Sunday, September 22, 2013

Will You Not Add to Our Happiness? A bit of penmanship, a spot of guidance

A mind blowing play with Javier started the weekend on Friday (Shun-Kin, New York Times review here --  while we both struggled with bouncing between the supertitles above the stage and the action on the stage, like the reviewer, to my mind, the reviewer wasn't sufficiently appreciative of the absolute visual beauty of the show, which was ASTOUNDING). Yesterday brought fine bar food at Detroit's Mercury Bar with Ginger and a friend...and today, we have some more picture book noodling to round out the weekend.

Based on positive reception of these signs:


I decided that the Cakeasaurus picture book pages which do NOT have words incorporated into their woodblock designs may have hand lettered text added to them and then I'll eventually scan all of them into el trusty computador... I took at a stab at some initial lettering yesterday for the first page of the picture book. It wound up being too heavy handed, so it was back to the drawing board this morning.

This attempt struck me as a bit more successful, though close to the upper edge. The "T" however, was a problem. While I'm more attached to handwriting than some (most?) these days, I can't claim beautiful penmanship, and too long ago to remember I developed the unfortunate habit of mixing cursive and print together. How does one even WRITE a cursive "T"?

What's that? What's that, you say?If only you had a compendium of all things factual, both daily and esoteric, to help you navigate through life! Great point! It was, indeed, time to consult with my COMPLETE LIBRARY OF UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE. Surely it would have a page of cursive letters! It did not disappoint. It was a little long in yielding up a T, but oh my goodness, it had a lot more to say on the subject of handwriting (I beg your pardon: penmanship)...It has drills and notes on technique! Explanations of muscles involved! Benefits yielded from this worthy endeavor -- truly, as with so much in life, the degree to which you commit will surely be matched by life's bounty!

Details from the matter at hand: Each upper hand M should be drawn to a count of four, and 40-60 Ms should be drawn per minute. Ns get shorted by one count, and with respect to the beginning loops, "that part of the letter should take care of itself, but in size and general proportions, the copy given should be closely imitated." The library intones: "...with a slow, dragging or cramped movement, nothing of lasting value can be accomplished..."

More dramatic: "Clothing for the right forearm. As the movement taught is one in which the  muscles of the right forearm play an important part, it is highly essential that these muscles should be so clothed as to permit, at all times, unrestricted action. Many good writers consider this of sufficient importance to lead them to cut off the right undersleeve at the elbow.
Positioning is important.

It fails to say how many Omens should be written per min. Worrisome.
Instruct with a sense of rhythm: Close em up, close em up!
I can't get with their Qs, much less penning 37 of them per min.
So, after suitable instruction and admonition, I practiced a handful of the foreign looking Ts...
I think it does suit a bit better. Reactions?
On a non-editioned print. The editioned ones are a bit darker.
 After that I just noodled along, as I am wont to do.

Bonus Tip from the COMPLETE LIBRARY OF UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE! Informal letters:

Splendid, I love tally-ho rides!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

His Best Friend is a Racoon in a Smoking Jacket and They're Off to Play Mahjong

Toodle-Oo! All you need is a few extra long work days and the first reasonable workday out, you are filled with an outsized sense of *possibility!* for the evening, whatever will you do with the hours? You have energy! Your brain isn't mush! The bounty, the bounty! Soooo, what's it gonna be then, eh? Anything but get sucked into the internet, melding your eyes with a computer, no, how could you possibly, not when you spend all day seated at a computer, feeling your thighs jellifying with every hour. You will: Phew! Glad that's settled.

What I *can* tell you is that one tenth of the new items I click on Etsy all filter back to illustrator Matte Stephens, based in New Hampshire, U.S. of A. His love of mid-century art and design is readily apparent once you see his paintings peopled with animals in suits and animaled with happy introverts. They have nifty wordy titles like "Although Frederick was considered odd by his peer group, Rupert always understood him best." and "Monsieur BenoƮt was obviously a Walrus but that was no excuse for him to have to be served his dinner outside, the cats alone were a distraction."
The cookbook my Mom used most. Favorite is the cake icing itself
Some titles are certainly shorter and seemingly mundane, like "Glazed Ham," only the ham has a face and is smoking (get it? get it?), like my very favorite wacky vintage cook book illustrations, none of which equal Stephens' work, but his illustrations share the same spirit. His client roster is impressively large and high profile, including Tiffany, NPR, Chronicle Books, American Express, Herman Miller, etc.   

