Archive for the ‘Random Art Bloggery’ Category

NYC stuff.

Monday, September 16th, 2019

A few select items:

1. I walked past a deli specializing in pickles and this sign was in the window.

I will now start wishing people “May The Lord of Pickles smile upon your crocks.” You don’t even have to like pickles and it still feels good to say. Bonus: Don’t tell people what you’re referencing. Just hit ’em with the good wishes, include a sweeping arm gesture and walk away. Leave ’em blessed and confused.

2. Moomins and I finally went to the Whitney Museum in the meatpacking district of New York (more on that later) and in the process we went to Chinatown to the restaurant where my father proposed to my mother, Hop Kee. The ambience is not great, think really clean 1980s office bathroom, tile and florescent lighting for days. The food is amazing though. While Moomins was attacking a steamed fish like Jack the Ripper I looked behind her head and saw a sign that tells a thousand stories.

“If ONE MORE PERSON asks me where the G****MNED BATHROOM IS I will straight up throw a piece of crockery at them. Try me. TRY. ME.”

3. Now on of the big elements of New York activity. The Moomins and I have been meaning to go to what used to be the new Whitney Museum (we put it off so long that it’s now just the Whitney). I struggle with modern art. Some of it is good, some of it is bad and all that’s fine but then some of it is straight smoke and mirrors and I am 100% done with that. I thought I would make it into the actual exhibition space before I started fuming but I was wrong. While Moomins was sorting out the ticket situation I ambled into the gift shop and started perusing the usual niceties – big coffee table books, scarves, umbrellas, etc. In a table case there was some pleasant enough jewelry and whatnot… And then I saw it. It was a not particularly well-made two hump porcelain candle holder, one hump per candle. Since there were two of them on display I could see they were made from a mold. Next to the candle holders were some basic white candles. All of this is fine. The comment next to it was you would buy this candle holder and you would get ten candles that come with it. And when you burn the candles you become part of the artwork because each one is unique. And it was selling for $900. Yeah okay here’s the thing: That’s how all candles work. You burn them, they drip all over and there’s your unique sculpture. And I would have understood this for $50. But $900? With the two zeros and everything?

Point is I checked my umbrella into coat check in a rage. I ended up being really impressed with the museum’s collection. It’s an enormous collection of American artists, predominantly painters. What I liked was each painting was made in a cross-section of time and place, x and y axis, and you get a sense of what America was like at that time. There was a portrait done of a Communist leader when this country was close to becoming Communist and in addition to the portrait itself you can see the painting style that was emerging at that time, the colors of the clothes, the tablecloth, etc. There were some paintings done in shortly before the Great Depression of the Ford factory that were like the calm before the storm (the storm being the epic unemployment to come). tt was done in a style I was unfamiliar with called Precisionism where lines are put in specific areas that span across the painting and give it the impression of a clean stained glass window. It’s like the opposite of Impressionism. Where Impressionism is soft and ethereal, Precisionism is crisp lines everywhere. Not a loose stroke to be had. The most famous piece in that style is this:

So I have no regrets in regards to the classic collection. Then there was the moderny modern section. Many years ago I had the experience where on my college campus they got sculptural elements and put all over in random spots (in front of the library, in the courtyard near the humanities building, etc.). One day I was walking past the student apartments where I saw a massive pile of wood and fabric so I did a circle around it to see if there was a placard about the artist who made it. It was at that time I realized it was a pile of garbage. It was a moment of clarity for me. “If the art is indistinguishable from trash, it’s trash.” I’ve now expanded that to “If a cleaning lady comes into the gallery and mistakes your art for trash and throws it away, it’s trash.” I’ll give you some examples.

These were very large hollow plastic shapes. They looked like enormous chrysalises, the casings that caterpillars make to turn into butterflies. Did I fully understand? Not really. Could I clearly tell this was art? Yes I could.

And then there was this.

What is that, tape and floor tile and wood or something? Yeah, that’s not gonna make the cut.

Pass…

…Fail.

I went outside because I needed a breath of fresh air and the topper on the cake was the sculpture that greeted me. When I was in Vienna last winter I was in a museum that had a whole gallery devoted to a plaster cast of a woman tweezing her mustache with a shard of broken glass and farting frankincense. I wish I was kidding. Here’s the post, complete with pictures. I thought that that chapter of my life was done. I was wrong. I wasn’t really sure what this sculpture was and I didn’t look at it for very long. There’s a figure on a dolly being pushed or pulled or something like an ox and then the smoke kicked on.

