Saturday, March 28, 2015

A sign of Spring




One of the sure signs of Spring in our area, at least in my opinion, is the dirty snowbank. 

       As the winter plods on, plows push snow into large, dense mounds lining the edges of streets, driveways and parking lots. In moving this snow, the plows also scrape up a lot of the sand which the Department of Public Works trucks spread on the pavement to give drivers a bit more traction on the slippery stuff.

What happens as the weather starts to get gradually warmer is this: The snow begins to melt, and the piles of snow to shrink, and as they do, those particles of sand within the piles begin to move closer together, becoming darker and more obvious against the snow, rendering what were previously almost pristine white mounds of snow into blotchy messes. 

       It's deliciously ugly, because even as these unsightly shrinking mounds become ever more unsightly, they tell us that the warmth is coming… just wait! -- PL

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Hidden Geometry of Snow




A thick accumulation of snow -- something we have seen far too much of in recent months -- can seem almost featureless in certain lighting conditions. The homogeneous nature of the bright white blanket makes it difficult to see the underlying shapes upon which that frosty mantle rests.

That's why I have always enjoyed the way that trees can help to reveal the hidden geometry of snow, especially during those times of days when the angle of the sun drapes the trees' cold shadows over the landscape. Graphic against the pale snow, these broad, stark lines show us much as they ripple over hillock and plunge into decline. -- PL

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy March 26, 1931 - February 27, 2015


It was inevitable -- one might even say logical -- but it's still sad to read about.




At least some comfort can be taken in this: He lived long, and prospered. -- PL


Artwork by Bruce Laird 2008.

Friday, February 20, 2015

You learn something new every day...





As part of my plan today to forestall the inevitable moment of removing myself from the warm comfort of the bedcovers and getting out of bed to face another day of bleak snowy whiteness and cold, I played a game of computer Scrabble on the iPad I keep beside the bed. At one point, I made a desperation move -- one which I think all Scrabble players have made at one time or another -- and put some letters down to make a word which was not known to me, but which fit nicely onto the board. 

This technique, employed in one of many (notice how I did NOT say "countless") epic Scabble games with my late brother Don, actually acquainted me years ago with a cool word -- "xeric", meaning "dry or desert-like" -- which became the name of the charitable foundation we established a couple of decades ago.

This time, however, it was "ulu". Imagine my surprise when the computer didn't reject it and force me to return the offending tiles to my rack. Of course, I had to find out what this formerly unknown and now very useful word meant, so I hustled over to dictionary.com, and found the following:

ulu

noun

1. a knife with a broad, nearly semicircular blade joined to a short haft at a right angle to the unsharpened side: a traditional tool of Eskimo women.

I would never have guessed. -- PL

(image from wikipedia.org)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A stupid little thing which means absolutely nothing...


... but it got my attention today when I went online to check my email. Here's a cropped screen grab of the thing:




Perhaps it was because this past week a friend mentioned in an email that she was trying to get to the "Zero Inbox" stage, wherein you keep your email inbox free of clutter, to the point where when you leave it each day, it is empty.

For this particular email address, I have not done that in quite a long time, if ever... and today, I noticed with a small blip of amusement, that the number of emails currently in the inbox for that address was 1234.

Get it?

1

2

3

4

Yeah, okay, it's stupid... but these are the things one amuses oneself with when trapped in one's house by a raging blizzard and the attendant ban on driving. (I use the words "raging blizzard" somewhat sarcastically, as the storm we are getting here today in Western Massachusetts, while certainly significant, is hardly the worst we've ever had... and from where I sit, looking out at the occasional random swirl of snowflakes, clearly not signifying desperately difficult or unsafe driving conditions.) -- PL

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Terok Nor...?



I'm a big fan of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog -- they have a good selection of interesting and useful objects, some entirely practical, some fanciful… and some a combination of those two qualities.

But I was startled when I saw the cover of their latest catalog (or, if not the latest, at least the most recent one I've received) and saw what my eyes immediately told me must be some kind of nifty licensed "Star Trek" product.  