And don't you love that he also does little stop motion videos (back to his flickr account, first link). And you may think, "I'm not going to watch 3 minutes of his dog in a Citroen, but I warn you, you probably will, It's hypnotic, it has happy Frenchy* music, and you find yourself in the same place as Oliver, the dog: if you look away, you are probably going to miss something.

*I clearly have no idea.
"If there weren’t art supplies around in the house I would feel totally hopeless." Grain Edit has a pleasing interview with him here. He has painted since kindergarten and has worked hard enough and is talented enough to succeed -- I like that the interview shows the love of art plus a daily commitment to it:

"I really love to paint. I think if you never give up on something it will work for you in the end because you learn so much in the process of getting to where you’re going."

And within the fun slide show, his paper owl, based on one of his paintings, makes me want to lock myself away for a few days with construction paper (and pretty pretty papers from Hollander's, truth be told), scissors and glue stick/ gun (GLUE gun, not glue stick+ gun. different blog. Too much Breaking Bad notwithstanding).

Separately, were you familiar with Grain Edit? I wasn't. They specialize in art/graphics from the 50's-70s, or art done in this style. A recent post showed the work of Mattson Creative, who designed some *gorgeously* sinister screen prints for Dexter (maybe a few seasons ago? was so happy to see it again). Featured poster: Bull, by Curtis Jinkins. Want. Isn't that fantastic? Jenkins also has a funny text based screenprint of the lyrics to "Beat It"...ayaand off to gather more URL bouquets...

But first, to show that I have not been *entirely*'s the progress on

"No Matter How Much They Watched, No Matter How Long They Waited...Cakes Continued to Disappear":

Tested last week
Some tweaking, but mostly ready for an edition!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Breaking Bad Hangovers, Turn-of the Century News You Can Use

from Entertainment Weekly
We have been watching a lot of Breaking Bad. We're only in season two, but are watching frequently enough that it has seeped into the unconscious. I woke up once within the last month, with one final horrifying beat-to-death scene vividly replaying in my mind. This was a first: never before has a show taken over my waking dreamscape, and repeatedly -- it played out twice before I fully woke up. It cast a pall over the day, though if meth is anywhere connected to Javier of myself, we certainly don't know it. But that sense conveyed, of the dreaded downward spiral, playing out amidst seeming normalcy...

Sometimes, when I have been working longer hours, or some aspect of life is especially taxing, I veto Javier's urging that we should separately watch episodes before meeting back up again, or for some urgent reason, that we watch one on the night of discussion.  He accuses me of abandoning the show and cites other joint watchings that have failed to take habitual root (House of Cards, Portlandia, Arrested Development). It's okay, we surely will return to it, it has sunk its hooks in me like the Sopranos did. I was going through a strange fit of MUST UPDATE PHOTOS ON DISPLAY in the living room last night, and encountered a handful of bulky VHS recordable tapes in the bureau. On some, the labels read: "M's Sopranos." as if I had somehow claimed Gandalfini and co. in a more personal way. I don't even own a VCR player any more.

More exciting: tape of my Granddad going down in a submarine when he was 97; and being interviewed by a local news channel when he was 102 or 103 (when he watched it with the family, he became self conscious, "Goodness, my ears are big. Do I usually shake like that, I was never aware I did this.")

On a recent slow rise, Javier gradually climbed to wakefulness. "I dreamed I was somehow involved with Will Smith and the Fresh Prince of BelAir, a reunion show. It somehow involved violence and so we had to watch all the violent scenes from the Wire, to help prepare."

"...Did you meet Will Smith?"

"...uhn unh..." with that, he was back under. He made mournful sounds when I prodded him, so I eventually stopped.

