Archive for the ‘found objects’ Category

Confession about acquisition…

February 28, 2010

Let me begin by stating I have few needs and wants. This does not mean that I am without desire, or prone toward acquiring objects which have little usefulness in my life. This afternoon Martha and I attended the opening of the “Out of the Ombu” exhibition which Looking For Beauty and I did installation last Thursday. I am such a sucker for quiet, tactile beauty, and should have realized I was in trouble when the first area of concern for exhibition to me was for six examples of Shino ware. While the curator was explaining the need to display 6 sculptural pieces against the main wall, I was ruminating about where to display these gems. In less than three minutes, I had dragged over the display plinths and placed the beautiful, quiet-as-a-whisper pieces – two tall slab bottles with diagonal carved stripes, two small bottles, beautiful examples of Tobigana with subtle blue soda glaze, and two Tobigana bowls with Shino slip decoration.
One of the pleasures and privileges of mounting an exhibition is the opportunity to closely look at and handle art objects – on a more intimate level than is available to the gallery goer. When I upended the Tobigana bowls and happened to see the accidental glazing due to the vagaries of wood firing on the surface of the chattered ware and the subtle beauty of the foot finish, I should have realized that the demon of acqusitiveness that lurks in my otherwise modest person would set up a persistent chant in my unconscious – “these are meant to be for you!”
Barely one minute into the opening, my feet took me to this part of the exhibition, and immediately to the curator to beg for a red dot to place by the two Shino Tobinaga bowls. I did not care whether these items were of collectible value, nor that the potter was a relative unknown. That doesn’t figure in my estimation of the desirability of these beautiful bowls. What did was their quiet insistence that existence is very much dependent on the vagaries of chance acting on material, and that these items had been blessed by the character of heat and fire carefully tended by the potters, and the happenstance of these objects’ position inside the ombu and the introduction of soda ash at a particular time during the firing. Nothing is guaranteed! That is of what these bowls speak to me – and of unexpected gorgeousness.
Now, I have put myself in the position of bringing these items into my home. How do I explain this compulsion to Rumpole? Me, who prides herself on wanting little. But, by gum! I can hardly wait to bring these beauties home. I know I was meant to have them. Earlier this week, as I was dusting the mantle I picked up the beautiful Tobigana decorated vase I had picked up a couple of months ago from the Sally Ann. It has a gorgeous salt glaze, a simple form and a subtle chatter decoration around the shoulder. It cost $1. I googled the decorative practice and did some reading on the technique this week. And, behold, this opportunity has occurred.
I feel very fortunate to be able to afford such an act of whim. Maybe Rumpole will understand.
But I have plans. I talked with the potter at the opening – an older Japanese lady. She was pleased I so wanted these two bowls. As I was gazing at them and lifted them up to run my greedy fingers over the surface, I decided to paint them as a still life from many aspects when I get them home. What a challenge to paint using earth colours to approximate the feelings which these objects yield to me. I can hardly wait for the six weeks of the exhibition to be over.