Are those Mets socks? I imagine I made several art patrons uncomfortable when I semi-yelled, “Is it POSSIBLE for me to not see any more things with smoke coming out of the butthole??? Is THAT something I can opt for???” With context that is an extremely concerning statement so I understand the people that carefully moved away from me. I stared at the skyline which was very nice until I collected myself and then calmly took the elevator down to the ground floor to wait for The Moomins. I would encourage you to visit the Whitney Museum because the permanent collection is excellent. And the space is great. And the views are also great. And the restaurant looked pretty good. May The Lord of Pickles smile upon your crocks and may you not encounter any vaping anuses. I wish that for each and every one of you.

New Orleans. I knew I’d get to it eventually.

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

In February (yeah I’m aware it’s August, hush your judgmental self) I went to New Orleans to take a surface beading class where I did precisely no surface beading whatsoever. It’s where I worked on St. George. Snorth and her husband Speeb and I made a trip of it. While the class was only three days we went there for five because it’s important to see as much as possible. New Orleans continues to be one of my favorite destinations in America. I have a list.

– They have no snow. That means no slippy slidey slushy sadness. Yes, it’s oppressively hot and muggy but you know what I’m not going to do in that muggery? Get betrayed by physics and gravity and have my feet shoot out from under me, potentially damaging my body and definitely damaging my mental state. Ain’t nobody need that.

– You like making props and costumes? All year. They do it all year. There’s not only Mardi Gras, there’s also some big party at Halloween. People makes bikes with critters on them (more on that later). They make carts with musical instruments and all manner of flashing blinking whatnot and roll it around the neighborhoods for no reason. When Snorth and I went to the major float provider I found out they do sets for shows and brands and really anyone who needs something, not only Mardi Gras. They’re busy all year round. I asked what it takes to work there and I seriously considered quitting my job and going down there to live my best life but decided against it because it’s wildly reckless and very unrealistic. But I’m still thinking about it. Secretly. In the back of my mind.

– The people. The people there love their ugly folk. I don’t mean it’s a city entirely comprised of trolls and sewer-dwellers. It’s that in New York there’s a ton of high fashion and models and that’s valued and important. Chanel and Versace and Prada and Fashion Week. In New Orleans there’s no Prada and there’s no supermodels. Regular people leading regular lives. Wearing what they want. All the beautiful people I saw weren’t being pretentious, they were dressed in super-cool clothes and clearly unconcerned with people’s perception of them. It seems that your story-telling or music or art you make is more valuable than your appearance. Appearance still matters in New Orleans, it’s just not the top of the list. Quite the breath of fresh air.

I’ve been to New Orleans before and blogged about it (see here) so I’m going to do a very truncated version.

The class was offered in the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture and I learned quite a bit. For example it is not uncommon for someone participating in the parade to wear elements of their career in their costume. The woman wearing this was a nurse, hence the syringe and the stethoscope and the caduceus.

 

The museum had the nutria bike I’d seen previously, I was super-psyched to meet it in person as you can imagine. His name is Napoleon and his whiskers are zip ties.

Some of the other notable items in the museum: The Erté dress with the dog made from a lawn holiday decoration of a reindeer on wheels.

There was the mannequin with a large, concerning lump on his neck.

There was a beaded patch that caught my eye. Often these beaded elements are roughly sketched out and the creators are more concerned with conveying a message than intricate technique. This patch is a portrait and it is a very good representation of Big Freedia. Big Freedia is called the Queen of Bounce which is a style of dance music that I have difficulty listening to. But I find Big Freedia a delightful person and I love her fashion choices. She’s a killer and she works hard.

In the back was a metal skirt that women wear at giant balls and parties. The rings hold champagne glasses and the wearer glides around the floor where you can pick up champagne from her.

That was fine. What was NOT fine was what was perched on top of one of those skirts. I walked to the back of the museum only to be confronted by the most nightmarish thing ever: a papier-maché crawfish (an already rough-lookin’ critter) but gigantor and falling apart. It was broad daylight in a well-lit room and I still shrieked like it had snuck up on me. Look at the skirt for scale.

Huge. In my face. Nightmares. Greeting me. Every morning.

During the class we got meet one of the premier beaders of New Orleans, Demond Melancon. He went from being a dishwasher in local hotels to having his work shown in museums and sold in galleries. Demond makes crazy complex costumes which are used for battling. Instead of battling with knives and guns, two people wearing these kinds of costumes go up to each other and display off the stories they have been working on for that year. There are all those layers so when you think you’ve seen it all the wearer pulls a panel away and paplow! Another panel. You slide an arm flap and there’s a whole different section you hadn’t noticed. If you know how heavy glass beads are you can only imagine how heavy this whole ensemble is. I think showing dominance over others in non-violent ways and using talent and storytelling skills is awesome so keep it up, everyone. One of my favorite things is the beaders brag about how small the beads they use are. The smaller the beads, the more detail, the more time invested, the more skill. The higher the number the smaller the bead. So while everybody else is using 6s and 8s, Demond is out there yelling “10s and 11s! You hear me? 10s and 11s!” Every so often I’ll talk to Snorth and I’ll say, “10s and 11s! Look at it! 10s and 11s!”

