My sister gave me a copy of Willa Cather’sDeath Comes to the Archbishop and I just stayed up waaay too late to finish it (Here’s a tip: don’t exercise at 10:30 pm. You won’t be able to sleep). I never did read a Willa Cather novel before, but I’m going to try some others now. I like her plain-spoken style and sympathy for a variety of characters. One thing that strikes me about this novel: though it lacks an antagonist (at least a steady one), it’s still a page turner. You want to know everything about these characters and their landscape. On second thought, the desert sometimes fills the role of antagonist, and at times takes over as ingénue. Yeah, it’s pretty slick how the desert ends up a bona fide character here. I guess this is true of the land in most Western novels of the period, but still- -neat trick.
Thumbs up, Willa. I’m a fan.
Here are a few blogs I’ve been digging:
My friend Laura’s blog Cloverland Farm talks about a wide variety of stuff from her life including Ethiopian Adoption, crafting, reading books, and all sorts of etc. She’s a good writer and I’m always amazed at the wide variety of things she’s become an expert on. Her blog turns me on to all sorts of things including good movies and fun stuff to make like this handbag made of plastic grocery bag yarn.
I just discovered dooce. I know, I’m a little late…seems like everyone in the universe knows about this blog, and they should; it’s interesting, well written, and has great photos. A slice of life blog, if you will.
My sister Peggie just started a blog. She’s very handy with a turn of phrase, that one. I’m excited to watch this one grow. Go Peggie. Write more.
I went to see Leah Siegel at the Living Room on Saturday night. I was in a bad, bad mood, brought on by menstrual cramps and an extremely painful muscle in my left leg, which I found out was due to an infected spider bite that swelled to 8 inches across and was hot and purple and made my whole body feel like shee-yit. This is really TMI, but just to say that I was in no mood for sensitive listening music.
In spite of all this, I loved this show. Leah’s voice has been described as “Jeff Buckley channeling Billie Holiday.” I don’t really know how to deconstruct that statement, but somehow it works for me. She has both balls and femininity, and TOTAL CONTROL of the pipes. Really, she’s all over the place with those vocal chords in ways that most people just don’t attempt live. And doing all this vocal gymnastics while playing a mean guitar with interesting chord choices and everything. None of this singer-songwriter downstrokes on the G business that we’re all so familiar with.
Oh, and her band is great…Steve Elliot (who played on my record) is my favorite musician in the whole world and I’m not exaggerating even a little. That man has so many sounds in his guitar vocabulary, and chops that make a lesser guitar player like me want jam picks into my eyes.
After all this talk I’m realizing it’s sounding like Berkley School Wank Music. But, that’s the thing thats so wonderful about Leah Siegel and company. Sure she has an amazing voice and knows how to impress, but it’s the songs that they’re all about. Great songs. Great songs played by great players with a modicum of restraint. Great songs that you end up singing later. Great songs that put you in a particular mood and make you forget there is such a thing as menstrual cramps or infected spider bites.
Last night I got a hankering to check up on the super-secret Central Park blackberry patch, known only to me and a million thieving birds. I was worried that I had missed their peak, being out of town for so long, but it turns out they are still mostly quite green. Like this only less blurry:
I was very stealthy in my approach and had my spy camera out before I realized I was standing scant feet away from a supine teenage love-couple. I actually didn’t see them until the first picture was snapped- -the flash revealing their position. It was kind of embarrassing, but not too embarrassing to get a few more berry photos in before I left them to themselves. I was also able to sample a berry or two before they got back to their sloppy kissing. The arrival of a stranger with a camera stopped them for approximately 38 seconds.
I guess some people don’t appreciate the sanctity of secret blackberry patches.
Here are a few pix of what’s growing in my sister’s yard in Mesa AZ, as seen through the eyes of my brother-in-law. I was there for a full month and saw a lot of growing things and even lots of blooming things despite the fact that it was often 110 degrees.
Almost every time I told someone that I was thinking about putting roll-out sod onto a gallery floor I got the same response: “why not use some kind of turf?” To that I say “If I have to use fake grass I don’t want grass at all.” I admit that I was beginning to doubt myself; it could just be a plain old bad idea- -an expensive bad idea, not to mention a wasteful bad idea, and a bad bad idea.
When the time came to buy the grass I was surprised to find out that you can’t just go to any Home Depot in Phoenix in July and buy a specified amount to suit your fancy- -no, no. Home Depot can’t keep that stuff alive in 110-degree heat, are you crazy? I was about to give up on the idea when my very nice friend Mark (in spite of his misgivings) tracked down a sod farm outside of town who was willing to truck it in for us, in the middle of the night of course. Their minimum order was only twice what we needed.