Old to you, new to me…

November 7, 2009

Lookingforbeauty and her friend Carole are doing a timely bit of business together. They are holding and Art and Antiques Sale at LFB’s house. They have been preparing for this sale for about two weeks, dusting, washing, polishing, displaying and pricing wares they have obtained by various means during the past 20 years and which they have been amassing and stockpiling due to their true nature as magpies. Magpies love shiny pretty bits of things, and true to their nature collect little caches of found treasure that attract and please their eyes. These two ladies are truly the magpie Sisters. And now, they plan to divest themselves of these treasures, and share them with others.
There is a lot of “stuff”, objects of desire, if not always of utility, circulating out in the world. Daily more and more stuff is created to add to this mass of materal goods. There is always something new to seduce the eye, the desire for novelty and luxury and to stir a lust for acquisition or gifting.
Over my lifetime, I have successfully resisted the siren call of goods. It is not that I do not admire beauty, utility or clever and ingenious design, it is simply that I have not the need, want or desire to weigh myself down with things which give momentary stimulation or which must be stored, guarded or maintained. My possessions must not define me; I resist the pigeonholing one must submit to in order to allow possessions to signify who I am. This may be a form of perversity, of my constant need for rebellion.
One of my great pleasures is to go about looking at everything, considering the importance of things in the scheme of existence. Old stuff is fascinating; they give clues to ideas about what constitutes a good life as expressed through material accumulations, what is valued, at what level of valuation as signifiers they sit. Old stuff gets passed from generation to generation; their value being association and sentiment which have uncounted value and yet propel forward as weight which is carried and then added to with new stuff to create even more weight, impediments and preventers of a baggage free life. At once a blessing and a curse, we pass around compilations of goods to benight the next generation. I am not exempt from this behaviour.
Last evening, I braved blustery fall weather to nip over to LFB’s house to peruse the offerings she and Carole had displayed for today’s sale. I pored over the goods with the same zeal that I had demonstrated while digging in the backwoods middens of early BC settlement at Wells some 20 years ago. What treasures might beckon my magpie eyes? What wonderful objet would call out to me. “So, or so might enjoy having this for themselves?”
Well. A mold made glass plate, an example of Depression glass, caught my eye. Martha would enjoy serving pickles from this at one of her many buffet dinners with which she welcomes guests. Only $5.00. Done! I set it aside. Of! Look! there is a bisque porcelain pelican, the one I have been admiring, while it was sitting on top of LFB’s linen press for several years now. Barb loves birds and loves intricate and delicate detail and a lovely surface. This is perfect for her Christmas present this year. has Barb ever seen a live pelican? Maybe a well crafted stand-in would do, in case she never has set eyes on this wonderful bird, or may never, in her lifetime. Set it aside!
Oh, yes. YES! There is a set of beautiful etched drinking glasses, each one a different colour of glass, each one decorated with a lush exotic bloom. Lucky would enjoy handling these and serving sparkling mineral water from them to her family. Put these aside on the pile, also!
I meander around, looking, considering, wondering who had handled these during a life at which I can only guess.
There are baskets of silver, polished for presentation. Ah, but look – there is a pile of odds and ends sitting in a box. What stuff is in there, jumbled, ready to be discovered by the curious eye? What is this black and red square of about 1 inch proportions? I poke around and lift this up. It is an enamelled ear-ring, of 60’s beatnik vintage. Poke, stir, turn… aha! here is its pair.
I get a moment of flashback and nostalgia to the mid 60s, when my friends Myra, Terry and I used to go to artsy craft shops and admire goods for sale. We never had enough money for any more than our bus tickets to and from such places. But we handled and admired the hand-crafted offerings. These ear-rings might delight Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis. She loves hand-crafted ear-rings, especially arty ones. Place them in my pile of findings.
Poke around some more in the box from which these ear-rings came. Yes! A primitive looking fish pendant! It’s made of aluminum, I think and say so to LFB. “Nope!” she comments, “that is Pewter.” I scratch the back of the pendant with my fingernail, and announce to her that it is aluminum. We haggle; LFB being the friend she is lets me have it for a half-price reduction.
This one is perfect for Emma, my niece – she is a Pisces. I put the pendant in my growing bit of stuff. But I am not yet done.
Stacked by the fireplace are piles of old books. I kneel down and start to read the titles on the spines. There is a slim volume in a dustjacket. It is a 60s compilation of aphorisms on the French take on Love and Life. I open it and begin to peruse the contents. Some great stuff in here. I say to LFB, “Are you sure you want to sell this? There is a huge possibility for you to work up a Conceptual series of drawings from these. Wouldn’t those be fun to undertake?” LFB gives me a considering long look. “Okay,” she finally mutters, ” I guess, now I’ll have to keep this.” She sets the book aside on her kitchen counter, so she can give this idea more thought.

And then, I find the perfect treasure for myself. It is an olive coloured, leather bound book – its front cover loose and detached. It has a gold-embossed laurel wreath with ribbons swirling from the wreath. On the ribbons is engraved “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat.” I hold it in my hands and feel the buttery soft binding. Turn it to look at the highly decorated spine – Land Surveying, the author, HJ Castle. On opening the book, a series of chapters on mathematical and trigonometry problems, introduction to the theodolite, leveling and surveying complete with illustrations appear, and at the end ofthe book a table of logarhythmic sines and tangents and traverse tables. For some reason, this book appeals to me – I must have this for myself. I have long been fascinated with geometry, topography and about these concepts. Illustrations explaining mechanics of breaking down information I have long considered an art form. So, this is the finding which I was happy to come uon for myself. LFB said that the book had been one of her Father’s text-books from Upper Canada College. Her dad had been a professor of Civil Engineering at UBC. His old textbook was new to me. I plan to reattach the cover and interleave its pages with appropriate diagrams I will most likely find in my peripatetic way of uncovering information – maps, graphs, photos having to do with terrain, the landscape.

It is my hope that the treasures I have obtained from LFBs magpie collecting will have the effect of novelty to the people to whom I plan to gift these.
Of course, they may not really like to be further burdened with additional stuff, however, if they so desire, they can pass these things forward. Old stuff can in this way remain new.

Collector…

October 22, 2009

The other morning, while I was quaffing my first cup of joe, Rumpole was struggling to open the pantry door, and swearing profusely and rather colourfully.
“For God’s Sake, G,” he growled, “why are there so many x^7*3# rubber bands on this door-handle? What are you saving these bloody things for?” Exasperated, he gave up the struggle and sat down across from me. But he was not finished yet. The rant continued after he cast his eyes in the direction of a corner of the kitchen counter where, teetering, rows of my sour cream, yoghurt and cottage cream containers were stacked, seeming to multiply and take over the rest of the counter space. A crafty expression on his countenance, he commented. “I think you are beginning to lose it, go into a decline or are starting to show some unfortunate aspects of advancing age.”