It was some sort of complex metallic gizmo whose unusual shape instantly made me think of "Terok Nor" -- the Cardassian space station taken over by the Federation in the third "Star Trek" TV series, "Deep Space Nine". The station was, in fact, renamed "Deep Space Nine" by the Federation in the storyline of that series. 

Here's an image of the space station from the TV series "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Notice any similarities?




This thing in the catalog was a pretty cool-looking product, whatever it was… and I found the answer to my "What is it?" question on page 69 (I think -- I don't have the catalog in front of me as I type this). It's a "24th Century Time Machine" -- essentially a high-end timepiece made by L'Epee of Switzerland, and you could have one for the price of a nice car -- $35,500.




But I searched in vain for anything in the description of the product which would reveal a connection to "Star Trek" and/or "Deep Space Nine". The closest the copy in the catalog came was this phrase: "Suggesting a remote station set amid the void of space". 

But it is also clearly meant to resemble the titular space station in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". I showed the cover of the catalog to Jim Lawson -- who is not a huge "Star Trek" fan -- and asked him what it looked like, and right away he said "The space station on "Deep Space Nine"!"

So… what's the deal here? It is hard to believe that there is no one among the folks behind the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog who would have noticed that this product bore a very close similarity to the design of the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" space station. In my opinion, it appears to be a pretty brazen conceptual appropriation with absolutely no credit being given to the original source.

I don't get it. Am I missing something here? -- PL

[Note: The images of the catalog cover and the interior page are not scans from the printed catalog itself, but screen grabs from the Hammacher Schlemmer website -- they're not exactly the same, but as far as I can tell, the descriptive information is identical.]

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Empty Bowls





In May of 2012, after a roughly forty-year hiatus, I returned to an art form with which I'd had a brief but passionate encounter as an undergraduate: pottery.

I only took one semester of "Ceramics 1" at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst back in 1974, but I loved it -- especially working on the wheel, throwing bowls and mugs and goblets.

So why did I wait forty years before taking it up again? Long story.

Two and a half years ago I began taking private lessons and then classes with local "practical potter" TIffany Hilton, who proved to be a wonderful teacher. I have continued to study with her and in fact will be taking another of her classes soon.

Last year, when I was finishing up a class with her, TIffany surprised me by asking if I would be interested in making some bowls for an upcoming charity event called "Empty Bowls" being put on by the Amherst Survival Center on March 9, 2015. The way it works (as I understand it) is that local potters make and donate ceramic bowls, and local restaurants donate food, and for the price of an admission ticket (proceeds going to the charity), patrons can choose one of the bowls and get it filled with food, taking the bowl home with them after the meal is over.

It sounded like a cool thing, and I was flattered that my teacher thought enough of my skills that she asked me to do this. So I wedged up a bunch of clay in her studio, and in a couple of hours had thrown a dozen bowls of varying shapes and sizes...




… then, a week or so later I trimmed their feet (and signed my name to the bottom of each bowl, complete with my traditional small TMNT head sketch)…




… and sometime after that, once TIffany had done the first (bisque) firing... 




        ... I dipped them in one glaze, adding a few brushstrokes and spatters with a second glaze. 




A few days ago, TIffany told me that she'd done the final firing, and I could come and view my bowls before they went off to their final fate.

I was happy to see that they'd come out just about as I had hoped they would. I'd used two of Tiffany's glazes, "cream" and "olive green", which, when combined, create a beautiful bluish-green color. Here's a group shot of the twelve finished bowls, ready to go:




I don't know if there are any tickets left for the event -- I actually had an oddly difficult time finding information about it online -- but here's a link to the Amherst Survival Center Facebook page which might help if you are interested:


I have no idea who will end up with the bowls I made, but it tickles me to think that maybe, just maybe, someone who is a TMNT fan might get a pleasant surprise when they turn their bowl over and see something like this:




-- PL