Wednesday, April 29, 2009

April 29, 2009 - What I just read.

Book club. Who can be without one? A great way to socialize, have a couple glasses of wine, fill up on finger food, and yes, even discuss a good book. I, of course, belong to a book club. It's small—six—and I like that. It's just easier to get your two cents in, and even if you remain quiet you are missed when not there. Last night we discussed "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman. No one had finished the book—I came close—and I guess that speaks to the general feeling for the book, not great. But it's non-fiction, there's no real story line, and it's steeped in science. It's kind of like reading a episode of "Nova." Well, several episodes. Entertaining and informative, but sometimes you're just not in the mood. But the science community loved it and you might be better off visiting the web site with many links and videos visualizing just how our world would change.

Oh sorry, what is the book about you say? What if people disappeared from planet Earth? He doesn't get into detail as to why we would suddenly leave but did offer a few possibilities—the Rapture, an incredibly virulent disease, alien kidnappings—who knows. Call it an intellectual exercise, a Book of Revelation, an eco-thriller. We've been on this earth a long time and have, in my opinion, mucked up quite a bit of it. So what happens to the animals, the forests, our cities, our art, your house, our weapons of mass destruction if they were left on their own? What you get is a series of chapters/articles on the aforementioned subjects and much more. You also get a bit of history as to how a lot of this all came about and in so doing get a feel for what we might still be able to alter and possibly fix. If anything it shows you that we human beings may be the worst thing that's happened to this planet. Can you imagine?

A few things caught my attention but this is the one I'll focus on. If there was a garbage mass the size of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean you'd think it would be on the news every day. Global warming seems to have a permanent foothold in the media. Why not this? Have you even heard of it? I had, but this book brought it to me in graphic detail. You see scientists are discovering that all that plastic is collecting in some pretty out-of-the-way places. Like the ocean. In fact a TEXAS- SIZED area between California and Hawaii called the North Pacific Gyre or "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Sometimes known as the horse latitudes, avoided by sailors because of a slowly rotating high-pressure vortex of hot air that sucks up the wind. What is found there is a continent-sized area covered with floating refuse—styrene packaging, cups, bottles, fish netting, monofilament line, six-pack rings, spent balloons, sandwich wrap, and limp plastic bags that you and I have been gathering from every store on the planet.

Back in 1997 a Captain Charles Moore, founder of a volunteer marine environmental monitoring group described the "mess" as 90 percent plastic. "The real reason the world's landfills weren't overflowing with plastic, was because most of it ends up in the ocean fill" says Captain Moore. More devastating than this is that plastic never really goes away. It turns into a soup, miniscule particles that even plankton can ingest. Small multi colored resin bits of plastic have been seen trapped inside transparent bodies of jellyfish. Seabirds ingest small plastic pellets thinking they're fish eggs. Dead sea birds are found with undigested plastic parts still inside their stomachs. They die. Their stomachs are full of junk and doesn't go away.

During his first 1,000 mile crossing of the gyre, Moore calculated half a pound for every 100 square meters of debris on the surface, and arrived at 3 million tons of plastic. And there are estimates that the garbage can reach 10 to 100 meters in depth. Not to mention that a lot of the garbage sinks due to being covered in algae and barnacles. Once out of sun and in cold water the likelihood that the plastic even has a chance to degrade disappears.

And this isn't the only garbage patch in the ocean. There are many ocean junk yards. The chart below gives you some idea of the size and locations. In my short search for images and information on this subject I came across many web sites that can inform and show you more than you can possibly imagine. Along with the information that no one knows how to fix it, or if it can be fixed. So the next time you get the question "paper or plastic" the correct response is to pull out your cloth or recycled carry bags and say "I've got my own." Not to mention avoiding plastic as best you can. But we all know it's part of just about everything we purchase. And you thought global warming was a difficult problem to solve.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 25, 2009 - A long week

Last weekend I had a great show in St. Paul and was able to catch up with friends. In fact I experienced not one but two bar-b-ques, the first two of the season. As it was the warmest weekend of the spring so far, the residents of the twin cities just couldn't wait to break out the barbee and chug a few brewskies.

The show was a success but unfortunately I picked up a bad cold. Sigh. It was not a fun drive back. Although I kept myself entertained with a Harry Potter audio book, the symptoms of a cold and the rainy weather made the drive quite a trial. I regretted making the trek right after the show, arriving home about midnight and quite exhausted. But with a freelance deadline due the next day and the need to get the rental van back on time I just couldn't put off getting back.

And speaking of the lovely van, I had wanted a regular size cargo van but ended up with a 12 ft. high behemoth much larger than I needed. And finding a parking space in the middle of St. Paul was, suffice to say, a challenge. But it all worked out. In fact I have to thank my friend Mike for offering taxi service to and from the show. Next time, a small normal size van will be procured.

And what is the next show? I'll be at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts in Milwaukee on June 19-21 in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum. More on this show to come.

Friday night I made a trip into Milwaukee to see the musical "Hair" at the UWM campus with a stop in Cedarburg for a dinner with a good friend. If you're ever in the neighborhood I highly recommend the Anvil Pub & Grille at the Cedar Creek Settlement Shops. The building is a restored 19th century blacksmith shop and the food is excellent. Go in warm weather and dine outside next to Cedar Creek.

The performance of "Hair" was great. I had never seen the musical live. My reason for going in the first place was to support my goddaughter Eva, the production's most capable stage manager. It seems "Hair" is making a comeback. And why not, our country is at war and many of the sentiments brought about by the events of the late sixties are being revisited. But it's a very different time and we seem to be dealing with the current events is a very different way.

