Monday, December 29, 2008

The problems with my car

As promised, here is a near complete list of things wrong with my car, in the order they come to my mind.

1) Brake light is always on.
2) The button which makes the rear defroster go on is long gone. So, it's an L.E.D. by itself.
3) The car locks automatically when you close the door, usually. It's a matter of time before the keys get locked in there.
4) I had to remove all the interior light bulbs since they always stay on even after the doors have been closed. One remains, the green light ring around the keyhole. To shit that one off, I need to bump the right rear door after I shut the driver's door.
5) There is a leak in the exhaust manifold which brings the fumes right into the cabin if the car stays put.
6) The rear shocks are caput. In the winter I think they fill with water and freeze and thus become especially bad. I sometimes get car sick hitting frost heaves, which is new for me: I've never gotten car sick while driving myself.
7) The radio goes out once in a while. Acceleration in either direction often is enough to get it going again.
8) There is no display on the radio anymore, it has long since faded.
9) There is a crack in the engine block, making it virtually impossible to pass inspection without slipping someone some bills. Additionally, it makes my car terrible on gas mileage.
10) There is a huge dent on the right of the hood.
11) Sometimes when you try to unlock it manually, it resists and snaps back to a locked position. I don't know how to make it not do this.
12) The right back window does not go down.
13) The heat only sort of works.

And now, the good list:

1) It has new tires and windshield wipers.
2) It starts surprisingly easily in winter.

Quote from Thoreau

"I plod along, thinking what a miserable world this is and what miserable fellows we that inhabit it, wondering what it is tempts men to live in it; but anon I leave the towns behind and am lost in some boundless heath, and life becomes gradually more tolerable, if not even glorious." -- from a journal entry in 1857

Monday, December 22, 2008

Diamond Light

In the slushiest, wettest weather possible, Brian and I headed over the bridge to In Your Ear records in Brighton yesterday. It's right near a pretty sweet salvation army, a boxing school, a store that sells recording equipment, and a cold stone creamery. I got a 10 dollar nasty microwave at the salvy, and a bonsai tree growing kit. It'll be great if one of them actually works.

IYE records was a real find though. Lenny and Squiggy, at about the age they'd be now, run the ship, and it's tight down there. For instance, there's an entire rack of 8 tracks, and there were three DIFFERENT Boz Scaggs 8-tracks on that shelf. I wasn't aware he had three albums. I bought one of them, since Brian bought me an early festivus gift - 60% of a car 8-track player. One time I replaced my car radio with another. It took forever. Then Ani wrecked my car a few weeks later. Still, It would be sweet end days for my current shit box to have an 8-track player installed. If I'm successful in that, I'm going back for those other two Box Scaggs.

Another gem there: a black candle, which was placed right by the checkout.

Me (after Brian threw done some non-insignificant bills for a record player setup for Jrock): How much for the [crappy, used, dusty] candle?

Lenny: Oh, that's not for sale.

Me: C'mon, name a price, you don't need that thing.

Lenny: Hey Squiggy, is the candle for sale?

Squiggy: Ah yeah. Just give it to him.

The other great thing about IYE is that they have all sorts of decent albums for about 3 dollars. I couldn't resist but force Brian to get Anita Baker and Sade. When I get into something, I force it upon my friends, and currently I'm into 70's women soul singers, and Sade. Lenny is also into Sade. Upon mention, he says; "Oh, you gotta get Diamond Light...great record." That was awesome. Also, Lenny gave me a little trade secret: when people test new speakers etc, they often use the album JT by James Taylor, because it's supposedly one of the best recordings regarding diversity and sound quality out there. My man James. I tested Brian's system with it, it sounded great. Your smiling face.

You know when you are driving and you see a car pass beside you, but optically it appears that his wheels are spinning backwards? Technics record players use that phenomenon to do small-scale speed adjustments of their turn tables. You adjust until the phantom freezes in place. That was exciting because I've never seen an application of that phenomenon.

I did two new paintings this week, which I'm pretty happy about. They are both here.

