I attended a workshop on Building Digital Synthesizers with Arduino as part of the 2019 Gray Area Festival. Taught by Taurin Barrera, it promised we’d learn, “the basics of building, programming, and performing with DIY synthesizers.” Coming from a software background, hardware always feels like a mystery to me so I thought it might be a good chance to learn some fundamentals. We worked with a DIY kit from Cornfield Electronics. There was a lot of soldering. Taurin pointed us in the direction of this handy comic about soldering and it helped. It takes practice getting the right amount of solder, but by the end of the class I was feeling pretty confident and I had my own working synthesizer! We had the opportunity to choose the “sound” of our synth and I went for Arpology written by Bill Alessi, which is “highly influenced by Brian Eno.”
Pete and I celebrated our 8th anniversary by watching Zardoz at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. When burlesque dancers dressed as Zardoz, each sporting a mustache and long braid, wearing his signature bright red bikini bottom and suspenders started gyrating in lazy swoops on the stage I knew we were in for something special. And we were. Here is the anniversary card I made for Pete.
This morning was the groundbreaking ceremony for San Francisco Animal Care & Control’s new animal shelter. It was a good turnout, despite the rain. We huddled under a tent to listen to various speakers including Mayor London Breed (wearing fabulous boots), former SF Supervisor Katy Tang, who advocated tirelessly for the new shelter, and the Executive Director of SFACC, Virginia Donahue. There were a couple of adorable and adoptable animal ambassadors also in attendance.
On average, 10,000 animals come through the doors of San Francisco Animal Care & Control (SFACC) every year. Unlike more targeted rescue organizations, they take on animals of every kind. We’re talking goats, chinchillas, reptiles, birds, fish.
SFACC’s current shelter was put together in 1989 during a six month period when the SF SPCA gave up its animal control contract with the city. Enclosures don’t meet industry standards. There’s not enough room for animals to get adequate exercise and socialization. There isn’t a proper system in place for disease quarantine. The building is not seismically safe. This was not designed to be a lasting solution.
The new shelter will be at 1419 Bryant Street in a building that most recently housed MUNI’s overhead lines repair shop. The exterior has to stay, because it’s a historic building, but the inside will be transformed into a state-of-the-art animal shelter nearly double the size of the current facility. There will be more play space (9,000 square feet of yard), better facilities for veterinarian and dental care, public spaces for classes and workshops and sweet sweet air conditioning.
I hadn’t realized that along with adoptions and being the place to go when looking for a lost pet, SFACC also provides disaster and emergency response. SFACC sent a team to Paradise for close to a month after the deadly and destructive wildfire, because 800 animals were displaced and needed care.
SFACC is also responsible for local wildlife rescue. When a raccoon gets stuck in PG&E equipment, who do you call? SFACC. They are the ones who will, “oil him up and pop him out.” I got the feeling that this happens more frequently than you’d think!
The city of San Francisco is investing over $70 million in the new shelter. Friends of San Francisco Animal Care & Control need to raise $4.3 million more. Please consider helping out by making a donation today.
The LA Times Festival of Books was a favorite of mine when I lived in Los Angeles. It’s free to attend and you can spend all weekend browsing the many booths and chatting with fellow readers. If you want to attend a panel of authors it’s only $2.50 per ticket and well worth it.
How could you not love a woman who, feeling sorry for the lone fish living in a fish tank in a Thai restaurant, buys more fish from a nearby pet store and secretly releases them into the restaurant’s aquarium to keep her gilled friend from being lonely? I loved finding out that the fish story in Aisha Franz’s Shit is Real is based on true events.
Ted and Matt Lee, authors of Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business, were so much fun at the morning panel I attended, “Beyond the Cookbook: Stories from the World of Food” that I went to their afternoon cooking demo, which was less a demo and more the brothers telling interesting stories with a generous helping of brotherly banter. They made it clear that as a catering chef you can’t phone it in at a $1,000 a plate fundraiser. “Philanthropy Is based on the party that you give, you spend one million to raise six million.”
Ruth Reichl talked about learning to cook through dumpster diving(!) in Berkeley. She wants restaurant reviews to go beyond where rich people should eat. She mentioned that food writing is a Trojan horse, a vehicle to talk about so many other bigger things. Ruth is a powerful storyteller, the audience was hanging on her every word. I’m looking forward to reading her recent book, Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir.
I learned about the Heaving Bosoms podcast from a festival goer. I like the show’s description: Best friends and romance aficionados, Erin and Melody, giggle about a new romance novel every week. We take ourselves VERY seriously. I don’t read romance novels (at least not yet), but my best friend lives 3000 miles away and I miss her so I’ll dig the podcast if it’s centered on the friendship. I noticed a very long line for the Alyssa Cole book signing so maybe I should start with one of her books, A Duke by Default.