“But, dear, all those items are useful and I know will come in handy…soon.” I retorted.
“For what?” he demanded to know.
“Well, just think. I have been collecting rubber bands for about ten years now. And was I ever glad to have a handy stash of them on hand then Game Boy visited and asked me to do a hairdo of mini pony-tails all over his head so he could look cool and punky. You just never know what purpose rubber bands may be put to.”
“Oh, crap! You have a rejoinder for everything I say to you. What about that mess of plastic containers? What do you intend to do with them?”
“well, …er…, oh yes! Lucky, Barb and I are doing a series of mixed media experiments, for which these containers will come in very handy – you know, … for mixing acrylic media, sand, glue, recycled house paint.”
“Yeah. So there will be a passel of these containers full of weird concoctions lying around your studio for…well, forever, or for whenever you go on one of your jags to throw stuff out. Usually when I force you to.”
Man, he was really on a roll this morning. How could I lob back some clever comment to shut down all this kvetching? Aha! My ultimate statement! “Dear, aren’t you the least bit happy that I am not one of those women who shop daily for useless things and pile them up, unwrapped, all over the house. All this little tiny bit of collecting seems rather harmless by comparison.”
That stopped him in his building diatribe. Ha!
“Grrrr,” he growled as he brought his coffee cup up to his clenched jaw. “Point taken. But please, get them out of my sight at least.” He took a swig of coffee. His face lit up as if he had just got a brilliant idea. “You know, Just before Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she had made some rather bizarre collections…need I point out, plastic containers, rubber bands… and it seems to me you have started a rubber band collection on the linen closet door handle, on your bedroom’s as well besides the back spindles of the kitchen chairs and the pantry door-knob. Do you think you may have a problem?”
I was aghast. Was he really suggesting I was losing it, ready to be prevented from living a relaitvely normal life and sequestered in the company of other forgetful and eccentric seniors?

“Oh yeah!” I countered, “before you start to diagnose me, diagnose yourself. I am not the one who loses her pants after taking them off and hanging them up. Nor am I one who cannot see her car keys right in front of her eyes. Frankly, my dear, some days you worry me.” I fixed him with my best snotty stare as I tapped my fingers impatiently on the tabletop.

“Point well taken,” he retorted, ” but I want all that stuff gone, hidden… and I don’t care where, when I return from work tonight.”
“Yes, Bwana,” I humbly assented, ” your wish is but a command. As a dutiful Stepford Wife, I shall, however begrudgingly, comply.”

So it’s off to remove said rubber bands and plastic collections from their offending places. Out of sight, maybe out of Rumpole’s mind, but ready to hand should their utility suddenly come into my conscious ken. I shall spend the morning brainstorming as to the various purposes to which rubber bands may be put.

Christmas wrapping, chez moi… furoshiki

December 7, 2008
2 gifts for women friends

2 gifts for women friends

Rumpole asked me to acquire a gift for his business partner, a woman who loves artisan made objects. Her gift is in the smaller silk scarf wrapped box. he is pleased with how festive it looks. I found the scarf for $1 at a second hand shop, washed and ironed it and in less than two minutes fashioned this wrapping – furoshiki style.
The second, taller object, is for a woman friend – an artisan made vase of glass. I inserted it into a tall box and wrapped it within a polyester scarf found in a second hand store for .98 cents.
There is no tape anywhere on these gifts. Also, they need not have labels, as the material for both is so unique that memory serves to know for whom the gift is intended.
This year, all my gifts are to be wrapped in fabric, sans tape, and so far I have yet to obtain any material that will be discarded by the recipients of the gifts. I hope the idea carries forward, and friends and family adopt a method which is sure to be economical, aesthetic, ecological and adaptible for all manner of presentation of goods.

Since all of my presents are either artisan-made or consumable ,we will not have added to the vast amount of goods circulating this Christmas, and will not have supported an out of neighbourhood economy.

The Japanese Government has a web-site for methods on furoshiki wrapping. I think it is a brilliant concept. Trust the Japanese to come up with a concept that is so eminently practical and beautiful.

Jam-jar aesthetics…

October 23, 2008

If people were generally more knowledgeable about the resources used and labour expended in the fabrication of the simplest items of daily use we would find the contemporary privilege of unchecked choice horrific, wasteful and counter to our need for self-preservation as a species.

One day, while waiting for my friend to complete her banking business, I wandered around our local Value Village. In several long aisles there were a staggering variety and number of flower-vases, lined up higgledy-piggledy, cheek to jowl – vases that householders had found lacking in currently favoured taste, and which then they had discarded or otherwise removed from their consciousness and environs. Mind you, there were no un-noticed Daum or Lalique vases with which to tempt the tightwad person of bourgeois aspirations. There were however many acceptable containers in which to temporarily house flowers arriving at our shore from overseas flower growers. Yes – there was that delicately cut bud-vase in which to display that red rose from Colombia, the one that would make its way home from a refrigerated container at the harbour’s edge, to the auction house on Marine Drive and then from the local florist or grocery store. A visitor to the house, where such rose is displayed in its hot-house glory, might sigh in appreciation at the unblemished perfection of the flower amply displayed in the tasteful and delicate cut glass bud-vase. The fact that it is the last gasp of autumn here and no roses can thus bloom on their shrubs would simply not occur to the visitor, the magnificence simply erases all practical and logical thought.

And such is the case with most of North-Americans’ aesthetic manner of living. Special containers need specimen and uncommon flowers to display, and there must be a variety of containers available – to suit every taste and personal economy. It is somewhat doubtful that a fashionable matron in the British Properties, or in Shaughnessy would walk along ditches and fields, collect wildflowers and display them in an empty Smuckers Strawberry Jam jar. No, for such a lady the Meinhardt’s on South Granville or a flower selller on Granville Island or in Kerrisdale might provide the exotic blooms for which the vases are purchased from Atkinson’s or Martha Sturdy on Granville or even Birks, downtown. The aspiring middle-class housewife might purchase her flowers from the local flowershop, or the grocery store, and her vases from Bowrings, Ikea or Homesense. Women, disparagingly classified as granola-munchers, the frugal or the poor ones might just do with a second-hand vase picked up at a garage sale or thrift shop, and if really skint, then put into service the good old jam-jar or milk bottle.

I have to confess that I have often displayed downwardly-mobile tendencies in the past, and continue to do so to this day. While I love beauty in its myriad forms, I feel no pressure to own it. It is enough that it merely exists, everywhere, commonplace hard-wrought beauty. Of particular value are the tools with which life is carried on; they need to be functional and long-lasting – in that resides their beauty. The term, “gilding the lily” comes to mind. One does not have to apply flourishes to something whose inherent beauty is enwrapped in its perfect functionality. The field daisy can vie with the lily; both are beautiful, each in their own way and neither needs embellishment and both look spectacular placed in a plain tall drinking glass, or a tall narrow pickle-jar. An ornate carved crystal vase diminishes the flowers, in my opinion. Possible contemplation of the marvel of nature that is a field daisy is distracted by the context of man-made tour-de-force of elaborate craft.

One of the few wedding presents Rumpole and I received was a gorgeous carved Lalique vase. It sat on our mantle for three years and never once housed flowers. It seemed to overpower the kind of flowers and grass stems I picked up in my forays about the neighbourhood. It never loooked right, and seemed to me a reminder of the kind of rarified life I was to aspire to – one of ease, leisure, and material comfort and a distancing from visceral pleasures of a rather grubby life. Never having been a young woman to whom were given flowers, but rather tin snips, wire cutters, metal files, carving tools and prosthetic arms and other strange, unfeminish items such as strange rocks and concretions or dried dead things. The joke in our house was that if it came from a ditch, field, or midden it took pride of place on the mantle; however if a glorious bouquet of flowers came from a flower shop or decor shop it was left to decay, deform and otherwise gather dust and then it was of value. That poor Lalique vase never had a chance for long survival. Whilst packing up the house to move up north to our acreage and log house in the bush, I was carefullly sorting and determining just what objets deserved careful wrapping and placing into packing boxes. The concretions, shells, bits of bark, twigs, stones and seeds were carefully wrapped and set aside. Similarly, any old and roughed up glass medicine jars picked up from dusty second hand stores and jars of pleasant proportion, with or without lids, were lovingly seated among crumpled nests of newspaper and insulated against brakage. I had left the Lalique vase to the end, considered giving it to my mother, who might have been horrified at what an unsentimental ingrate I was to not value such a beautiful gift. I held it nestled in my hands as I stood above the flagged stone apron of the fireplace, contemplated the vase and what it meant to me,to the giver, to any other recipient who might have valued it; decided that I had neither the inclination nor energy to spend time in seeking a new home for the vase, opened my fingers and dropped it onto the stones. It shattered into fine pieces, which I then swept up and put into the dustbin.

The last item I packed from the mantle was a small plaster plaque which six-year old Renaissance Man had made for me of an impression of a leaf. I still have that sitting on my studio window, next to an empty jam-jar ready to hold a foundling weed flower, and alongside a toy firetruck and some retrieved circuit boards. Oh yes, and a cardboard cut out of a brocade bedecked Renaissance Queen.

That is what I consider jam-jar aesthetics; a not very fashionable one, but which gives me far more satisfaction than the Lalique vase ever did.

Gift giving and Gift wrapping…

August 5, 2008

June and July have been the gift giving season for us. Several family members and friends have had birthdays; this involves gift giving, and the inevitable gift-wrapping that accompanies it. This year for the Junior Rumpole family, Renaissance Man, Glasgow Girl and Mousey the gifts involved artisan-made or artist-made ones. Why not support the creative community, I figured.

The giving of gifts necessitates camouflaging them with wrappings to make them a ‘production’ of a present, to add glamour and mystery to what may in the end turn out to be an ugly pair of socks a recipient might only use to dust ceiling corners in perpetuity. There have been volumes of books published which are devoted to the fine craft of wrapping presents. The whole procedure becomes a painful chore to which proles, like yours truly, carry a life-long deep-seated antipathy, never being interested in developing refinements, which, when considered in seriousness, border on the frivolous, excessive and wasteful. Conventions of gift presentation carry with them a whiff of the bourgeois.  Ever conscious of my ‘pinko’ characteristics, I have made many attempts to down-play gift-wrappings, by giving presents which are awkward to box, bag or otherwise wrap.

Why, once, I decided to gift my younger sister, Margaret, with a lilac shrub. This item is rather challenging to camouflage. Rather than festoon it with wrappings of hideous patterned gift wrap paper, I chose to go ‘au naturel’, as in “what you see me dragging in is what you get so be prepared to do a superlative bit of acting and look absolutely surprised AND delighted”. Once I had arrived at Margaret’s house,  wrestled the shrub out from the car’s back seat, fluffed it up a bit to negate the dishevelment it had suffered during a twenty mile drive, I presented it to her with a flourish from behind my back ( as if she missed identifying the shrub as it poked out around my blocky body). Ta Daa! Surprise!!! Margaret can give Meryl Streep a run for her money as an actress, she faked surprise and pleasure so well. And the lilac has grown to monstrous proportions in the intervening years. It has given her scented blooms for her vases, or for her afternoons out sipping tea in its magnificent shade. And no gift wrap had been wasted or sent to the land-fill.

I was thinking back on this while considering exactly how I was going to ready the Junior Rumpole gifts for this year’s presentations. Renaissance Man’s gift of a silk-screen print by Anarchist Artist of the ‘Battle of Seattle’ was a cinch to prepare. I slipped it into a huge archival plastic envelope, one of those I use to store large drawings, rolled it into a large tube and wrapped a strip of fine drawing paper around its middle. A small tidy snick of tape to secure the paper strip, and it was good to go. Renaissance Man shares with me a mania for collecting art works on paper, so he will make good use of the archival plastic envelope for his own storage purposes. He didn’t seem crest-fallen in receiving a gift so casually presented. Score: proles

Glasgow Girl has enough residual bourgeoise tendencies to want a somewhat more fussy presentation. Eage to oblige, I scratched my grey head while considering solutions. Her gift, of a pottery serving-bowl, was a tad too small to place inside a flowery pillowcase and enclose with a length of ribbon from my sewing stash. Of course, I could have stuffed the pillow-case with shredded bills from the paper shredder, to disguise the contours of the gift, however it did not seem appropriate to accompany such a lovely present with slivers of paper bearing hidden evidence of my family finances, so, instead, I opted to use furoshiki.

For those unfamiliar with this term, using furoshiki involves wrapping and carrying objects inside a knotted, square, patterned cloth of cotton, rayon, or silk. I have long admired Japanese craft, aesthetics, and their national tendency to marry practicality with beauty. This seemed a perfect solution. I remembered that somewhere in the distant reaches of my bedroom closet was a box full of new, never used silk and wool scarves that I had recieved over the years as gifts. You don’t know what to get a man as a present? heck! Buy him socks – he always needs them. For women the equivalent of socks-for-all-occasions of gift giving must be scarves? However, for me, once I became aware that my idol, Isadora Duncan, had met her untimely and dramatic end by being choked to death when her long scarf wrapped around the wheels of her Bugatti, scarves had lost their lustre and glamour. Into the closet box all scarves were relegated, and some were real beauties.

So, out came the box of scarves, from which I selected a delicate orange and yellow silk one with sketchy flowers. I wrapped the pottery dish in several layers of newspaper,ensuring the wrapping had square corners, placed that bundle kitty-corner onto the silk square and alternately square-knotted opposite corners, leaving a lovely four-square petal of cloth at the top. It is possible to carry this package securely and without disturbing the decorative top by slipping fingers through the top knot. Glagow girl was delighted when she received this bundle.

“How on earth do you come up with these ideas?” she asked. “This looks too elegant to open.”

“Oh, the internet,” I said, modestly casting down my eyes, “but, do open it and see what’s inside.”

She opened the knots and unveiled her present. Then she asked what she should do with the scarf, as she, herself, didn’t wear them.

“Well, you can keep it, and use it to wrap a gift for someone else. That scarf should get around some!”

“You know, I have a huge stash of scarves, that just keeps growing yearly,” she commented. “This is such a perfect use for them.”

I ended up doing a same kind of wrapping for Mousey’s birthday present of mother and baby opossum hand puppets. She happily unwrapped her gift, and then toted it off home in her scarf furoshiki.

The other day when Jeanie was here for dinner, after we polished off a bottle of wine, I showed her how wine bottles can be wrapped singly or in pairs for gift-giving. She practiced furoshiki wrapping bottles on the coffee table and pronounced her results ‘brilliant’. She was going to drag out her collection of scarves, once she got home, and practice on all kinds of things to wrap up.

I feel I have been doing my level best, in an underground sort of way, to kill off custom for Hallmark and other purveyors of gift-wrappings. While I have never watched Martha Stewart’s shows and learned of those  modes of presentation which she pronounced “Good Things” this one might be right up her alley as a purveyor of domestic niceties.  Furoshiki – a good custom to practice.

“Dear Heloise…”, er, I mean, “Dear Crabby…”

July 16, 2008

Oh, but we are a world of seekers after information, on how to or not do things, always on the hunt for new, novel or tried and true solutions for our many questions. Having access to a computer is a contemporary equivalent of being in possession of an encyclopaedia set for loftier bits of knowledge, of owning a book on household hints or consulting the “Dear Abby” column in the morning newspaper.

Why, just the other day, I googled some new/old knowledge on how to make my own laundry soap, whipped up a simple concoction of three ingredients and now am happily laundering away with nary a phosphate in the wake of such domestic activity. Can an old dog learn new tricks? You betcha! Especially when having a PC, an electronic oracle, to consult.

To my surprised delight, while perusing the search engine terms used to find my blogs for morning amusement, I find I have now joined, like many other blogger beavering away in obscurity, the illustrious company of “Dear Ann…Dear Abby, Dear Heloise… and er, Dear Martha”. It seems that some of my trove of lore and wisdom is sought after by a few innocents pounding away on their computer keyboards.

How have they stumbled upon my blog? Naturally, via search engine terms, which are the efficient substitute to flipping through volumes of encyclopaedias. As a giving sort of person, I shall humbly attempt to oblige these seekers. But first, I need to have a catchy ‘nom de plume’. Aha! Shall it be “Dear Crabby”? Sort of suits my persona rather well, according to Rumpole and other intimates. So “Dear Crabby” it shall be. Has a ring to it, a famous sort of ring?

First question I shall address is:  “how to avoid chafing armpits in ocean” ?????

Dear Sun, Surf and Sex;

Your question caused me to give a vigorous scratch to my scalp. Even though I search my memory, back, back into the mists of time, I cannot recall an occasion when I ever chafed my armpits in the ocean. But, of course, I am not in the habit of trying to remove armpit hair-growth by rubbing up against coral reefs, which I am told by knowledgeable sources is not a recommended method of depilation. Besides possibly hurting, this action might cause one to develop a severe infection, if perhaps the blood released into the ocean by chafing did not at first attract the attention of man-eating sharks. I suggest you don’t expose your armpits to chafing whilst playing in or near the ocean. Please exercise caution if you want to avoid unnecessary drama in your life.

                                                                                                     Crabby

The second question, even more baffling, is : “cigarette ash for facials”….????

Dear Ex-Smoker;

Please give up on the idea that cigarette ash is an ingredient in facial unguents. The “friend” who gave you the recipe is not your friend, but a hardened enemy. She was perhaps likening your complexion to the surface of a walnut dining-room table which has been besmirched by numerous white water rings and spots. This is definitely hostility being aimed at you. You may not know that one can get rid of white water rings on varnished wood surfaces by mixing a salve comprised of butter and cigarette ash. However, delicate human skin cannot well survive the application of such concoction and I highly recommend against it. Suck it up, and carry on with whatever resulting skin condition has been gifted you by a lifetime of smoking the evil weed.

                                                                               Crabby

Anyone else needing me to dispense with hard-won wisdom, delivered without holding back, please address your questions to “Dear Crabby”.

Novel Search Engine Terms…

July 4, 2008

How do some people find my blog? For one, mis-spelling a word leads them in this direction. Take one of today’s search Engine terms that gave me a pause, giggle and occasion to let loose some flights of fancy.

“how to pose for aural sex” led this poor bad speller to my unarguably sedate blog. This suggests a search for the safest sex ever – phone sex, I presume, although one can let the imagination roam and brain-storm for other possibilities? The posing part is intriguing. Does one pose a graceful and seductive hand to cup an ear, hang upside down, recline in sensual abandon and hang one’s head a 15 Degrees from the edge of one’s silk-sheeted bed?

Was Shakespeare suggesting the depravity of Roman populations when he wrote the wonderful beginning of Marcus Junius Brutus’ famous soliloquy – “Friends, Romans, countrymen; lend me your ears…”? Yeah, I know that’s a stretch and complete silliness on my part, but that is how my mind tends to work on little sleep.

Studio visit with Anarchist/Artist…

June 12, 2008

Flora and I had been planning this trip up the coast for a couple of weeks. We intended to visit Anarchist/Artist, take him for lunch, see his local exhibition and then visit his studio. I was pumped, and not only because for a shut-in, like me, a trip like this is a special gift, but also because I so much enjoy spending time with Anarchist/Artist and see him pull out of storage one remarkable work after another. Prissy german Tourist, who is also friends with him, and I, both consider Anarchist/Artist one of of B. C.’s underappreciated artistic treasures. He is absolutely committed to his work and to living within certain stringent principles which he espouses. A man to admire, in the complete sense of admiration of coherent belief and practice as exemplars in living. He does good, does no harm, and lives gently with great respect for the gifts life bestows upon him.

Taking a ferry to get to his community is such a production. Because Flora is such a fine and intelligent companion, time travelling didn’t seem so onerous. En route, we discussed various points of politics and practice of the publicly funded gallery system. We admired the views from the ferry’s lounge, even though the day was one of lowering skies, greens, and misty greys. We watched a small motor boat struggle to cross the bow of the ferry up ahead, quite nervous and anticipating a small marine disaster. Some operators of small craft have little awareness of the speed of larger vessels. Our coast has a history of many accidents during such attempts to not lay by and let a larger boat have right of way. We were quite relieved to note the smaller boat scoot out of danger, by a hair, it seemed.

Once debarked, we made good time on the Coast road, and soon turned off the highway onto the dirt track where Anarchist/Artist’s cabin and studio nestled among a profusion of Rhododendrons, past bloom, and tall evergreens. An eight foot cairn marks the parking area. A bonsai-ed horse-chestnut tree in a planter stands near the front steps; its leaves perfect and tender green. Sweet woodruff carpetsthe foundations on either sides of the staircase. We peeked through the glass door to see Anarchist/Artist upright near his vomiting skeleton sculpture, happily sipping from a ceramic mug with a temmoku glaze. We tapped on the window. He came and let us in; greeted us with warm hugs and kisses on the cheek.

I invariably feel good whenever in his company. He is courtly, charming, beautifully spoken with an educated British accent. In his mid-sixties, he is aging as only men who have led a healthful and considered life age – gracefully and well. He lives a simple and aesthetic life surrounded by his work, by books, music, and growing things which he propagates for his survival and consumption. On his easel was a recent still-life study of a clutch of beets and their greens. This glowed in jewel-like splendour, made with reverence, vigour and beautiful marks. When asked if he got his vegetable garden in ample time this spring, he bemoaned that he had been reluctant to set out his cucumber seedlings because nights, even in June, have been so cold this year. He is fearful he will not get in his usual crop. He grows an organic cash crop, and exchanges for meats and other supplies. We wondered what kind of crop he might get this year. The weather has been so unusually somber and lacking in hot sunny days.

Flora sked him wher he migh want to go for lunch. we decided to blow the budget and go to a restaurant where there was a good chef. However, after we drove there we found it closed. We went off to a waterfront pub and sat outside under propane heaters ( a most unusual necessity in late spring at this latitude). We ate, drank wine with our pub fare and discussed his long career. Flora demonstrated by her demeanor that she much enjoyed his company. I listened and posed some questions and small observations. After all, our intention in visiting with Anarchist/Artist was to have the two of them meet and discuss further exhibition possibilities of A/A’s works.

After lunch we drove to the local Municpal Gallery, where A/A’s plein air paintings of local industrial landscapes were exhibited. I should hesitate to label them as “plein air” because they are qualitatively much different with what is associated with plein air paintings. They are really direct studies of industrial constructions in the landscape, and as such differ from the flabby, inchoate landscapes that are lately characterized as plein air paintings. A/A has an acute manner of distilling industrial forms, and way of notating the characteristic land, water and sky patterns of our region. As a collection, this exhibition should be bought by a local museum, as examples of a painter’s recording of the economic activities of a specific region. But, by God, there were several I would have loved to have for myself! We stayed in the gallery for a long time. I entertained myself by getting nose-to-painting looks at the marks he had made the paintings of, and studying his truly idiosyncratic use of colour. What a treat!

We drove back to his studio afterward and stayed for a couple of hours more. He pulled out from storage his more controversial and political work, some drawings and studies. We looked at his collection of seed-pods, bones, roots, a remarkable desiccated skunk, stones and dried insects. Much of his graphic work is inhabited by the presence of these objects as part of the symbolic vocabulary he uses. He has obviously developed his visual language over many past decades of consideration and study, and in his work offers permutations and combinations of them much as a poet does of words and metaphors. The energy and control with which he makes his marks is masterful; his skill developed by years of trial and practice. he is a remarkable colourist. While his political imagery is disturbing, it has the conviction of thought and belief, long considered, as underpinning. One may or may not like his paintings, his prints, but they seep into the brain, into memory, under the skin and won’t let go. Flora looked and looked, commented, asked questions. I asked to buy a book of his prints and one of his more anarchist print images for myself. But there is one remarkable painting i am going to save my shekels for, now. I know Rumpole wont necessarily like it, but usually he assents to my decision to acquire art that means something to me.

Flora and i realized after a time that we were almost going to mis the ferry home. So we said our goodbyes to and appreciation of the time Anarchist/Artist had given us. On the trip home we discussed how Flora might be able to raise funds to have an exhibition of Anarchist/Artist’s work at our Municipal gallery. We brainstormed over coffee and muffins and filled paper napkins with copious notes of our fundraising ideas. We agreed it had been a day spent in the best possible way.

Today I am exhausted, but happy at having had such a wonderful experience and opportunity. I just hope Anarchist/Artist doesn’t feel like we have wasted his time. And I am hoping that a local exhibition comes about from the meeting between him and Flora.

Cockroach…

March 21, 2008

The following is a writing practice theme suggested by SloWalker on www.redravine.wordpress.com. As usual, the prompts from Red Ravine makes me want to clatter on the keyboard – so many thanks to the good folks there.

Paul Lim, a local gallery owner, took it upon himself to educate me about Chinese cuisine as it was practiced in the Chinatown enclave of the 60s. He treated me to my first samplings of Dim Sum in a clean and well decorated Pender Street establishment where I happily sucked cooked chicken toes and declared them delicious. To allow me a glimpse of the places frequented by senior Chinesemen after their gambling sessions in the Social Clubs, he took me to eat at the Green Door, one of the alley restaurants between Pender and Hastings Streets.

Here in a long narrow space, tables and chairs were squeezed in between dingy smoke and grease stained Chinese-newspaper wall-papered walls. Numerous elderly men chattered and drank from brown paper-covered bottles. The atmosphere was heavy with a fog of cigarette smoke mingled with steam from the rice cookers in the adjoining kitchen. We squeezed into an available spot. A young man plunked a cracked tea pot and glasses in front of us.

“Now, they’ll bring along something for us to eat.” explained Paul as he struggled out from his wet pea-jacket.

“Don’t we get to choose from a menu?”

“Relax! We’ll eat what they bring.”

Sure enough a dish of something unidentifiable arrived, along with two bowls of steamed rice and chopsticks. No forks and knives in this place. Paul dumped some stuff from the dish on top of his rice, then placed the same on my bowl. As I watched him dole out our feast, my eye was distracted by a grey shiny bug scooting across the table between our two rice bowls.

“Eeeuw! What was that?” I clutched my soggy coat about me for protection.

“Just some free protein,” commented Paul as he raised food to his mouth, calm as you please. “Okay… a cockroach, if you want to know.”

This did not put me off my feed, and I poked back the delicious food and noted other ‘cockroaches’ lazily walking up the newspaper-covered wall next to our table. Because they nearly blended into the wall-paper, I amused myself during the meal by counting to see how many of these bugs might make a relaxed appearance. No-one else in the room was trying to crush these with slaps from their shoes; there was no mass hysteria. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself as the only round-eyes  AND female in the room. Even though this was my first cockroach sighting, I wanted to maintain a mien of ‘cool’, to not come across as some squeamish suburban girl.

The next time I saw a cockroach, my reaction was far from cool. It was, dare I say it, a great remove from neutral. Rumpole and I were flying home from the British Virgin Islands. The  first leg of the flight, early in the morning, brought us to the San Juan, Puerto Rico airport. There we were to wait for the connecting flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas.

The seedy San Juan airport lounge didn’t have the usual amenities of coffee-shops, restaurants, bars of North American airports. We were desperate for a cup of coffee. Rumpole sent me off to explore and see what I could rustle up. I wondered the hall, half-asleep, and bought two paper cups full of disgusting looking black dreck from a hole-in-the-wall vendor. No milk available to cut the taste.

I sauntered back to Rumpole, handed him his coffee. He took a sip and declared it undrinkable. I slumped onto the grey plastic chair beside him, sulked and tried to stay awake as I sipped the foul brew. I calmly looked around to note the details of the waiting room. Lots of empty chairs. Garbage strewn on the floor everywhere. Straggling groups of travellers trying to make themselves comfortable on the hard plastic chairs as they waited for their connecting flights.

Some movement below the row of chairs facing us distracted my eye. It was purposeful, not a particularly scurrying motion by a large black something the size of my hand. I watched in fascination as it stopped its passage and considered its next direction. Elbowed Rumpole smartly and squeaked, “What the hell is that thing?”

“Shit!” he snarled. “You made me spill my coffee.”

The thing started to move again. “Look, there goes a rat or something. Under the chairs. Right across from you!” I hauled my duffel bag into my lap and tucked my feet up on the seat under me. “Oh God! That’s huge!”

“That’s not a rat. It looks like a big bug. Maybe a cockroach.”

“I have seen cockroaches before. They were not black, nor huge.” I huddled on the plastic chair, clutching my duffel, trying to make myself invisible. Maybe the black thing would not choose to wander under my chair if it could not see me. I wondered if cockroaches could see. And I certainly didn’t want to bring one home as a souvenir.

I was seriously creeped out. Imagine unloading the duffel bag at home, pulling out snorkel, fins, swimsuit, towels, shirts and pants, along with an unwanted hitchhiker who would jump out and maybe make a panicked run for the safety of our fireplace.

Whatever happened to that “cool” young thing I used to be?