Saturday, February 26, 2011

winter reading list



Kind of a mixed bag this quarter.

The Transformation Of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson - a story set in P. T. Barnum's American Museum in the 1860s, a sort of love story, or stories, among the human 'curiosities'...the fat lady, the strong man, the living skeleton, the bearded lady with a dark secret. A light fun little read.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - who wrote The Time Traveler's Wife. I had enjoyed that one a lot so I thought I'd try another by her. This one is a ghost story with a twist intertwined with a mystery about twin sisters and the twin daughters of one of them. It was really good.

Circle Of Friends by Maeve Binchy - Another great Maeve book with her wonderful characters and intertwined story lines about a group of young students during their first year at University and how their lives change.

The Moses Expedition by Juan Gomez-Jurado - Jew versus Catholic versus Islamic terrorist centered around a secret excavation for the Ark of the Covenant. Lots of people died. It was OK.

The Moses Stone by James Becker - Another story of the search for the Ark in Israel. Well, not the Ark so much as the contents. A clay tablet is dropped by a man running for his life and is picked up by a tourist. People start being killed right away. Arabs, antiquities dealers and collectors, museum experts, a British cop, and the Mossad all in a race to recover the Silver Scroll and the stone tablets of the covenant. A better story than the previous one but lots of academic lectures as dialog about the history of the area and times.

The Magician's Tale by David Hunt - a strange little tale, it took me a while to get into it, it was my in-between-books book. Finally though I wanted to know how things turned out. It's a murder mystery, really several mysteries all rolled into one, the mystery of the murder, the mystery of a previous set of murders, the mystery around the murdered victim, the mystery of life on the sleazy side of life. It is set in San Francisco in the part of town where the skin trade flourishes, the hustlers and prostitutes and transgenders, the under-age boys and the chicken hawks. The main character is a female photojournalist who is color blind in that she sees only in black and white and gray and she sets about to discover the how and why of her friend's murder.

Secret Of The Seventh Son by Glenn Cooper - kind of an interesting concept, the seventh son of a seventh son is born back in the 700s, a sort of idiot savant who ends up in a monastery and starts scribing names and dates with birth or death next to it. Flash forward to the present and people start getting postcards with a date and a coffin drawn on them and the recipients all die on their appointed days. A serial killer is suspected and so the FBIs brightest and currently disgraced agent is put in charge. The story flashes back and forth through time connecting an archeological dig on the Isle of Wight and Area 51 in Nevada, the agent figures out who did it...sort of. The story takes a kind of silly turn at the end, in the past. And, uh oh, there's a sequel.

A Talent For War by Jack McDevitt - science fiction set several thousand years in the future when the human race has colonized other planets and 200 years after it's first war with another space faring species (the only other known extraterrestrial 'sentient' species). A man learns that his uncle is on a ship that fails to emerge from 'armstrong' space and that he is the designated heir, not only of his uncle's estate but also of the mysterious undertaking his uncle had been engaged in. Alex moves to his uncle's house and because the house computer has lost it's memory, he must piece together his uncle's activities and the puzzle which turns out to be a search for an artifact of the war. Consequently, most of the book is devoted to the search via combing through the historical records and correspondence of the war and related events eking out clues. The story is mostly concerned with the main 'hero' of the war and the discrepancies in the reports of his activities. I had a hard time keeping up with the details and the people and the story leading up to the end. Once the protagonist has solved the puzzle with the help of Chase, the pilot his uncle hired, the story really moves and I enjoyed that part of it. It's the first of four books but I'm not sure right now if I will read the next one.

Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - a murder mystery, one which I enjoyed a lot, but partly because I really liked the two protagonists...and FBI agent who would put McGiver to shame and a NY cop. Apparently, the authors have written several books pairing these two men. This one is a series of murders which appear to be very supernatural, a lot of interesting characters, and an ending that makes you want to read the next book, which is not a sequel so much as just the next case. (oops! See Dance Of Death below)

Polaris by Jack McDevitt - well, I know I said I wasn't sure if I was going to read the next book but it was too cold to go out to the library and this one was right here. This book takes place 12 years later and is from the viewpoint of Chase, Alex's (female) pilot and employee in his antiquities business. Another space mystery, this one centers on a ship found deserted 60 years previous. The last transmission from the ship was that they were getting ready to jump into hyperspace, returning home. A search and rescue mission found the ship still at it's last location but deserted with no clue as to what happened to the pilot and passengers. The artifacts from the ship are on display to mark the 60th anniversary of the disappearance and are destroyed by a bomb. It was enough to set Alex and Chase on the trail of what really happened. Good story, good characters. I enjoyed this one better than the first.

Seeker by Jack McDevitt - OK, still housebound. This is the third of the four books in this series. Same characters. After being asked to appraise a cup that turns out to be from a 9,000 year old space ship, Alex and Chase set out to find the Seeker and the lost colony it set out to establish. Again from Chase's point of view, I guess since she does all the legwork. Good story, good book.

Ape House by Sara Gruen - the author of Water For Elephants. I pretty much sat down and read this one straight through. The story centers around 6 bonobos, one of the lines of great apes, who live at and are the subjects of studies at a language lab. One day there is an explosion that severely injures the scientist who cares for them. The apes are spirited away in secrecy and disappear until they re-surface as the 'stars' of a reality TV show called Ape House where they are given a computer with which to 'order' whatever they want and have it delivered. Isabel, after recovering from her injuries sets out to rescue her 'family' of apes with the help of a reporter and some other colorful characters.

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd – I'm not really sure how to describe this one by the author of The Secret Life Of Bees. The main character is a woman whose only child has gone off to college and she finds her life to be a pale shadow, a woman who subjugated herself to the role of mother and wife of a successful psychologist. She is awakened early one morning by a phone call from a family friend telling her she needs to return home and care for her estranged mother who has purposely cut off her index finger. Her family home is on a barrier island off the coast of one of the Carolinas which is also home to a monastery where she meets and falls in love with a monk. While caring for her mother, trying to find out the motive behind her mother's self-mutilation which is shrouded in mystery, she examines her own life. I enjoyed it but I think it contributed to my 'dis' mood.

Dance Of Death by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - I didn't realize until I finished this book and looked the authors up on the 'net that this is part 2 of a trilogy, part 1 being Brimstone (see above). There are 10 Pendergast novels (he's the FBI agent) with a new one to be published this year. I've actually read two of the ones that precede these but it was years ago. Anyway, this one picks up two months after the end of Brimstone with the NYC cop, D'Agosta, being handed the task of locating and stopping the diabolically evil brother of Agent Pendergast, who faked his death 20 years previous, before he commits the crime of the century and, oh yeah, he's only got a week to do it. Good story, good writing. I'll be on the lookout for the third and checking to see if the library has any more of their books.




Friday, February 25, 2011

gone country




Git yer boots and hat, yer big silver belt buckle and turquoise jewelry, yer fancy yoke shirt with the pearl snaps cuz it's Go Texan Day! Time to let your inner cowboy cowgirl cowperson shine!

Today is the day the trail rides come in and there's a big campout in Memorial Park. Tomorrow is the rodeo parade and the start of the Fat Live Stock Show and Rodeo. Back when I was in high school this was still a pretty big deal. Even in the city high schools had FFA programs (that's Future Farmers Of America for all you hard core urban dwellers). And it was the only day of the year that we girls could wear pants to school.

I kid you not.

They didn't used to let girls wear pants to school. Or sandals either. Or boys either. I mean, boys wearing sandals not girls wearing boys cause I'm thinking they still don't allow that. In fact this one kid got kicked out for wearing sandals to school...with socks. I'm pretty sure it was the sandals they objected to, not that he was wearing them with socks, which I don't get why some people think that is so uncool. I wear socks with my sandals.

Hey! I heard that!

Divided the whole school and there was a near riot with the jocks getting the fire hoses and threatening to hose down us that supported the kid. Oh and his hair was too long too. It probably touched his ears.