#Unsent - Personal Storytelling Podcast was a pleasant surprise. It was the end of the day and I was worn out, but I wanted to hear at least one person read “a letter they wrote but never sent” (excellent writing prompt). The first reader I heard was so good I stayed for the duration. Comedian Erica Dawson got a lot of laughs with her poem about resenting going to all of her friends’ plays, one of the dangers of studying acting. She’s fabulous and I hope she gets a lot of good gigs.
I was fortunate enough to be staying an Angels Flight ride away from LA’s Grand Central Market so I visited there a few times. A Saturday night dessert craving was satisfied with an ice cream sundae from McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams. I’ll overlook the fact that the “unicorn” sprinkles look pretty much the same as rainbow sprinkles, because their ice cream was so good. Sunday morning I had AMAZING carnitas tacos for breakfast, yes, breakfast from Anna Maria. I was waiting in line for a guava juice behind a construction worker ordering extra spicy carnitas tacos for his crew. They glistened at me. I had already ordered a breakfast burrito from another place, but hell, it’s vacation, I could save the burrito for later or give it away. I ordered my tacos with mild green salsa and they were beautifully served with chopped raw onions and cilantro along with wedges of lime. Highly recommended.
Next time you take an Uber, ask your driver how far they have driven a single fare. One of my Uber drivers told me she drove someone from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I did not know that was even a thing.
On Sunday I was bummed out that a professor of mine from college, Kathryn Davis, would not be appearing at a panel I was looking forward to, “Fiction: Calamity and Chaos.” However, I stayed and listened to the other writers. I enjoyed Abby Geni explaining the difference between a schmegeggy (a contemptible person, an idiot) versus a schlimazel (unlucky, hapless person). Giggles were stifled when moderator Doug Dutton declared, “That’s a lot of penis in there” after Jordy Rosenberg read a passage from his book Confessions of the Fox.
I had a long conversation with illustrator Ralph Sanders and his wife, Frances. His graphic novel, based on Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, is beautiful–this guy needs an agent and a publisher. He’s teaching a class on scratchboard at the San Francisco Center for the Book in August.
I caught a little of Jensen McRae performing on the USC stage, she has a wonderful voice.
Representatives from LAX were answering questions and giving detailed explanations about what’s to come in the future. Three words: automated people mover.
Why haven’t I been to the International Printing Museum, yet?
Books I purchased at the 2019 fest:
Hotbox: Inside Catering, the Food World’s Riskiest Business by Matt and Ted Lee
The Wildlands by Abby Geni
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
Hannah versus the Tree by Leland de la Durantaye
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Pilgrims Progress: The Graphic Novel by Ralph Sanders
Cicada by Shaun Tan
French Love Poems edited by Tynan Kogane
I didn’t set out to be the person who drinks weird stuff out of a jar, but that’s who I’ve become.
I took a class at 18 Reasons called Fermentation: Making Kombucha, Vinegar and Shrubs. The teacher, Dr. Nishanga Bliss offered some science, some holistic food info and didn’t get too bogged down in either. During class we made a shrub (drinking vinegar) out of lemons, blood oranges, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon and ginger. After letting it sit for a week as instructed, I mixed it with a little Topo Chico bubbly water and it was refreshingly delicious. It was suggested that we could add a little tequila to make an alcoholic version. Also good.
I made a (homework!) shrub of my own, at home, this one also featuring blood oranges and lemon, but with the addition of kumquats and star anise. It’s sitting on a shelf and should be ready in a couple of days.
The shrub success gave me the confidence I needed to try making my own yogurt. I had previously read and summarily dismissed a NYT recipe for making yogurt. I mean, maybe in a world where we’ve run out of supermarkets. Now I was ready, though. I bought a digital thermometer and some Straus Organic Whole Milk. I had my 5% FAGE to use as a starter. I followed the directions of the recipe and let it sit for eight and a half hours on top of the fridge in a La Creuset dutch oven (the recipe recommended 6-12 hours). Then I transferred it into glass Tupperware and put it in the fridge. I was excited to check it in the morning. It felt like Christmas.
Yogurt-Christmas didn’t happen. I had glass Tupperware filled with milk that had a yellowish slick on parts of it. It tasted good, however, it had the viscosity of… milk. Did the temperature get too high? Did my digital thermometer lie to me? Was transferring it from the pot before putting it into the fridge a mistake? Obvs, something went wrong with my process, because the comments attached to the NYT recipe were like, “Yay! Yogurt!” I will try again.