So, said nice friend Mark had the honor, along with my giant nephew Tully, of meeting the truck at 4 AM outside the Women’s Center of Mesa (where we had the pre-opening). He also had the honor of helping me bring half of the sod into the gallery the next day, rolling it out and fluffing it up. I hope his back didn’t hurt too much. Anyway, turns out that the whole time he was scared that the Women of the Women’s Center would come by and stop us from carrying muddy sod into their gallery. We put it on plastic, honest!
I tell you all this because my relief was so great that people loved the grass. They sat on it. They spread out the blankets. They took peanut butter sandwiches out of the picnic basket and ate them. They watched the show from the grass. They played ball on the grass. In fact, they acted just like it was regular grass at a regular park, which was exactly what I was wishing for.
One more bonus (that for some reason I didn’t think about beforehand) is that grass smells good. It smells like grass! The whole room was transformed into a park, not in small part because of the growing smell of grass. I just can’t wait to do this when it’s winter so people can come in from the cold for a tiny summertime experience. Lord, I hope sod is not as hard to get in Michigan in the winter as it is to get it in Phoenix in the summer.
The best part is that my fear of wasting was also unfounded. What was I going to do with 250 sq. ft. of sod? It would die in a matter of hours if I just left it outside without water. But my friend Nancy knew of a nice family with small children and a dirt yard. We rolled up the grass and they took it away just like that. The report is that the grass fit exactly into their space- -no leftover space or grass. I was relieved and overjoyed. Once in a while things work out perfectly.
Here is a detail of the Horn Tree. This mother is pretty hard to photograph.
The idea here is that the mouthpieces of the horns grow out of the copper tubing at approximately mouth level. When the horns are blown (and the proper sound is made), the light bulbs (which are suspended from copper tubing overhead) light up. The tree was engineered so that some bulbs light up at some frequencies, and others light up at other frequencies, see? So that if you blow a high note a certain bank of lights go on, and if you blow a low note another bank of lights goes on. Make sense? No? Well here’s a video to explain:
And here’s another picture–a little blurry, but you can get the idea:
My dad helped me to engineer the base (so that it wouldn’t fall over) and then he had to leave, So my friend Mark took over to help with the engineering of the light bulbs–that is, making the light bulbs turn on when the horns are blown. Turns out he knew of this fun thing called a Color Organ. It’s the device that makes those awesome light banks from the seventies function. Don’t know what I’m talking about? I think you do:
Nowadays you can buy a printed circuit board kit that controls the lights. Thank God that Mark knew how to 1) order it and, 2) solder the damn thing together.
The PCB is almost as interesting as the horn tree, really. It looks like three little robot guys with three little robot drums getting ready for a drum circle:
Here’s a wee video of Ken and Mark testing the color organ:
One more thing I’d like to note: Caralie and I felt very proud of ourselves because we learned how to attach plugs and sockets to electrical wire. Here’s a picture of us doing a victory dance:
Did you know that electrical wire is made of latex? I didn’t. One bad side effect of working with this stuff all day (I learned to use a wire stripper!) is that my latex allergy has been upgraded from mild to relatively severe. Now I’m allergic to all sorts of things. I’m even allergic to my iPod headphones. Sheesh.
Another super lo-fi video of the Tea Tree making me a cup of tea. This was another thing I was worried people wouldn’t know what to do with. But they drank 3 gallons of hot tea (in Phoenix!) so, I guess it was successful. It was fun to see full-grown adults wandering around with doll tea cups and saucers. I had full-sized cups on there, but people wanted to drink teeny tea. I’m glad. It added to the Seussy surreality of the event.
Here’s a full-sized pic of it:
Photo by Ken Balcom
Notice the umbrella handles coming out of the corduroy bark roots. My sister sewed the bark/roots. It was my nephew’s idea to put the umbrella handles at the end. I don’t have a picture of the giant zipper in the back. I like a tree with a good zipper tab.
Here’s Caralie drinking from a doll-sized cup:
I especially liked it when people chose the doll cups and a standard saucer. Good times:
Souvenirs and Shiny things is a fanciful indoor Central Park created by Annie Quick and friends to take on tour with her New Album and Web Serial. This blog charts the planning and building of this interactive exhibit, as well as Annie's daily thoughts on nature (particularly in Central Park), playing and listening to music, and whatever else she feels like talking about. If you want to get in touch, please send an email to annie at teamsuperteam dot com.