Anyway.

What was I saying?

Oh yeah, Go Texan Day and the Rodeo. I don't think they had musical acts during the rodeo when I was still in school. It was just the ridin' and ropin' and calf scramble and greased pig and the bucking broncos and bull ridin' and the chuck wagon race. You know, the usual. And the carnival and the livestock show with all the farm animals from rabbits and chickens to pigs and cows that got judged and auctioned off. Animals that kids had raised all year.

Now there's a big vendor show too and music acts about 3/4th of the way through. Country music. Which I happen to like. Some. There was a point back when I started listening to country music that that was the only place you could hear some rock and roll. Country kinda got rocky. I'll listen to just about anything now. Except jazz. Jazz I just don't get. Especially the kind where it sounds like they're all playing different tunes.

So where was I Wednesday night? At the jazz concert put on by the junior college here. My sister works part time for the junior college so she makes me go to all these things. Really though, the kids need the support and encouragement. And it's the only entertainment in town. And it's free.

It sounded more like big band stuff to me though what with all the trumpets, trombones and saxophones. Especially since they played Misty. I didn't realize Misty was jazz.

So.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Go Texan Day and the Rodeo. Well, I guess times have changed. They don't have FFA programs in the city high schools anymore and girls can wear pants and sandals anytime they want (just no boys) and they have music at the rodeo. This year they are having, among others, the likes of Alan Jackson, Clay Walker, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, Rascal Flats, KISS.

Wait. What?

KISS? At the rodeo? When did KISS go country?

Man, am I out of the loop!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

dis-




discouraged, dismayed, disgruntled, discontent, displeased, dissatisfied, dispirited.

There. I said it.

I haven't been posting the last few days because I have been in a mood that I can't shake and I didn't want to put a bunch of negativity out there.


The last panel came out with two flaws. It looks like it cracked and healed again but it runs vertically in one of the fans. Also, one of the pieces of fiber paper migrated and blended with another. I don't care (well, I do care but...), I am going to go ahead and set up the installation. If the client notices and says something, I'll deal with it then.

I've been doing some of the cold work to finish some of my cast pieces and in this frame of mind even my castings are falling short. They will sit forever in the galleries with all the rest of my pieces, unsold, unwanted. That is if I ever get anything finished.

My four proposals I have out are waiting waiting waiting. I wonder if we will ever get any work again.

I know that this will pass. All it will take is this job finished with happy clients and at least one of my proposals coming in.

I know there are so many people out there in far worse shape than I am which is another reason I haven't wanted to pour out all this 'poor me' crap.

But I'm hoping that finally venting this will help to make it pass.

OK, I'm going back to work now.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

flowers and fu fu


Spent the afternoon at the city house Sunday. It was our youngest g'girl's 10th birthday, though she had her party with friends at the park yesterday. Before we got on the highway we drove by this field.



I looked to see what flower this was.


OMG, I pull this stuff up out of my flower beds, it's so small and insignificant. I'm holding it between my knees in the truck so you can see how small it really is. I've never seen this little flower run rampant in a field before.

Here's a pic with the macro.



We hacked away at the winter debris and bagged leaves at the city house for about four hours in an attempt to keep the place from looking abandoned.

I took a quick side trip with all three g'girls. There was a fundraiser at the gallery where my friend is a participant for the spay and neuter program here. People pay to have their dogs paws dipped in paint and then they entice the dogs across a piece of paper.

paint

dog

doggy paintings



You can bet this little lady did not get her paws dipped in paint. Her owner only buys designer outfits for miss fu fu.

Her tu tu is the same color as the field flowers.



Saturday, February 19, 2011

on hold


I have a document that I keep open to work on posts. It's got about two dozen entries, some only a sentence of an idea, some several paragraphs long and still I am uninspired.

My days have all run together, locked in a never ending cycle of fiber paper and trips into the city. Another delay last week when the last glass blank came out with kiln wash stuck all over it. Some vinegar and cerium oxide fixed it up though and the last panel went in the kiln on Friday. I am waiting on pins and needles for the results late Sunday. I am sick of this job but excited about the possibilities. Now that we know what we are doing.