One of the happier harbingers of Fall is the AAUW book sale, which happened this weekend. Compatriot scooped me up in her peppy Mini, though she confessed to a prior book sale trip the night before ("...but I ONLY looked at cookbooks! I swear!") Even with more local book buying than I used to do, it's advisable to stock up for the Winter months. The fiction pantry feels quite low. I wound up not buying so very many novels (though I could have filled an entire study, had I been longing for say, Alice Hoffman, which lordy seemed to be everywhere). Everyone nudged past everyone else, huddling over their half off grocery bags. Both of us opt for building our piles in spaces along the wall, with a protective sweater slung on top, and a periodic protective room scan: Don't touch those books! Those are (to-be) mine. People kept getting in heated political exchanges around Comp, who wished they would kindly stop blocking books while holding forth. No one really talked around me.

I was finding art books which were too heavy and too expensive, but alluring. I took home a stunning book of Andrew Wyeth works focusing on Kuerner farm, abutting his land. Paintings, sketches, initial watercolors. Apparently you can tour the farm, via the Brandywine River Museum, so if you're ever in Chadd's Ford, PA, you know what to do!

Another irresistible find: The Complete Library of Universal Knowledge. Published in 1904, this book promises to avail the every day reader with answers to any conceivable question. All in one book! In the non-stop turn-of-the-century "interrogations-- subjective or objective -- constantly confront the individual, all of which are correctly answered here." How comforting, in advance of computers, or any such hope, to be able to look to a single source...

Herein, you can learn about the photophone and Nikolai Tesla:

This chapter ends: "...It would seem as though we now have the germ of a means of inter-planetary communication."

Medical knowledge, equal parts frightening and enlightening...
The image at left accompanied a section on the wonders of Xrays:"...The X-ray discovered these, as as well as consumption in early stages, ruptures and enlargement of the heart, stomach, and other organs. One case, brought to light some time ago, was that of a patient who suffered pains near his nose. An abcess had formed and the skiagraph discovered a small sack in the cavity back of his nose,containing 32 miniature teeth. In the fight against bacilli, serums are used..."

....WHAT, HOW does one inexplicably shift from a vestigial twin anecdote, to innoculations? I fear my Library of Universal Knowledge does not indeed hold all the answers for my modern life.

It does, however, show us dirigibles...

 Plus a Thousand Things Well Worth Knowing...

Including, most exciting...Behold, POCKET TYPEWRITER OF THE FUTURE!

In the future, it is said that reporters will be able to record commentary, without even removing his hands from his pockets.

 I will let you digest all of this information. But before I go, I'll leave you these tips from the Law without a Lawyer chapter:

Runaway Horse
If a man's horse runs away in the street and injures some one or breaks a carriage, the owner is not liable, unless he carelessly left him unhitched or was guilty of some other negligence.

Law About Scratching Hens
You have not the right to kill your neighbor's hens while scratching up your melons and cucumbers. The custom of doing so, and tossing the fowls over the fence may afford some satisfaction to the gardener, but it makes him liable to pay the full value of the nuisances, although he had repeatedly warned their owner to keep them at home or take the consequences.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Johnny Ward Hands

I was struck by this pair of hands at the UMMA shop. The shop is small and sophisticated; there's a lot to look at, but not too many places to go. I kept returning to the hands. Their weight is satisfying. The variation of the finish is great: and like most things that border on ugliness, without actually being so -- it is compelling. Turn the hands in your hands: what mottled spot is your favorite? So this heavy piece of cast concrete was bundled in bubble wrap and tucked into my backpack for the trek back to the hidden parking spot.

I don't really know where they belong in my house. They look at home in the ivy, but I don't tend to anything enough outside to consign statuary to it.
I asked Javier if he had seen my hands. "Yeah, they're kind of creepy: Oh. Why are there hands coming out of the dining room table? What's the deal with that?"
The gallery shop attendant didn't have any artist business cards, but the artist is one Seattle-based Johnny Ward. He was a featured Etsy seller back in October 2010 and turns out he was the creator of these Siamese mice, which I wanted a long time ago, but suspected I would not be satisfied with just one. The pair of hands, however, hold their own,  and anything dropped their way... 

      "Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain."
                                                                  - Carl Jung
                                               “The burned hand teaches best.”
                                                                 - J.R.R. Tolkien