It's a very rainy weekend but it's good for the budding trees and flowers. Spring is just beginning to bloom on my street. And around here, it all happens quite fast. So tomorrow it's back to making lamps. Have a good week. m

Monday, April 13, 2009

April 14, 2009 - Wrap your brain around this

This is a huge ball of stars that existed before humankind, before dinosaurs, before Earth, even before our Sun. Omega Centauri is the largest globular cluster scientists have yet discovered. It contains over 10 million stars. It is so bright southern observers can see it with the naked eye. It is 18,000 light-years away and 150 light-years in diameter. At our current ability for space travel it would take 54,000 years to get there, give or take, and another 450 years to get to the other side. And it's estimated to be 12 billion years old. Let that sink in. Can one even comprehend? We're truly just a grain of sand on an infinite beach.

This is from a site called Astronomy Picture of the Day. The images are truly spectacular and mind boggling. And they're nice big images that you can truly get lost in. So when you have a moment just sit and meditate on one of these images. Maybe it'll stretch your brain a little. And that's gotta be a good thing. m

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April 9, 2009 - Happy Birthday Terry!

As I said, lots of birthdays this month. This is best wishes to my sister Terry in California. My sisters and I all grew up in a house full of art. We all went our separate ways but art is something that ties us all together. Terry has a particular love of quilts. So I found a web site full of beautiful contemporary quilts as a treat for her. These are quilts from Studio Art Quilts Associates. Check out the many quilting artists represented. The diversity and creativity are rather astounding.

And…birthday wishes to Kathy and Carrie. Enjoy the day. m

April 8, 2009 - Happy Birthday Dad!

Best wishes to my father on his birthday. I had wanted to put a picture of him on the site but my scanner decided to break today (sigh). I don't even use it that much. I talked to my father this morning and he regaled me with tales of me as a 3-year-old playing tag with the family dog. The beginnings of an animal teasing phase that stills remains to this day. Just can't help myself. And they love it (LOL). In honor of my dad and his love of the arts I'm including photos of one of his favorite artists, Henry Moore. If you want to know where my artistic influences came from you can look to my dad. A friend and I had lunch today and talked about how early influences definitely set you on a path in life.

Lot's of birthdays this month. I also want to wish a happy birthday to Cindy. Enjoy. m

Monday, April 6, 2009

April 4, 2009 - New Lamps

I've been working on lamps for the show in St. Paul, April 17-19. Here's some current lamp styles in some new papers. I thought these three made a nice grouping. I'll try to get some other new ones photographed before I leave for the show

Saturday night I went to an African restaurant to celebrate Carol's birthday with a group of friends. Not many of us were well aquainted with African food so we all experimented a bit. The food was very good, including unique spices and sauces, but I suggest you skip the Fufu if you ever see it on the menu. It's a hard lump of white yam. Very bland. No amount of sauce seemed to add enough to the flavor to make it worthwhile. An opinion echoed by several at the table.

I also got to see "Slumdog Millionaire" for the first time. Although I enjoyed the movie I'm afraid all the hype kind of ruined it for me. I had come close to working out the story line before I saw the film. I assumed he got the girl and possibly the money too. And I didn't anticipate the twist of the police being involved but once the movie got going the plot seemed a little contrived. None-the-less it was fascinating to be immersed in the culture of India. Although not a particularly positive view and laced with a lot of violence and disturbing images. For many years movies and books about India—and even China—have been limited in the mainstream media. I recently read a book called "White Tiger" which delved into the modern caste system in India. I also found the movie "Outsourced" a pleasant distraction. It's about an American businessman who is sent to India to set up a Call Center for a company that sells american kitch, usually with a patriotic theme. Definitely a clash of cultures. All of which seems to be steps toward a world becoming a more blended world, no doubt helped along by the boundless internet.

Which brings up a question that has come up fairly often in my mind: Do you think there will be a time when there are no boundaries between countries and we live under one government? Even if this is only answered in the realm of science fiction, it seems inevitable to me. Be it hundreds or thousands of years from now. And of course it brings up many disturbing thoughts of the many wars and conflicts that may be inevitable to reach this end (or new beginning). Just a thought to contemplate. Take care. m

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April 1, 2009 - Blagojevich: The Musical

First I want to wish a very happy birthday to 2-year-old Mia Kramer. I think Mia is going to be a star someday. She's already fashion conscious with an attitude. But no less cute. And she's got an auspicious date for her birthday.

Last Sunday on me birthday, 4 of us took a quick trip to Chi-town to see "Rod Blagojevich Superstar," an irreverent musical about Blago's life and times performed by a Second City comedy troupe. The day started with a lovely spring snow but luckily it didn't hinder us from making the trip. Our first stop was the Grand Lux Cafe with an amazing view down Michigan Avenue, and we got a window seat. The place is huge along with the menu, and the portions. Perhaps a little too big but tasty. And on top of a huge meal we got some freshly made Beignets, basically a square of dough deep fried and dusted with powdered sugar. If you're ever in New Orleans they are known for the best. Let's just say we were stuffed to the gills.

Then we were off to The Chicago Shakespeare Theater on the Navy Pier. We got there early and wandered through the Stained Glass Museum before heading to the show. The play was in a very cozy theater with a total of five performers on a postage stamp stage and one prop, a stool. But it was great fun. I guess the script is updated as the real-life saga continues. We learned some new tid-bits about Blago's brother, his $100,000 book deal and Roland Burris's son. The music followed closely on the strains of, you guessed it, "Jesus Christ Superstar." It was well worth the trip.

Oh, and the cookies pictured below were a souvenir we just couldn't resist. From what I'm told the taste didn't own up to their uniqueness. Happy April Fools. (It was a boring day for me. Hope yours was a little more fun.) m.

As an added bonus, check out how they make "Peeps" on the Chicago Tribune site.