Next up was kombucha. I drink a lot of commercial kombucha, usually GT’s Gingerade or GT’s Original. Health-Ade’s Ginger-Lemon has a serious ginger kick when I’m in the mood and I also like Health-Ade’s The Original. The brand Wild Tonic, which comes in a cobalt blue bottle, has excellent and unusual flavors like Blueberry Basil. We each got a little kombucha starter at the end of the 18 Reasons class. I brought mine home and dutifully transferred it to a glass mason jar. There it sat, neglected. I got caught up in shrub making and life and I let it sit and it grew. On a rainy San Francisco day I felt like I needed to get out of the house and decided to brave Rainbow Grocery for some ingredients.
This is what I fantasized as my time away from work: me scooping rose hips out of a giant glass jar, because I’m going to make my own rose flavored kombucha.
I hope my kombucha pal is still alive. It’s hard to tell, because kombucha has a strong odor and it looks like mold, so when people tell me to check for mold I’m like ??? Right now it’s stewing in some sweetened green tea. Hoping for the best.
Ever since I saw the extremely charismatic Sarah Nelson speak at Creative Mornings, I’ve been wanting to attend an event at 18 Reasons, where she is Executive Director. I figured their monthly Community Dinner was a good place to start. It’s the last Wednesday of every month, the food changes every month and it’s only $15. For dinner in San Francisco! Matzo ball soup was on the menu for January and since this is one of my favorite comfort foods I signed me and my guy up for tickets months beforehand. Good thing, too, because it was completely SOLD OUT.
I wasn’t quite sure about the format. Would we be eating in parallel with other people and pretending they weren’t at our table, à la Nopa? Would we be interacting with total strangers? Definitely the latter.
I chose a table with an approachable looking trio at it, we introduced ourselves and immediately starting talking about food. I told everyone that as an ex-New Yorker I missed having access to so much good Jewish food. One of my dining companions recommended Miller’s East Coast Deli on Polk and I look forward to checking that place out. A family of three joined our group and our table was full. I saw the staff bringing an extra table from the back trying to shoehorn a few more people in to the room. We were elbow to elbow, but I found it lively versus annoying.
The challah, baked by chef Danny Ernst, was the best I’ve tasted. The rolls were a beautiful caramel color with just the right texture and flavor. On the table were ramekins of rich creamy butter with flakes of salt on top. Everyone kept asking for the butter. It went up and down the long wooden table like an air hockey puck.
The chef who made the matzo ball soup, Annie Obermeyer, came out and said a few words about what the soup meant to her (comfort, celebration) and why she chose to make it. It was delicious. A refined, composed soup, with two medium sized matzo balls in one section, leafy dark greens (which I’m guessing were spinach) in another, white chicken meat tucked to one side and a beautiful island of pink pickled vegetables. The taste of fresh dill came through nicely and the soup wasn’t too salty like so many other matzo ball soups.
For dessert, we were told that there were coconut macaroons near the door to take with us on the way out. People were lingering and I think this was their gentle way of letting us know that it was time to wrap things up. The macaroons were monstrous in both size and deliciousness. According to his bio for the class, Danny, maker of the macaroons, works at Butter Love Bakeshop so that’s another place on my list of San Francisco places to visit.
Looking forward to taking a class at 18 Reasons in the near future.
When I first saw Andrea Bergen's Joshua Tree, I thought it was a painting. When I got closer I realized it was a collage. I couldn't believe it was a collage. Who is Andrea Bergen and how is she making these gargantuan collages?
While Joshua Tree was being shown in ArtSpan's "Germinate" exhibit in SOMA, another of her works, Parking Lot, was on display as part of the Santa Cruz Art League’s 88th Annual Statewide Landscape Exhibition. As good a reason as any to head to Santa Cruz.
Passed paintings of sand dunes and wildflowers, in the very back of the exhibit, near the EXIT sign, was Ms. Bergen's colossal Hieronymus Bosch-like collage Parking Lot. In it, raccoons have crashed a car into a brick wall of a big box store. Dogs stand in a circle on their hind legs while two companions are beamed up into a UFO. A possum grimaces in the foreground while baby possums along with baby aliens cling to her fur. A full-size alien is just about to pass out in a shopping cart center frame. His glowing finger á la E.T. reaches for a rat that sits on his chest and in the other hand he absentmindedly dribbles a bottle of DeKuyper® Pucker® Grape Schnapps Liqueur on to the ground. Wait, Purple Schnapps is a thing? No time to dwell. There is a friendly dog pushing the shopping car with the drunk alien inside of it. The dog looks happy even though the store behind him is on fire. A pigeon triumphantly holds up a Cheeto while a nearby dog does his business while furtively looking over his shoulder. Did all those bats come from inside the Winnebago that is on fire?
I thought, I LOVE THAT THIS COLLAGE EXISTS IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THESE PRETTY BEACH LANDSCAPES.
I also thought, is Andrea Bergen laughing at me, the Viewer, right now? She graciously agreed to an interview and I still have no idea.
How much planning goes into a collage that is nine feet across?
The collages all started from sketches. They were created with graphic designer Tetsuya Takenomata. He was responsible for much of the composition for the twelve panels. Together we created the story, which was a progression from forest to parking lot. Once we decided upon the scenes and animals we wanted to include, I sketched them out in colored pencil. Tetsuya then created mockups in Photoshop using reference photos. I used these mockups to draw pencil sketches onto the wooden panels. After making these initial sketches to block out the composition, I cut out the paper freehand using the computer images as reference.
How long does it take to create a large scale collage like Joshua Tree or Parking Lot?
Joshua Tree and Parking Lot are part of a group of four triptychs. The entire piece is comprised of twelve 3-by-4 foot panels. The whole project took about four months to complete.
What does working so large give you that you can’t get working at smaller dimensions?
It's interesting to take collage to the large scale that people expect of a painting. We are used to seeing small intricate collages rather than installation style pieces. Technically, it is much harder for me to achieve my desired level of detail when I am working too small. I need the large scale to accommodate all the layers and fine details. The large scale also creates an immersive viewing experience that is harder to achieve with a smaller piece.
We are used to seeing small intricate collages rather than installation style pieces.
Do you use special scissors or stencils to make intricate, repetitive shapes?
Tetsuya ordered special scissors for me from Japan called Swing Cut. They stay sharp longer than any other scissors I’ve tried. I don’t use a stencil, X-ACTO knife or miniature shears for details. I don’t like switching tools. Everything from large to small pieces are cut with the same pair of scissors.
What type of paper do you use?
I use colored pastel paper. I have my palette set out and pick colors as I need them. I have tons of scraps I’ve collected and I’m still figuring out what to do with them.
Do you have a studio space?
For two and a half years, I worked in an apartment in Oakland with Tetsuya. We created many large scale pieces in this small room. I had to get creative to accommodate the 3-by-4 foot panels and even became accustomed to working upside down at times. I now have a studio in San Francisco and am experimenting with Papier-mâché sculptures.
Do you prefer working alone or with others?
I prefer to work alone, but greatly enjoy having other artists around to bounce ideas off of or get inspiration from. I think it's important to be amongst peers. My studio in San Francisco has 25+ artists in it and we are going to participate in open studios together this fall.
Do you listen to anything while you work?
I have several comedy podcasts I enjoy listening to: Doughboys, Threedom, Comedy Bang Bang, Uhh Yeah Dude, Who Charted, Yeah But Still. The talking keeps me distracted enough to keep working for long hours. My mind wanders too much if I’m listening to music.
Were you encouraged to make art from an early age?
I attended a school with an excellent arts program from kindergarten on. Even before that, I was always drawing and painting. My grandmother was a fine artist and I fondly recall making crafts with her. However, I owe most of my desire to be an artist to my elementary school art teacher, Mr. Hershcopf, who was a beloved figure at school. He encouraged me to continue developing my skills.
Did you always feel like you wanted to be an artist? Did you ever consider other careers?
I am very fortunate to come from a family that supports my artistic aspirations. They pushed me to pursue a fine arts education. I sometimes wish I had the structure of an office job, however, I’m terrible at everything except for collaging. I briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a nurse. I am still working towards my goal of fully supporting myself financially purely from sales of my artwork. I’d like to work at a museum in some capacity.
What was your experience of going to art school like?
I enjoyed my time at California College of the Arts. Probably the best thing about it was that I didn’t feel pressure to conform to anyone else’s ideas about what an artist should be like or do. I felt freedom to pursue my own interests and knew I would have the support of the faculty and my classmates in whatever avenue I chose. Some of the best times I had were in the painting studios late at night working with my friends around.
Was there a particular art assignment from school that you remember as being key to your evolution as an artist?
Working on my senior show gave me the drive and desire to push the limits of my painting. I was working very large, at least 8-by-8 feet, and created four huge tapestry-like, colorful, figure filled, Pop art inspired paintings. Having a show was excellent motivation for creating ambitious pieces.
How did you come to your unique painterly style of collage making?
The experimentation with collage began out of a necessity. I was traveling and needed to create work for an assignment and didn’t want to make a mess by using paint. When I started cutting and pasting it felt different from painting, in a good way. It was a more immediate medium and ideal for me, because I wasn’t a fan of mixing colors or waiting for paint to dry. Collage allowed me to work more quickly and get the opacity and graphic quality I wanted out of the paint. I enjoyed seeing the development from blocky, rough early experiments into densely layered, detailed pieces. After I graduated I again began collaging out of necessity, because I had a sublet studio.
Name some artists you really like.
Matt Furie, Elisheva Biernoff, Eric Yahnker, Paul Wackers, Moira Hahn, Ryan McGinness, Andrea Joyce Heimer, Kim Dorland, Casey Gray, Hilary Pecis, Robert Minervini, Sean Norvet, Michelle Blade, Robert Xavier Burden, Jeff Gillette, Jave Yoshimoto
Has living in Oakland strongly influenced you as an artist?
I grew up in the Oakland Hills surrounded by nature and this fostered my love of animals and my sensitivity to the environment. I was also exposed to a wide variety of art styles through Oakland's museums and street art. My collages are a stylistic soup influenced by movements such as Pop art and Surrealism as well as various trends in Contemporary art.
What do you draw inspiration from?
A lot of the inspiration for my recent body of work has come from extremely depressing news about environmental degradation. It appears we have passed the tipping point of being able to reverse climate change. The future seems overwhelming and terrifying to think about. The collages are an outlet for this anxiety. I like to imagine a future in which humans go extinct and wildlife is able to regain control of the planet.
When I don’t know what to add to a collage, I usually throw some snacks in.
What’s your relationship with junk food?
I’m obsessed with junk food, but try not to eat it, so it goes into the collages. It is part of the juxtaposition of the unnatural with the natural world. A raccoon eating Cheetos shouldn’t exist, but that’s the environment we’ve created. Junk food also has the best colors, colors that fit my Technicolor palette. When I don’t know what to add to a collage I usually throw some snacks in.
What are the animals in your work feeling?
They are celebrating their freedom from people and retaking the earth for themselves. I think of the animals as wild, but they have been transformed by human intervention. They have adapted to our trash and food and make use of things we've left behind. When they have full reign of the planet they can raid Walmart and eat all the delicious crap they want without consequence.
What prompted you to enter the Santa Cruz Art League’s 88th Annual Statewide Landscape Exhibition?
I applied to the show because the pieces thematically fit the description of “California landscapes,” but are technically very different from typical landscape paintings. Also, I love visiting Santa Cruz and wanted an opportunity to expand my audience.
See more of Andrea Bergen's work here: http://www.andreabergen.com/
The first thing to know about Anxy Magazine is that it's gorgeous. That is what prompted me to attend last week's Designers + Geeks event. Founder and Creative Director, Indhira Rojas, told us that she wanted the magazine to be rooted in design, precisely because it was centered around subject matter that is usually considered ugly–mental health. She made it clear that Anxy was not a place where you're going to see an article on How to be Happy in 5 Steps. Anxy isn't trying to "fix" things. It's an exploration.
It's an exploration the world wants. Anxy comes out twice a year and each issue has a central theme. The themes come from a personal, almost semi-biographical place. There have been three issues so far:
- The Anger Issue
- The Workaholism Issue
- The Boundaries Issue
The magazine used Kickstarter to initially raise almost $60,000 and has created other campaigns for subsequent issues. All campaigns have exceeded their goals and the campaign for the current issue mentions potential for a podcast if the $35,000 "stretch goal" is reached.
Bobby Johnson, Editor-in-Chief, spoke late in the evening. He told us that Anxy focuses on personal story, i.e. "Something happened to me and now I'm really looking at it." He mentioned that an Editor isn't there to fix typos, an Editor is there to help you tell a story. He also gave us some submission guidelines:
Anxy - Want
- Perspective (new, different)
- Insight (come with me on a journey)
- Execution (I'm assuming that this has to do with wanting good writing)
Anxy - Do Not Want
- Self-help (how to do something)
- Proscription (how not to do something)
- Expected (no surprises)
Submissions make up about 30-40% of a given issue, the magazine fills in the rest, finding ways to address what wasn't covered.
The evening ended with words from Floricel Liborio Ramos. She spoke passionately in her own language with English translation provided by Indhira Rojas. Her story, This Is What It's Like When ICE Detains You is in the current issue of Anxy, The Boundaries Issue. Read more about Pangea Legal, they are one of the agencies that helped Ms. Liborio Ramos get released after eleven months in detention.
I'll end with a Michelle Obama quote Ms. Rojas shared with us, “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It’s something to own.”
In celebration of my 7th anniversary, I wanted to make a special card for my guy. What's one of the things he loves most? Beans. I found it was easier to "mosaic" with lighter legumes. I used:
- French Green Lentils for the 7
- Split Red Lentils for the heart
- Black Lentils for outlines
- Split Green Peas as an accent
There was something meditative about carefully applying each lentil with a toothpick dotted with Elmer's Glue.
At the SFMOMA, I wanted to see René Magritte: The Fifth Season. I was delighted to discover that along with being an accomplished artist, Magritte was also a funny guy. The caption accompanying "Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values)" reads, "Magritte’s dealer Alexander Lolas initially found the work nauseating, to which the artist replied, “A picture which is really alive should make the spectator feel ill."
Magritte's dark humor is also apparent in the What Good is Painting? section label:
Acknowledging that some of the Surrealist movement's absurd objectives, such as causing panic or confusion, had been "achieved much better by the Nazi idiots than by us," Magritte invented a completely new mode of Surrealism that skirted censorship while also testing his theory that "bad painting" might result in social good. "I live in a very unpleasant world," he commented in 1947. "That's why my painting is a battle, or rather a counteroffensive."
One of my favorite Magritte paintings in the exhibit was an image of a giant rock peeking outside a window. The curtain gently pushed to one side is all it takes to make the rock seem alive.
While at SFMOMA, I also stopped by a smaller, less populated exhibit, "Louise Bourgeois Spiders." I'm familiar with Louise Bourgeois, because a friend of mine is a
bug big fan of her work and told me to check out Crouching Spider when it was at the Embarcadero. All of her spiders are creepy and beautiful, but the sculpture that I found most hypnotic was in an easily overlooked small space. Follow the 'exhibition continues' sign and find yourself in a small room. In it, a glass box with a fabric person inside, hunched over, hands wrapped around its stomach, pierced by steel spider legs. Prey?
The choice of fabric is significant. The Bourgeois family had a workshop for tapestry restoration and Louise would assist in repairs. She did not have a happy childhood and reading this piece in the New York Times made made my heart ache.
Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters opened today at The Legion of Honor. I thought I would avoid crowds by going on the Member Preview day, yesterday. WRONG. I complained to a patient cashier in the gift shop about all the people milling about in the afternoon and he told me, "You should've seen it in the morning. People were waiting in line outside for the museum to open!"
It's nice to see exhibits when there are less people around, but I am glad that people want to see art.
Downstairs in the cool dark calm of the Reva and David Logan Gallery of Illustrated Books, a colorful piece of art caught my eye, Prose on the Trans-Siberian Railway and of Little Jehanne of France by Sonia Delauney. I like her bold colors and the cascading text. Here's an English translation of the poem from the Yale Library.
Somehow I skipped the whole knitting trend and never picked up a pair of knitting needles, although I always loved getting a handmade hat or a scarf from a friend. When I saw Weaving for Beginners offered by The Ruby I was happy for a chance to see what this whole fiber arts things is all about. I'm way more experienced in drawing and painting and I hoped that meant I wouldn't bring all my art school not-good-enough baggage to the weaving workshop.
In class, we each received a pegLoom for Beginners Kit. It comes with (mostly) everything you need, although I'd argue that a shorter needle is necessary for finishing work. Our teacher, Jenny Lennick, was perky and helpful. She brought an assortment of yarn for us so that we didn't have to use the default yarn that came with the kit. Selecting colors and textures felt like an important part of the process.
Jenny taught us a basic weave, how to make tassels (rya), how to create a triangle pattern, and a decorative braided element called soumak. She also taught us a technique she called Mountain and Two Hills (also know as the bubble technique) for avoiding the beginner's tendency to weave too tight.
It was a fun class–I wished it were three hours instead of two. However, I went home with enough knowledge and enthusiasm to stay up late to continue on my piece. I found when I was concentrating hard to remember a certain weaving pattern (I'm looking at you soumak) I'd end up undoing and redoing my work over and over. When I tried not to think too hard about it, it came naturally. There's some kind of life lesson in there.
I hadn't heard of The Midway gallery before my friend, Amanda, suggested I check out She Bends, an art exhibit featuring women making neon art.
The minute I saw circus freak murals on the outside of the building I knew I was home.
Inside? Thirty-two female "benders." I loved Danielle James' witty series, "Signs of the times: A single lady's life in neon." If you've ever dabbled in online dating, you can relate.
I also enjoyed Dana Caputo's play on the usual GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS signs one might see around an airport.
Anika Chasuk's message is clear.
Love this dynamic shape by Linda Bracey.
"With spatial audio, you need to trust your ears in a different way." - Christopher Willits
After seeing all that glorious neon, I returned to The Midway the following week for something totally different–a workshop in spatial audio.
I got curious about spatial sound after attending VRLA 2017. Virtual Reality is all about striving for “presence” and spatial sound helps sell the feeling that you are actually in a particular environment. Spatial audio also helps focus attention in a 360 environment. Since viewers aren't looking ahead at a screen like in a movie theater, sound cues let a person know, "Hey, look over here!"
I'm glad I was wearing good socks, because we were asked to take our shoes off outside the the workshop space and it all felt very yoga class. Someone helped me find my way beyond a wall of curtain. The interior was dark. Participants sat low on bean bags, laptops perched precariously. We were encircled by thirty-two speakers glowing with soft neon light. Sounds of tropical bird song. I was in the front row, of course, because I arrived late. Our teacher, Christopher Willits, stood up front, towering over us like preacher. Preaching the gospel of Envelop for Live. Envelop for Live (E4L) is an open source audio production framework for spatial audio composition designed to work within Ableton Live 10 and Max for Live.
Here is some of what I learned in that dark listening womb:
- The audience participates differently when they are "inside" the music. We're starting to get away from the idea that music needs to come at the audience from a flat plane.
- Space and sound are already connected through architecture.
- Because Surround sound is pinpointed sound coming out of a speaker it’s not easily scalable. If the speaker configuration changes, the map changes too. Spatial audio uses coordinates and is “speaker agnostic.”
- Spatial audio can amplify the emotional possibilities of music. It can be powerful at lower decibel volumes.
Christopher mentioned that if you are a beginner it’s nice to start out experimenting with sounds instead of music so that you don’t get hung up on whether something sounds "good." I played around and it was kind of neat to have to think about elevation when sending audio to different places in the room. He got into the physics of hearing, the parts of the ear and how sound travels. In my notes I have: The transduction of electricity into our consciousness. He also said that, "There is beautiful subjectivity to mixing sound." Even though I like the idea of "the right way," especially when I'm learning, subjectivity makes learning about audio mixing all that more interesting.
Some other mentions during class:
- The documentary - The Art of Listening
- I asked for an audio reading recommendation so I could understand phrases like, "Cut out low frequency so it doesn’t get boomy" and Christopher recommended Modern Recording Techniques.
- There are all kinds of events in the Envelop space: Spatial Sound Meditation, Restorative Yoga with Hot Stones + Essential Oils and LISTEN evenings where music is played (i.e. The Dark Side of the Moon upmixed to 32 channels).
Get a trial license of Ableton Live 10 Suite here.
Last week I attended CanCan Night: A Breast & Ovarian Health Workshop.
It was at The Ruby, a work and gathering space for women. I didn’t know what to expect when I rang the small white doorbell, but I was immediately welcomed by the organizer and other attendees. It was an small, intimate event with all of us sitting around a dining room together. The size of the group was perfect– it made it easier to have a conversation and ask questions.
Helen Chen, our CanCan facilitator, specializes in Breast and Ovarian Cancer education. She managed to provide a lot of information without being super scary. She was relaxed, approachable and open. We even played charades at one point in the talk!
Faith Adiele talked to us about fibroids, her surgery for them, and her experiences with doctors and hospitals. I'd like to read Faith’s mini-memoir The Nigerian-Nordic girl’s guide to Lady Problems. She gave us a handout (I love handouts) and this section stood out to me:
Why are Fibroids a Black Women’s issue?
Fibroids are the leading cause of hysterectomies in the USA, accounting for roughly 1/3 of those performed. Hysterectomy rates among Black women are more than double those any other group.
Up to 80% of Black women will develop fibroids, 3 times the rate of other races. Black women develop fibroids at younger ages, have more or larger fibroids, report greater anemia and pelvic pan, and take longer to seek medical treatment.
Here are some of my takeaways from the workshop:
• Know your body and be aware of what’s normal for you.
• Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to be misdiagnosed initially, so be persistent if you feel like something is wrong.
• Everyone needs an medical advocate.
One last thing I’ll leave you with - this event reminded me of a great video by my journalist-friend, Eva, called Cysts Happen.
Last week I attended an Ars Technica event called Solving the Mysteries of Bees & Ants. I was not disappointed. Annalee Newitz (Editor-at-large for Ars Technica and my new writer crush) did an excellent job interviewing Entomologist/Behavioral Ecologist Neil Tsutsui.
When I arrived at The Mile High Club it had the normal level of bar noise you’d expect from well, a bar. There were plenty of patrons there to drink and hang out–not hear about ants and bees.
Or so they thought.
About halfway through the talk, eyes were glued to the stage, drinks half-forgotten in hand. The bar was quiet, so quiet, when Neil started describing ant regicide.
Added bonus of going in person? Lots of cool science-y people in the audience who were into bugs. I sat next to arachnofever, an Entomology volunteer at the CA Academy of Sciences. She is an expert on tarantulas. Tarantulas!
If you didn’t make it to the live taping at The Mile High Club last Wednesday there is a video here.
On to the ants!
Argentine ants are small dark brown or black ants commonly found in California and they are probably in your kitchen RIGHT NOW. There is this supercolony of these ants, the “Californian large” colony, stretching 900 km (560 mi) along the coast of California. We're talking Humboldt to San Diego.
Polyergus ants are fairly large and red. They raid other colonies, steal babies, and make those babies their slaves. These captive babies end up doing all the work: excavation, defense, foraging, baby care. A Polyergus Queen will go on a raid to kill another Queen and set herself up as a new Queen. She must then produce enough workers to keep the colony going.
Fire ants operate differently. Their Queen won’t kill the other Queen, she’ll just ride on her back forever as a social parasite.
More ant facts? Glad you asked.
Ants are largely subterranean.
Ant mandibles are used for lots of different things (eating, fighting, digging).
Ants taste and smell with antenna. They have a great sense of smell: How ants' amazing sense of smell controls their lives.
Dracula ants drink the blood of their babies. What!?
Ants “graduate” to tasks that take them farther away from the nest, so the most dangerous jobs are done by older ants: Ants Become Job-Hoppers as They Age.
Individual ants can come together to become a fluid SUPERORGANISM.
Ants will attack non-relatives. One question that chemical ecologists are trying to answer is, "How exactly do ants recognize who is a nest mate or not?"
Originally bees were used for hive products like honey or wax. Now we mainly use bees for pollination projects. In experiments where bees are collected in the same place at multiple points in time, each bee is a “time capsule.” Pollen helps describe the plants the bees came into contact with. Honey can also carry an isotope that is a clear signature of air pollution. Likewise, honey from a radioactive area can show radioactivity.
Catalina is bee researcher heaven. “The isolation and minimal human habitation of the 96-square-mile island since honey bees were introduced 110 years ago also permits an unparalleled opportunity for studies of natural colony distribution, foraging patterns of colonies, and competition between colonies.” - The Honey Bees of Santa Cruz Island
African bees and German Black bees were mentioned in the talk. While I was researching those types of bees, I stumbled on Halictidae or “Sweat Bees.” How did we not get to Sweat Bees? THEY DRINK YOUR SWEAT.
Someone asked about "anarchist bees" during Q&A. I googled "anarchist bee" and discovered this gem in The British Bee Journal from 1894:
Anarchist bees. –It appears that there is a method of producing anarchist bees. This method, from experiments by Dr. Büchnerm is both simple and easy. It consists of subjecting the worker bees to a diet of honey and alcohol.
These inesec’s [sic] quickly take a liking to this pernicious food. Under its influence they first lose the instinct to work so normal with bees, they then lose that of hierarchy, usually not less strong in this species. They become anti-social, revolters, and without the slightest scruple abandoned themselves to robbery and brigandage.
Want to get involved as a Citizen Scientist? Here are some ways.
Information can be found on the Backyard Diversity Project webpage.
Have a pool? If you are willing to scoop insects once a month and sent them to a lab, the Pools Project might be for you.
The ANT-vasion Project is attempting to separate fact from fiction when it comes spices that allegedly repel ants. I heard cinnamon works? Maybe I need to find out for myself.
Neil Tsutsui also encouraged us to check out the iNaturalist app.
Cool words and phrases I will try to causally drop into conversation
Brood - is ant larvae and pupae (I misheard this as brew, like “ant brew”)
Mutualistic symbiosis - A symbiotic relationship between individuals of different species in which both individuals benefit from the association
Non-destructive cannibalism - can it be, though, really? looking at you, Dracula ants
Haplodiploidy - is a sex-determination system in which males develop from unfertilized eggs and are haploid, and females develop from fertilized eggs and are diploid.
I'm taking a break after working for fourteen years at the same company so I can decide what I'd like to do next. I'm not even sure how to describe this time off. I loathe the word "funemployment."Read More