We went to Demond’s studio which is a large artist’s collective in a big warehouse. Outside his door is the studio of the people who made Napoleon the Nutria bike. I got very excited.

Since Demond (and his wife, the unsung hero of his success, she needs accolades for her work) do such large projects there’s an ingenious solution to get beading done on such a large scale. They get old dining room tables, take the tops off and staple-gun the thick cotton or linen to the table edges. That way they can draw with markers on this taut surface and see underneath when they’re beading. They had a table off to the side with only the marker drawing on it.

Here’s a video where you can see his studio and some of his work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrG8xgZCwTo

Snorth and I went back to my happy place which was Mardi Gras World where the floats are made. I’ve already covered this place (glorious bliss heaven) but there were some cool new things I thought I’d address.

Look at this excellent painting job! These coins are really great.

I’m glad someone is repairing the giant snail. The snail deserves only the best.

In order to cut down on foam carving time for non-Mardi Gras-related items (like a recent project the Chik-Fil-A cow) they have a computerized carving machine. It’s huge, it takes up a whole room. Which is why most people might not notice the Buddha off in the corner with the DJ Deadmaus’ signature head on it. But I did. I noticed.

They had the usual pile of randomness. Some I took because of the incongruity of one piece next to another. Some I took because of the excellent painting or carving. Some because their expression is hilarious.

Two other New Orleans sights that I want to address – the shoes I would have killed for at 10 years old (wouldn’t mind them now either):

And the Squirrel Carousel. It lit up. It spun. I wanted it. It was $4000. I did not buy it. I have regrets.

I have seen things, virtual things.

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

1. Are you aware of this? So cool.

https://l-ile-des-confidences.tumblr.com/post/177811016113/erdal-enci-who-clones-multiple-recordings-of

 

2. This is the best art. I want to live in this place more than anything. I ache to rest my tired body in a giant cat, or a fox, or a bunny in an ice cave covered with orb-shaped blue birds. Make sure you click on Page 2 to see all of them.

https://ruinedchildhood.com/post/185958521684/illustrator-imagines-a-world-where-gentle-giant

 

3. Was this a necessity? Did the world crave this to the point it needed to be made? It’s very… specific.

4. This animation is stellar. The rotoscoping* of Cab Calloway as a ghost is particularly great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFBx3qYGxL8

 

*To rotoscope is to trace a live action film frame by frame to create an animation precise to actual movements and forms. A well-known example is the “Take On Me” video.

 

5. In the process of looking for A-Ha gifs I found this (make sure your sound is on):

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=503281129866329

Which led me to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv02k3blZZw

Which led me to THIS (which really has very little to do with the other two but is too great not to share):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDXIa8ivFEc

Now I’m following @Ghetto.Spider on Instagram. I may watch this video ten times in a row for I snort-laugh every time I see it. I want to be in that parking lot so bad.

https://www.instagram.com/p/ByYaNEhh-Np/

 

St. George and the Dragon: The Force Awakens.

Friday, June 7th, 2019

I went to a three-day beading intensive in New Orleans a couple months ago and I needed a project to work on. I was going to bring a board with a design on it to glue tiny beads to but an employee of mine quit. I took over her work and therefore didn’t complete as much as I wanted. So I ended up gluing teeny tiny sequins instead. Let me tell you my story with St. George and the Dragon.

A while back I went to the Neue Gallerie, the German art museum in NY, for their Weiner Werkstätte exhibit. In the entrance hall there was a mosaic (you know how I feel about mosaics) of St. George and his dragon.

I was like GIVE THAT TO ME I WANT IT  but shocker, they did not give it to me. So I was like FINE I’ll make it myself. And I’ll make it exactly how I want it. For example, I don’t love that dragon, but I very much love the dragon on the fountain in Antwerp.

I decided to use the head and some of the body style. Done. Then I wanted smoke to come out of the nose. And I like the way the Chinese draw clouds.

Boom. Put that in.

I decided that I wanted the piece to be matte but the suit of armor and his halo should be encrusted like a Russian icon. I’ve had a soft spot for Russian icons for a long time. The hands and face are painted and the rest is hammered metal, usually gold or silver. Here is an example.

And finally I’ve always wanted to make a drawing with red outlines instead of the usual black. I like to make my life difficult because that’s how you grow and evolve as a creative person.

SO, armed with all this everything I made a drawing.

That’s Cricket’s face which I used as a guide for the face.

I did such a good job! Hooray for me! So talented! (Get ready for a fat pile of hubris.)

