect to like it. It was FANTASTIC: a wonderful blending of flavors. Mmmmm. Check it out, if you're in the area.

So that was that! A lovely celebration, brought about by generous, thoughtful friends. I *do* like a little fuss. Which I attribute to my mother. I hope I never lose the joy that she still derives from little things. She will urge you not to bother with presents for her: don't spend money, don't spend time, don't go to any trouble. But, you know, once done, it is nevertheless appreciated. Her birthday happened recently. She hates getting older. But she likes a birthday.

"I got your package!" She announced. I could hear the pleasure in her voice "...but I haven't opened it yet."

"Well of course not! Your birthday's not till tomorrow!"

"Right!...I was born at 4PM." We talk about other things. She passes the phone over to Dad. Dad and I begin exchanging updates.

"Oh, your Mom just passed me a note. She says: since you're still on the phone, should she open her present now? Or should she call you tomorrow."

I grin. "Ohhh no! She should open it tomorrow." Call me mean. It's a dance. 

"Your Mom says: when should she call."

"She can call 3 PM or after." The message is relayed. Soooo funny! But see? Something to look forward to. And the birthday was largely taken over by other concerns, though naturally my fam remembered and made plans for later. So it was nice to have something the day of...

Speaking of which, this day off is wearing away! There's still time for a little yoga and maybe some museum wandering. Happy Easter to all who celebrate.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

FestiFools 2012

Sunday marked a full, successful studio day, followed by a hustle back to Ann Arbor for the sixth annual FestiFools parade. Everybody and her mother (not my mother, though she now has her very own digital camera, woohoo!) was out taking snaps, so it's highly likely you have already seen some snaps. Well, here are more. I climbed a wire chair outside of Starbucks and pretty much remained at my station the whole time.

I don't know why the panda king was in shackles

Lots of dogs. Particularly cute one...

The tiger was one of my favorites.

But why the business-gnome on the hind quarters?

Disgruntled parrot

Two-headed dragon

Carnivorous Blooms Unite!

RARRRRWWWRRR With My Four Teeth!!

Owl, conferring with parrot. Latter, still irritated.

Wobbly house, shaky foundation

Pursued by baby carnivorous plant

Celebrity Spotting: Betty Rubble

Evil, yet fashionable

Narwhal, in need of dentistry
Baby bear, raccoon
I'd wear that.
You'd wear that.

Anxious to see. So many tall people. So, so very true.

See how fast? Next frame, barely a glimpse of green on the left
And yet! Moments later, zooming from the other direction!

Supermen behind the shrubbery.
Fairies Held Aloft
...And done for the day.

Even more pix here: