Friday, 30 November 2012

Drawing update

The draft of my drawing is now finished. Ineed to do some tweaking, but this is more or less what I am thinking about for the final piece.


The upper right corner still needs some work, and I want to work on some of the background space, but now it is thinking time.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Update on the Drawing of My Female Relatives

So today I worked on the images of my sister and added my great grandmother on my Father's side.  I just can't get the face of one of my sister's right. It's probably because of the photo I am using. The newer part of the other sister is pretty close to what she looks like. Now I need to put in my aunt on my father's side, fix the bottom left figure and then start adjusting the values. I guess there is still a lot to do!

Thanksgiving Meal

It's funny. I talked to my sister before Thanksgiving and although we had to spend the holiday apart we both decided to have our traditional Thanksgiving meal.  So we both cooked all day and then we had our long distance family phone call.  So we started to compare notes, since we obviously would have made the same things. It turns out we had not one single item in common! She had turkey. We made leg of lamb. They had stuffing of course and we did not, but we had lamb gravy. They had mashed potatoes and we had mashed sweet potatoes. They had corn pudding and we had corn bread muffins. They had broccoli and cheese casserole and we went the green bean route. For dessert pumpkin pie here and mince meat there. Both meals sound pretty good, but funny how our childhood traditions seem to have been so different.

So here is a picture of our feast. (I chose this picture because I thought maybe it would look like the dogs were on the table, but it doesn't really. They are at the edge of the room enjoying their own feast of the cooking pots. You can see Copper licking his lips!)

Monday, 19 November 2012

Update on Drawing

Well, I've slowly been working on my drawing of the women in the family, but it is going very slowly. Here is the current state of the drawing:

I got my grandfather's sisters done today and reworked some of the prior figures. I'm still not happy, but it is really about the composition in this picture so, accuracy isn't actually all that important.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

New Drawing

Well, During the first part of the year I was working on a drawing of my male ancestors, and now it is time to work on the women.  I have begun the first draft.

I'm working on the composition right now and not accuracy really, but I love the image of my great grandmother on the upper right side.

Today I worked on the second draft (Nov 1).

I experimented a bit with different styles  which will either need to be used more consistently in the drawing or else I will nee to take them out, but until I get all the relatives filled in I won't be able to tell what I want to change.

Is anyone else as sick of political ads as I am!?

Friday, 19 October 2012

Finally a Star Worthy of the Title!

I'm not the type to drool over Hollywood notables, but of course there are a few people of the movie persuasion for whom I have admiration. Some of this admiration I confess is visceral, James Spader and Val Kilmer I adore because of their roles, and talent, but also because there is something about them physically that probably connects to my female heterosexuality. When it comes to women actors however, for me there is one head and shoulders above the rest (metaphorically and not physically as she is quite petite)  and that person is Lili Taylor.  Many people don't recognize the name, but few have forgotten her as Lisa in Six Feet Under or as the memorable character in Say Anything who sings the immortal song about her ex-boyfriend "Joe Lies!"

Last night I had the opportunity to meet this amazing person. This is not the first time I've had brushes with greatness and without giving details I will simply say I have been sorely disappointed. For once however this was not the case.

Last night my small local liberal arts college held a showing of Being Flynn with writer Nick Flynn and his wife Lili Taylor in attendance. It was sponsored by the Literary Arts Institute, an organization that helps promote creative writing and the liberal arts. If you haven't seen the film, it is one I can recommend highly. The story tells of a young man who is a little lost and who gets a job in a homeless shelter only to have his estranged father turn up in need of assistance.

Robert De Niro does an impressive job of playing the alcoholic father, who has aspirations of being a great writer. (Or more properly who knows he is a great writer, despite the fact that no one has ever seen his infamous and ever worked -upon manuscript The Butt Man). This is the kind of deeply nuanced character role that De Niro was born to play and he does so masterfully and with no holds barred.

In the film, young Flynn played by Paul Dano must learn to cope with what he learns (and doesn't learn) about his father and learn also about dealing with people who live on the street.

The supporting cast is marvelous (more of an ensemble cast really) with Lili Taylor playing a co-worker at the shelter and Julianne Moore playing young Flynn's put upon mother.

It is a realistic portrayal of those who live on the street (for the most part)  unsugared by Hollywood plot devices and saccharine escapism. The film is dark, gritty and in general true - based on Nick Flynn's memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. See it if you have the stomach for a little reality in your movies! See it even if you don't!

Afterwards we were treated to a question and answer session with the two-time PEN award winning poet. And treat is the operative word. Flynn answered questions about changes in the film from his book. (Time was sometimes collapsed and there was no meeting with his father in Flynn's apartment) and about his feelings about working on the memoir (difficult and needing distance on a regular basis - but that is a part of the writing process.) He said he doesn't feel he knows his father even after spending time with him - one of the legacies of the father's extravagant tales and alcoholism. He therefore advised the children of the homeless, if they were seeking advice to listen and pay attention. Of course that is good advice no matter what.

Nick Flynn talked fondly of watching the film with his father in his Living Community and having to repeat the lines of the film as they watched on a laptop, because the big community TV was being used for sing-along time. Best of all he read a poem and spoke of art, describing it as providing a scrim for the audience to project their views upon, an idea he credits to his wife Lili Taylor.

Lili sat nearby and listened and refused to steal the spotlight from her deserving husband.

The lighting in the room was absolutely horrific (brutal overhead lights that created a reverse Frankenstein effect) so I could not get a decent photo, but fortunately my friends saw to it that I got a chance to converse with the actress after the discussion.

So what was she really like? She was gentle and down to earth and oh so kind. She listened patiently to praise I'm sure she has heard a thousand times and was gracious and warm.  We talked about the Midwest, the horror films she has been in  and her roles in The Addiction, I Shot Andy Warhol and The Haunting. There were so many specific things I would have loved to ask, but we kept it light and at the end she gave me an autograph and I got to have my picture taken with her.  She told me she will be in a film coming out next year called The Conjuring. She says it will be really scary and since it is directed by James Wan (who did Saw) I believe her. Look forward to ghosts in a New England setting (but filmed in North Carolina)!

And while you are waiting for The Conjuring go see Being Flynn and while you are at it read a poem. It is important to take time out for the arts and you don't need to wait for a poem to come to a theater (or red box) near you!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

State of the Knitted Blanket

So I finally got around to my mosaic project today.

Here's what it looks like after a little knitting today.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Fall Colors in Wisconsin

It's that time of year again. The bright yellows are everywhere, the shimmering orange and every so often those brilliant reds that demarcate the season. Now where was it so obvious as on my recent trip to Wisconsin! Just look at the way the colors combine together to give one chills down one's spine!

Luckily there is another show going on to take a look at while one is stopped for seasonal road work. The leaves were at their peak of color as I drove home from my Film and History conference.

I stopped at a rest stop that promised a scenic overlook. It was a location famous in the past for its abundance of passenger pigeons.

The sign promised an overlook, but it turned out not to be obvious where exactly that was. Then I noticed a little trail that led up a hill and through the woods. There were some absolutely gorgeous spots along the way.

I followed the path and it kept curving and leading upwards.

Some of the colors were as rich as I saw the whole trip.

Eventually the path led to a board walk, but it still continued upward.

And on I climbed

Luckily the journey is as important as the goal. When I arrived at the top, I discovered that the trees had grown up around the look out and so it was hard to tell there was an overlook. By standing on a bench on my toe tips and zooming the lens between two of the overgrown trees, I was able to snap this picture.

The roadside had even more beautiful colors.

Going around a curve you could look off in the distance and see colors across the huge panorama.

It was pretty amazing!

Even so, what made my heart skip a beat wasn't the colorful trees...

It was the capitol building in St. Paul that meant I was getting close to home!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Safe House

One of the fun things I did in Milwaukee was visit the club called A Safe House. I already mentioned my fiasco at Trivia, but nonetheless, one of my most brilliant ex-students, a co-conspirator agreed to help me come in from the cold.

That's our winning trivia team a version of "The Landsharks", but missing its founder and some of its more prominent members who were not available that night.

Off we went to find "A Safe House", a notorious club where a secret agent on the run has to know the secret password to get in.

As you can see the door isn't obviously A Safe House.

Well, not too obviously.  Since we did not have reservations we were seated in the other half of the place, also interesting for its genuine historical interest. If those signatures are real there are a lot of famous people who have been at the Press Bar including many presidential types.

 and Al Cap, Art Buchwald, Walt Kell, even Al Franken. (I wonder if it is pre or intra political career.)

Our waitress brought us our menus and then "released" us to explore the spy-oriented premises.

The interior is so amusing and is full of "spy" memorabilia. To get in, one enters a room that looks a bit like a tiny waiting room - a woman sits in an arm chair reading and one has to tell her the password to get in. "Agents" that don't know the password are asked to do amusing things like sing songs or recite things in unison and their antics are broadcast on tv screens throughout the safe house. Entering the actual premises, you are met with this.

You can see one of those many tv screens on the right with the woman seated in her chair at the bottom of the screen.

There is so much to see. One big room looks like this.

Here is another part of the establishment. These are little private booths.

I laughed really hard I when saw this "Company Store" part.

There's a war room with a map that moves upward and has a screen for projecting films. There's a Chair too.

There are also some other silly things. We were given a paper with an assignment, that if we chose to accept would take us through the highlights of the place. Here are some of the funnier of those. That's me in the fun house mirror!

There's a red door to a men's room (like the ladies' room door on the left)  - but when you open it, you see a brick wall.

The ladies' room has a picture of Burt Reynolds and  if someone touches it in the wrong place, alarms go off all through the building. You can see that this is not a rare occurrence!

One of my favorite parts was this little model of Check Point Charlie. Since I actually got to leave East Berlin  through this check point it has special memories to me.

Nearby, in a glass case was a piece of the Berlin wall.

Next to it was a cool Octopussy poster in German.

The back room has this huge mural with all these great spy figures on it.

The other end of the room is sandbagged and there is a machine gun (prop? I hope) that was a gift from John Wayne above the door.

Here's a slightly better shot of the wall of spies.

It turns out that you can play with the wall by pushing the button, Max.

The top part shifts around and you get to see some other familiar faces on the necks of previous images.

When you leave you put a quarter in the pay phone and there is secret exit to the street. Of course neither of us had any change, so we had to leave by the plain old regular door, but that was okay. We had had a great time and certainly didn't care if others knew where we had been!