I transferred the design to the board by punching little holes using a pushpin onto the lines using a soft backing, in this case I used foamcore, taping it to the board and pressing a pale-colored Sharpie on the holes thereby making wee dots on the board. I can then connect the dots and have the pattern.

And I colored in all the red. Which is when I realized I screwed up all the proportions on St. George.

His head is too big, his waist is too small and his legs are too short. But I didn’t have time to redo it so I convinced myself hey, it’s the Middle Ages, he’s a young child and he has rickets and a tapeworm. Fine, good, solution. Moving on.

Gray and silver washes as a background. And darker gray for depth.

And the beginning of the sequin-gluing process. I found some flowers and cut off the petals to make the chain-mail.

I finished all the sequins and started on the dragon’s body. I painted it a rich deep blue-green.

And then I screwed up the cloud. And scraped it off. I proceeded to screw it up three more times. And at that moment I made the decision to start over. George was the wrong size, I didn’t use a sticky enough glue for the sequins and they started coming off, and the smoke cloud was not happening. You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, etc.

First thing I did was find a photo of a tall man, chopped off chunks of my original St. George drawing in Photoshop and reassembled them over the new body so the proportions were correct.

Then I made an entirely new drawing. I wanted the cloud to balance the curve of the dragon so I moved it over.

I used the same technique of the pushpin on the soft backing material,this time apadded envelope, taping it to the board and tapping a Sharpie on the dots. This is what the paper should look like when done if it’s done correctly.

Before I got to the tail I decided I didn’t like that odd turn and redesigned it using light pencil lines. You can see Old George who is not great and New George who is really coming together.

And now I begin the painting process. Since I made a ton of mistakes on Old George I feel like I’m starting New George with a lot of good information. Let’s see if I’m right.

San Francisco Part 8 and done.

Friday, May 10th, 2019

Birds! So, so many birds. But first, something else.

I’ve spoken about how much I love Jeremy Fish’s style. I own one of his pieces in my apartment, a signed print of a skull with wings and a bunny head riding on two dachshunds while a hand holds a carrot to motivate them. (Jeremy Fish is very surreal – it’s best not to ask questions.) I know Jeremy Fish is based in San Francisco so imagine my delight when I saw this pasted to some wooden siding.

And here’s a another bit associated with the game park. On the side of the road there was a ankole cow, the kind with the gigantor horns. It makes the difference between antlers and horns very clear. Horns are temporary, they’re used for mating rituals and then they fall off. Horns are forever and in the ankole’s case (and many other beastie’s cases) it cools the blood before it goes to the brain. That’s why it looks like a sponge.

Okay, birds. The game park not only had herbivores and the occasional carnivore, it also had birds. A lotta birds. And few of my dream birds that I never thought I’d see so I got super-excited.

These are storks of some kind. Fancy storks. The males and the females are almost exactly the same and the only way to tell them apart is one sex has yellow eyes and one sex has red eyes.

Flamingos. I don’t feel like I have to do much explaining here. They’re a bird we all are familiar with.

In a very large net-covered area was a plethora of birds. A lot of ibises (I like to call them ibii, I assume that’s wrong but I don’t care). Some different storks. A lovely medley of ducks. Something called a hammerkop. It’s related to the pelican.

The tour guide said we could go inside the enclosure as long as we stayed with him and didn’t interfere with whatever the birds were doing. That’s how I got so close to these fancy fancies.

And then… I saw them. I’ve mentioned the vulturine guineafowl before. I’m well-acquainted with helmeted guineafowl, they’re common in South Africa. They was free-range there, wandering around being stupid (which is what they do).

But there’s the bestest guineafowl in the world and that’s the vulturine kind. And there they were, two feet from where I was standing. I tried to be cool about it. I was not cool about it. I was plotting on how to steal one.

So if anyone is going to the San Francisco area and feel like picking me up a present, this would be an excellent choice. Get me the skull-faced balding blue-faced chicken asap.

There were a couple other creatures in other areas.

Cheetahs!

Servals sunning themselves!

And one of the few monkeys I like (I find monkeys and apes a bit terrifying) the De. Brazza’s Monkey.

And that’s it for the trip to San Fran. I hope you found insightful and informative.

Many changes.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

As the title implies, there have been many changes. Mainly I quit my job with Publicis after 11 years. I had had enough. I only left a little over a week ago and now I’m making my way in this brave new world. It’s scary but it’s also awesome. I gotta hustle now and make lunch appointments and update my LinkedIn profile, it’s all very exciting. Now, concerning blog entries. I was going to wrap up my San Francisco trip but since there was the tragedy of Notre Dame yesterday I figured I would talk about other churches and cathedrals I have visited that are nowhere near as famous but are similarly old and maybe even more beautiful. It gives one hope that there’s still beauty out there in this time of sorrow for all us art history and architecture enthusiasts.