Spring has sprung and the humidity has been back all last week, with it my curly hair. Everything should be green but the two frigid cold fronts the first two weeks of February turned everything brown. I have spring fever of a sort. There is so much to be done out in the yard but I don't feel like doing it. I should be blasting out the door, garden tools in hand but it just all seems so overwhelming. Where do I start?

Instead I wandered around the yard looking for sprouting things.

azalea

rose

chinese fringe flower

mock orange

Still, I remain listless and unfocused.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

finally and some other stuff



The sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful and so are you...


Finally, the doors are open and the weather is wonderful. The birds are all chirpy and chasing each other around. They are definitely liking the warmer weather. Sunday, I pruned the rest of the roses and filled a 5 gallon bucket with pecans from the yard. I could probably fill another one. Enough with the pecans already!








Finally, we seem to have it down. Two of the three panels for this job are done and done well. I am cutting the fiber paper for the last panel (which is really the first panel) to set up on Wednesday. Again. Dare I hope that this will be the last?

Later this week, I think I will finally be doing the grinding and cold work on the boxes. I'm anxious to get them assembled though I still have a few parts to cast.
In the meantime my world is filled with fiber paper and wax.



Last night we had a beautiful sunset and, finally, a temperate night so we sat out on the old truck bench seat that we hauled out under one of the pecans after we determined where the best sunset watching spot was and with our margaritas with pink sea salt on the rim we watched the glory til it got dark.






And, finally, here's a little video of Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison (George's son), and Prince just because it got me going this morning before I had my coffee.



Oops. One other thing. For those of my reader's who live in the Ohio area, the Texas Chair Project in which I have a piece (see photo of my chair on my side bar) is on display at the Ohio Craft Museum in Columbus OH through March 27.











Saturday, February 12, 2011

E is for...


E is for...energy, embroidery, egypt


E is for Egypt.


Egypt is, perhaps, the oldest nation on earth emerging sometime around 3150 BCE with the unification of the Lower and Upper Kingdoms. And Egypt is, of course, in the news right now and rightly so. But it is not modern Egypt that I dream of.

It is ancient Egypt, the Egypt of pharaohs and pyramids, of mummies and temples and scarabs, of stele and hieroglyphics. It is the Egypt of Isis and Ra and the exotic pantheon of gods that captured my attention and fascination. I don't know how old I was, maybe early teens, when I discovered Egypt or even how it came to my attention. Probably through something my father was reading at the time. He had an interest in archeology for a while and I remember reading Gods, Graves and Scholars by C. W. Ceram.

However it came about, my fascination with ancient Egypt blossomed and continues to this day and though I am by no means a scholar on the subject (I have probably forgotten more than I remember), I have read quite a bit about it. Each new archeological discovery rivets my attention once again until the story passes out of the news.


Oh Egypt, strange and familiar, so compelling, it calls to something in me. It is my past buried in the sand. I know those cryptic shapes, have carved them in the stone.

If I ever leave this continent, if I ever cross the ocean, it will not be to the capitals of Europe that I go. It won't be to France or Italy, not to Portugal or Spain or Germany. Not even to wild Russia or Poland.

It is Egypt that beckons.




Thursday, February 10, 2011

working through it


Despite the fact that it was in the 60s last weekend, we are now in the middle of another frigid spell and everything that had thawed is now frozen once again. And the weather forecasters telling us it is 20˚ colder than normal for this time of year is not helping! I am tired of being cold. I am tired of winter. They say that spring is only a few days away. We are having another low in the 20s tonight but by the first part of next week our low is supposed to be only in the 50s. Regardless, I am housebound right now.

This is the other thing I have been doing along with some attempts at self promotion besides work on 'the job'. Speaking of which, rumor has it that this last panel came out beautifully. I haven't seen it yet. We were supposed to go in today to set up the first (and only if you don't mind, please) try at the third panel but as I said before, the kiln is outdoors, a protected area, but outdoors all the same and the high today was only going to be in the mid-40s. So I put it off til tomorrow.

I've been working on some waxes, starting the 4” square thick tile series. The three larger pieces I have already finished are sitting, waiting patiently until I am ready to cast them. I have to be mentally ready to cast them besides just having the models finished. Because once the mold is made, the model is lost. I have to have a pretty good idea how I want to cast them...the colors, the density of color, how I think they should be displayed. These are all factors that I have to consider. Meanwhile, I work on other models.

I also have a dilemma about finishing the boxes that have been cast. I need to use a flat lap which I don't have. I've been using the one at a friend's studio but I think the 'environment' has changed some and I am reluctant to keep asking. My other option is to drive to a city several hours away and to rent time on the one at another friend's glass center.

I have finished the first 4” square block and am about 2/3s of the way through the second one. I have no title for these yet, not even a tentative one.































finished

Here's what the second one looked like the last time I took a picture of it.



And I am stuck on the letter E.

poo


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

learning curve




OK, so this is what I've been doing for the last couple of weeks.

Trying to get this job finished!

warning...tech talk.

I've been cutting the design shapes out of fiber paper in three thicknesses...1/8”, 1/16” and 1/32”. To do this, I use transfer paper to mark the lines of the pieces and cut them out with a hobby knife.

some of the fiber paper shapes (taped to cardboard for transport)

The first panel we did, laid out on thin-fire (a refractory paper that basically turns to dust after it is fired and takes the place of kiln wash which is stuff you paint onto your kiln shelf to keep the glass from sticking to the shelf during firing) had several problems. First it wasn't at high temperature long enough so that it did not slump or fuse completely and had big elongated bubbles around all the design elements. Also, the thin-fire cracked and separated before the glass slumped down enough to touch the surface, leaving impressions of the 'cracks'.

first attempt at first panel after firing









left - thin-fire 'crack' impressions running through the panel; right - funky bubbles


I set up the second panel (also on the thin-fire), we stacked the three sheets of glass and started the kiln after adjusting the firing schedule, a little longer time at a little higher temperature. Then we sat around discussing the process. I guess I had thought that Gene had more experience with this technique than he actually did. He had done three jobs, all the panels smaller than the ones I was doing, and only using two layers of glass (my customer wanted a heavier glass look, hence the three layers). We looked at the sample pieces he had in his shop of the jobs he had done and then he remembered that he had fused his glass together first and then slumped it. Two separate firings and we were trying to do these in one. I suggested we stop the kiln and fuse these panels together first but it was already too hot, would have taken too long for it to cool down enough so we just went ahead. I was concerned that we were using so much of the Bullseye tekta glass which is kind of pricey. My budget on this job, already underpriced, would not allow me to spend all that money. Gene assured me he could re-use the glass and I would only have to pay for the glass one time.

The second panel came out much better. It fused and slumped completely but still had the thin-fire 'cracks' and the bubbles around the elements which were smaller and round this time. I was ready to re-do the first panel, having cut out all the shapes again (the fiber paper can only be fired once) and Gene had already fused the blank, only this time we decided to not use the thin-fire and slump on the kiln washed shelf.

second attempt at panel 1 with pre-fused blank

Unfortunately this is becoming a rather steep learning curve. We started the firing right in the middle of that really cold weather and Gene's kilns are in an enclosed outdoor area. Apparently, the panel cracked on the way up (a combination of the cold weather and heating it up too fast) and fused back together leaving several jagged crack lines in the finished piece. Sheesh! Other than that, it came out great. No funky bubbles lining the design elements, no thin-fire crack marks.

jagged crack lines running through second attempt at panel 1

So yesterday, the re-do of the second panel went into the kiln. Gene slowed down the firing schedule so hopefully this one will come out right and we can proceed to the others.

second attempt at panel 2 with pre-fused blank

I think if I do this technique again, I will use plate glass even though it does have that greenish/blueish cast to it but it is so much more affordable. Of course, we'll have to go through another learning curve with a different glass, but surely it won't be as steep.