It also helps that this was a kind of inevitability. not a fluke. From The New York Times:

Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York City fire chief, said that fire hose streams could not reach the top of such a cathedral, and that reaching the top on foot was often an arduous climb over winding steps.

“These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn,” he said. “If they weren’t houses of worship, they’d be condemned.”

Okay. On to other Christian churches / cathedrals that will make you feel better, maybe.

  1. St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Prague: http://design-newyork.com/blog/2010/04/02/budapest-and-prague-part-4/
  2. In case you’re missing the catacombs, outside Prague is The Ossuary of Sedlec. And St. Barbara’s Church (should be a cathedral, lost out to St. Vitus): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2010/04/03/budapest-and-prague-part-5/
  3.  Cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium that still has the polychrome intact on the walls (which had chipped off in Notre Dame): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2012/12/03/belgium-for-thanksgiving-2012-part-3/
  4. St. Vitus’ Cathedral again (because awesome): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2015/02/03/germany-part-6-technically-prague/
  5. AND The Ossuary of Sedlec / St. Barbara’s Church again (because awesome): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2015/02/15/germany-part-done-technically-prague/
  6. The Church of the Jesuits in Quito, Ecuador (which is not Europe but holy crap this church was amazing): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2015/10/26/south-america-2015-part-8/
  7. Peterskirche in Vienna (super Baroque with festive dead bodies on display!): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2018/03/20/vienna-and-krakow-part-2/
  8. St. Mary’s Church in Krakow: http://design-newyork.com/blog/2018/04/15/vienna-and-krakow-part-8/
  9. Wawel Cathedral in Krakow (dragon dragon dragon whale bones dragon dragon): http://design-newyork.com/blog/2018/04/03/vienna-and-krakow-part-7/

And because I went here before I started blogging, the Cathedral of Monreale in Sicily. I straight-up lost my mind when I walked in. The mosaics are unreal. Here’s some info:

The Cathedral of Monreale (Italian: Duomo di Monreale) is a church in Monreale, City of Palermo, Sicily. One of the greatest existent examples of Norman architecture, it was begun in 1174 by William II of Sicily. Since 2015 it is part of the Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale UNESCO Heritage site.

The main internal feature is the large extent (6,500 m2) glass mosaics, executed in Byzantine style between the late 12th and the mid-13th centuries by both local and Venetians masters. With the exception of a high dado, made of marble slabs with bands of mosaic between them, the whole interior surface of the walls, including soffits and jambs of all the arches, is covered with minute mosaic-pictures in bright colors on a gold ground. The mosaic pictures, depicting stories from both the Old and New Testament, are arranged in tiers, divided by horizontal and vertical bands. In parts of the choir there are five of these tiers of subjects or single figures one above another.

I hope this helps ease the pain of losing Notre Dame. Remember, these are only churches and cathedrals I have visited. There are tons more.

San Francisco, Part 7.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Cricket and I went to a game reserve near San Francisco and we’re going to delve deep into that but first! Art! Really good art!

We went to the Museum of Design one of the days we were in San Fran. Important information: The Museum of Design is TINY. It’s one and a half rooms. That’s it. We walked there twice – the first day we walked three miles and got lost and the second day we walked three miles and made it to the museum. Which, due to them changing out the exhibitions, was only one room. One room. Cricket started laughing so hard I had to walk away from him so I could silently fume in a corner. However, all was not lost. The one exhibition was a clay artist I had never heard of, Gustavo Perez. His work was amazing, very fluid but also mathematical. It reminded me a little of the design style of the atomic age. Perez had a display on a shelf.

And one that covered the entire floor.

I did research into his work and I have a new favorite clay artist. Perez manipulates the clay in a way that makes it abundantly clear that he is in complete control of his medium. If there’s an exhibition of Perez’s work near you I recommend you checking it out.

Okay, game park. The climate in the hills outside of San Fran is very similar to the savannah in South Africa. So there’s a game park with no major predators, some cheetahs but nothing bigger. Lots of antelope (which I love, a vastly underappreciated ungulate group). I took a bazillion pictures. Get ready because here we go.

Did you know there were different types of giraffe? Most people do not. This place had two types. The dark one was a Maasai giraffe, very big, and another was a Rothschild’s giraffe, he was fourteen months old and he had a massive crush on the Maasai giraffe who was almost twice his size. He kept coming over and gently hitting his head into Mrs. Maasai’s neck and eventually she would get irritated and saunter off.

There were three rhinos. In one pen was a male and a female rhino but they were just friends, not mating like the game park would like them to. So off to the side in a smaller pen was a male they had brought in in the hopes that the lady rhino would find him sexy. The female had a straight horn which is something I’ve never seen before (but to be honest I don’t look at many rhino horns). It has to do with the way she rubbed her horn on various surfaces. Since it’s compressed hair it wears pretty easily.

And here’s the new male. Look at his sweet little hairy flower ears.

There was a herd of ankole cows. You’ve seen them before. They have crazy huge horns. They live with the Watusi tribe and were bred to look like this. There’s no real purpose. Let’s quickly go through the different between antlers and horns. Antlers are solid and fall off every year. Horns are permanent, filled with spongy bone and are used mostly to cool down the blood before it reaches the brain. It’s also useful for scratching your rump.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpY7S1N3Kg8

Neat fact: Santa’s sleigh is pulled by reindeer, right? And all the reindeer who pull the sleigh are assumed to be male, right? Nope. Males shed their antlers in the fall and females shed theirs much later in winter therefore the reindeer pulling the sleigh are all female.

Okay, back to ankole. When they get up and walk around they make a great bonking noise as their horns tap one another.

Near the ankole was a solitary black angus cow (which looked super-small next to these massive-horned bovines) with a solitary black angus calf. Hanging out like they were part of the herd.

The story I got on that was that one day this black angus female showed up from a ranch nearby. The game park keepers called the ranch-owner and he said he would come pick his cow soon. But he never did. And when she wandered over she was pregnant and now she’s part of the ankole herd. So that’s that.

Way over on the other side was more ambling herbivores. There were eland which is the heaviest antelope in Africa. A full-grown male can be 2100 pounds. Big boy. The male looks weird with hanging skin and lumpy humps. The females are pretty and sweet-looking. They lived in an enclosure with zebra and a few waterbuck. We arrived at one of their feeding times so everyone sauntered over to the feed bowls.

 

This is a picture of a mother waterbuck with her baby. This picture is exciting because this is the first time the baby had been seen.

All the above-mentioned herbivores were herbivoring when someone massive and imposing started approaching the food bowls. All of a sudden everyone had something important to do somewhere else.

It was a male cape buffalo. Cape buffaloes are a notoriously skittish and aggressive. Rhinos, when you approach them, will run away and rhinos are tanks. Cape buffalo will start crap for no reason. That explains why when the single solitary buffalo walked up to a bunch of animals that weighed forty times what he weighed they all left. Look at the zebra’s body language. “Nope.”

There was a herd of cape buffalo. The guide clearly said, “If you drop anything like a phone or glasses don’t get out of the vehicle. I will get them for you. Except if you drop it in the cape buffalo area. If you drop it in the cape buffalo area it is their possession now.”

We saw other land critters as well. There were wildebeest:

And a gemsbok:

And some red river hogs (and a tortoise). Team Red River Hogs forever. Big fan.

Next entry: Birds and the end of San Francisco.

San Francisco, Part 4.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

We’re going to delve into Muir Woods! But first, not Muir Woods.

I got my first coffee with a fancy pattern! And it was at a profoundly hipster coffee shop! I was delighted.

Continuing with the consumption theme I went out for dim sum in San Fran Chinatown. It was awesome. Look at this sampler platter.

I rotated the sampler so you could see the bunnies.

The plants in San Francisco are better. They have a far more temperate climate so they can have bougainvillea, and palm trees, and hibiscus. Their Roses of Sharon look more hibiscus-y than ours.

Okay, Muir Woods. I’ve spoken about it before (you have to scroll down quite a bit, it’s there) but I have new information this time. Let me share this new information with you.

I was in California during the horrible fires in Paradise. It was horrendous to see on the news and people in San Francisco who probably have friends and family in the affected area were distraught, justifiably. The air was filled with smoke. People were wearing bandannas and painter’s masks in an attempt to curb the smoke inhalation but none of them took the major gaps of either approach into their judgment. While a good thought they were useless. The reason I’m mentioning this is my pictures at Muir Woods are particularly beautiful due to the particulate in the air but it’s a bittersweet beauty because you know how much suffering is associated with it.

The trees be old.

I admired their aggressive will to survive. For example, this tree was struck by lightning or burned or something, it’s black and dead. Look in the middle, you can kind of see it. So it made children with its roots and sent them up all around it. I think it’s called a Family Tree.

I also was impressed by the trees that fell over with their roots out of the ground and were like, well, I’ll just grow vertical trees out of my horizontal branch. Send roots down through it. Problem solved.

Look at the size of these clovers! They match the trees in beefiness.

In case you don’t have a sense of the size of the trees, this hole at the bottom could accommodate four or five full-grown adults sitting. Big. Very big. And large. And also tall.

And now the beautiful / sad photos. No photoshop of any kind.

It was nice to see that Muir Woods has signs about conservation and the environment and when you get to their gift shop and cafe they actually walk the walk.

Next post: Art and the bestest thing that happened to me on this trip.

San Francisco, Part 3.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

Alcatraz! But first, other stuff.

On our first day in San Fran Ness-Ness took us to the Castro district for lunch. That is the historically gay neighborhood. I believe it’s referred to in the movie Milk (phenomenal movie, go see it). There were your standard gay area shops but there was also two naked guys wandering around. Older naked guys. Wandering around the streets being naked. To be honest they weren’t completely naked, they were wearing tiny sparkly cape over their parts. Not the eggs, only the stalk. And one guy’s cape was too short so his stalk was peekin’ from the bottom which somehow made it worse. Once the gentlemen had passed we went to a cafe for lunch. Please note the name. Keeping faithful to the area and its motif.

At first I was like those prices are kinda high and then they brought the food out and I was like never mind. The portions were big, the food was excellent, you should go there. The fruit crepe was dope as hell. A+ fruit crepe.

Another thing I saw whilst strolling the streets: a sign shop that does hand painting. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about anything with calligraphy or hand-painted letters (big big fan). Imagine my delight at seeing this. So many styles! So crisp, so even! Strong, purposeful brush strokes! I swoon.

Now, Alcatraz. Crickets loooooooves behind-the-scenes tours. Loves ’em. I do too but he did all the booking so we saw all kinds of secret magical things. One of those things was a tour of Alcatraz conducted by a person (the basic tour has you carry around a little tape recorder that instructs you where to go). I am now awash in knowledge. Allow me to share it with you.

As I said before I only took three photos at Alcatraz because I was trying to live in the moment but I will rely on the gazillion other people that have been there to provide me with pictures. Okay, so Alcatraz was a tortoise-back-shaped island until around the mid-1800s when it was made into a military fort. I think it’s been part of the U.S. Government (as opposed to San Francisco property) since then. I know it’s now considered a national park so when we went on our tour a federal park person accompanied us. She pointed out that since we were on federal property, even though we were only a mile from San Francisco, no one could use marijuana or marijuana-based materials at any time. (I do not personally partake in the healing weed but that point of it being illegal intrigued me.) Now, one might think it’s only a mile to San Francisco, why didn’t any of those escapees make it, and it’s because of the temperature of the water – very cold – and the current. There is a race to swim to San Fran every year but it was pointed out that these people had trained and, more importantly, were wearing cold water wet suits which insulated them. One of the first things the soldiers did when they got to the island was hack a chunk of the side of the tortoise back so there was a sharp cliff. That way invaders didn’t have a way to get up to the fortress. They also grew agave plants all over the side of the cliff because you cannot navigate through them, they’ll slice you right up. Here’s an oldey-timey picture where you can see the man-made cliff.

When the fortress was done fortressing it was used for holding POWs and the prison was built right on top of it. So when you’re standing at the base of the main building you can see massive stone chunks which then turn into cement and that’s where the prison layers begin and even those are visibly different, from the POW prison to the criminal prison. There are several other buildings on the island because the guards and their families lived in the same place as the prisoners. The guards had nice apartments and there were twelve ferries every day back and forth from San Fran so the wives could go and pick up necessities and the families could go see a movie or whatever, but they lived right next to the cells. Imagine being a little kid and growing up like that. Anyway, because of the guards being residents there was a social house and a school house and a power station, etc. Alcatraz was only the prison we know it as from 1930-something to 1960-something, not that long.

If I had to sum up my experience at Alcatraz it would be astonishment at how similar it was to Shawshank Redemption. I’ve probably mentioned numerous times how that is my favorite movie but I figured it was hyped up to make it a more interesting story. I was wrong. Apparently the new inmates came off the ferry chained together at the feet, were hosed down and given anti-lice powder and then were walked to their cells naked while the more experienced prisoners yelled “New fish!” at them. The cells at Alcatraz look just like they do in Shawshank (except that the walls are painted pretty shades of salmon and mint, which is weird). They had The Hole which I got to visit. The showers were all open with rows of overhead pipes and sprinklers. They showed movies twice a month. Heck, even look at this picture of the yard. It’s got the layout and same stepped area that is in the first scene where Red takes bets on who will cry first. The similarities are nearly endless.

More on The Hole: It is solitary confinement in the dark. It’s supposed to really break you down. In Alcatraz it was originally a leftover portion of the fortress underground.

There was a toilet off to the side for the guard to use and let me tell you that was the scariest thing I saw on the whole tour. If anything is haunted there it’s that toilet. I don’t know how to describe it but it was run down and the smooth white seat was cracked down the middle and I think it didn’t help that it was on the edge of a looooooong corridor that was dark (remember, we’re in the fortress here so many creepy corridors to be had) so if you were sitting on this toilet (no stall, out in the open) on your left were prisoners trapped in darkness and on your right was a tunnel leading to who-knows-what. POW corpses probably. Nightmare fuel, I tell ya. Eventually they moved the solitary confinement upstairs where it was sound-proof and in complete darkness. Here’s an article about it. Don’t read it, maybe. Because once something is known, it cannot be unknown.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11245414/My-19-days-in-solitary-confinement-on-Alcatraz.html

The SC cells looked like this:

I have to say the coolest part of the tour was showing how the cell doors opened and closed. I’ll try to explain it. At the end of the rows of cells is a large box. In that box is three levers. Over the all the cell doors in a massive bicycle chain with metal pins in it. The guard chooses to open cells 2, 5 and 13. The guard pulls the first lever to 3 (there’s a strip with numbers on the side of the lever so he knows where to line it up to). He pulls the second lever to drop the pin into the door of cell 3. He pulls the first lever to 5. Pulls second lever to drop pin in cell door 5. Pulls first lever to 13. Pulls second lever to drop pin in cell door 13. Finally, he pulls the massive third lever, those door with pins in them move with the bicycle chain and open. The rest of the doors don’t have dropped pins in them so they don’t open. I found a video showing you how it works. Start at 3:39.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbVMbdaz8ZI

The reason I know how all this works is because they have a section of the chain housing covered with plexiglass so you can see it in operation. It’s pretty awesome. There’s no electronics so it works in a blackout. Totally worth checking out.

Next entry: Muir Woods and other stuff.

Addendum: Cricket took a picture of the upsetting basement toilet. Horrifying. Enjoy.

San Francisco, Part 2.

Monday, December 17th, 2018

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I was in San Francisco for a wedding. Cricket and I decided to stay in the Queen Anne Hotel. It is supposedly haunted. Here is the haunting information:

The Queen Anne Hotel is a hotel in San Francisco, on Sutter Street. The hotel is an historic 1890 Victorian mansion, in the namesake Queen Anne architectural style, and decorated in the painted lady style. It was originally a girl’s boarding school. It narrowly survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.The hotel is a popular site for ghost hunting. The headmistress of the former finishing school, Mary Lake, is said to haunt her former office in Room 410. The hotel’s paranormal history was explored in an episode of the television show Haunted Hotels.

We did not stay in room 410 so I didn’t experience the haunting. I have to recommend this hotel, the room was great, the bed was hella-comfortable, the breakfast had make-your-own waffles, there’s an enormous living room / salon with fireplaces and comfy chairs AND every morning if you sign up for it you can take a black car anywhere you want in the city for free. We didn’t go to the afternoon tea and sherry but I imagine that was lovely as well. I had a strong attraction to this piece of furniture.

And this heater.

And the floor inlay.

The only problem I had with the hotel was the decor. Victorian is a really tough design period, there’s a lot of clutter and bric-a-brac, it’s all dark wood, kind of ornate, it can go downhill real fast.

And in some places in this hotel it did. For example, why did you paint the lady’s heads in the dining room? Now I’m eating breakfast surrounded by dead eyes. It’s hard to eat your yogurt with that.

Nope, that’s a hard nope from me.

I don’t know what they were going for with the dead flowers. I’ll tell you what, it really complemented the dismembered lady heads everywhere.

Now, this is cool and then it is not. A bunch of stained glass windows survived the earthquake in 1906 and they are above your head as you climb the stairs. Lovely. However some jackass put fluorescent tube lights behind them so they have all the warmth and charm of a second-grade classroom. Why? Why do you do this to me? Anguish.

This isn’t really a complaint, more of a flumoxing really. This was our bathroom wall viewed from the toilet. What… what is going on here?

I understand some of the elements like the light switch and the plug things but the everything else, I have no idea what’s going on there. Many questions left unanswered.

We were right next to Japantown which consists of two very large buildings built in a Japanese-esque style and a tall tower.

We went early in the morning which I do not recommend because almost nothing in the two Japantown malls is open until around noon. It was a perfectly fine mall, lots of shops and food stalls. I have to admit I am jaded. There was a Japantown on the way to my previous office and therefore I was regularly exposed to a chunk of Japanese culture. I imagine this would blow someone’s mind if they were from a Japanese-starved area but I was okay with it, not mind blown. But I do recommend checking it out, there might be something there that isn’t in your area. Here’s a list of the stores.

http://sfjapantown.org/directory/

The one thing they had that gave me warm fuzzies was the beverage vending machine. I fell madly in love with the beverage vending machines in Japan so I got a little teary-eyed to see my old friend again.

That’s it for today. Next entry: Art and Alcatraz.