Globe coverage for the gallery on Sunday! I always like the way newspapers and magazines come up with clever titles. I bet they have software or something that they type in some keywords and it busts out some ideas. In this case they went with Out of obscurity. Well, that changes the intended meaning of Lighting the obscure world, but no matter, no one seemed to get that right anyhow. Some friends tore into me when they found at that name, thinking I meant it like, how cool g263 is, lighting the obscure world. I meant that artists in general shed light on the obscure world when they do paintings. And, I stole it anyhow, from that weird movie Synecdoche, NY.

I'd like to list a few things wrong with my car, because I think that would be fun. But I'll make that my next post, because I've slipped on my posting and this one's already long enough.

Stay warm. My house is freezing these days. Baer would rather catch squirrels than put decent windows in. Or he has hibernated.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Things that seem new rarely are

For example, it is often tempting to think that we are in the midst of a major new environmental awareness. But, I just read today that hundreds of years ago residents of Truro, MA - out there on the tip of Cape Cod, were asked by the government, or maybe forced, I couldn't tell, to plant beach grass to help keep the sand banks from eroding. They brought the beach grass seeds from The Netherlands.

Microcomputers are definitely new though. And I'm struggling with a contract job right now involving how to teach a computer to generate a simple shape based on constraints like "it has two lines that intersect at right angles and then a third line which is to the right of both of them." One knows we still have a long way to go with artificial intelligence when one tries to take simple things like this and program a computer to do them.

I pretty much hate my new PC, but it got a point this morning. Somehow it got left on our heater in the gallery, and I looked at the bottom this morning and it was all bent and melted. It miraculously turned on just fine and is fine.

I want to put an art show up where the paintings cost like $6 or so. See if that gets people buying them. Call it meta-art, where the pricing itself is an art statement. Any artists out there want to donate a piece for the cause? It might be all me (and my stuff is worth at least $40 :)), and anything I can steal from Rob.

Last Wednesday during yoga class, our first yoga customers arrived. Jordan was absent, so it was up to me. OK, except that I had a massive stuffy head, and thus was sweating profusely midway through. Today I think I accidentally drank a pot of caffeine: Moroccan mint? Sounds herbal, right. They must've dropped in a green tree bough or something. The jumpy nature of this post reflects the unintended caffeine.

Here's a depressing website: recently extinct species.

For the foragers out there - don't give up on 2008 yet. Rose hips are still available and yummy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Baer is nuts

My landlord is a obsessed with squirrels.

I live in an old house that has been subdivided into about 8 apartments. About 3 of them seem to always be vacant, because my landlord spends more time crafting ways to find and rid the squirrels than renting the apartments. I often leave my apartment to find a squirrel trap baited with peanut butter right outside my door. Once there was a squirrel in there, flipping out. I felt bad for it, so I gave it some food, Baer -- the landlord -- probably wouldn't have liked that. later, I swear the squirrel was asleep, which I found amazing. I couldn't sleep in a situation like that, but he found some calm somehow.

Once I asked Baer what her does with the trapped squirrels. This made him a little uncomfortable, and I detected a slight air of defensiveness. After hemming and hawing for about 5 minutes and never really coming out with it, I pieced together that he takes the traps down to the Charles river, in the middle of the night, and throws them into the river, probably tying them with a string so he can retrieve them. Because he will never be rid of the squirrels. But, he told be that he always "gives them a chance". I guessed that meant he opens the cage, throws it in far, and if they can get out and swim to land (I don't think those guys can swim, I don't think Baer does either), they are free. I imagine that after he tosses in the cage, he strolls around the Charles for 15 minutes, thinking about God knows what, and returns to empty his trap of the dead squirrel, then he goes home to bed.

The other day, he tried to hire Corina to sniff around in all the crevices in the basement to try to find any dead squirrels. She needs a job, but this was too much. After 20 minutes, she made up an excuse - a job interview - and hit the high road.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some thoughts on karaoke

However much I love singing and love karaoke, I'm absolutely abysmal when it comes to song selection. To put it in contrast, last night Rob N. managed to whip off two killer songs in a row: sussudio and i wanna new drug. Now, had I picked songs like that, all would have been fine. Instead, I start with For The Longest Time, billy joel. A good song, but not a rowser like those first two. But that just started off my landslide downwards. My next pick: Sade, No Ordinary Love. A fantastic song, but not I song I will ever attempt again. I was rescued at the end by Sarah B. who asked me to duet with her on the country cheese song by kid rock and sheryll crowe, Picture. I love cheesy music, so that was no problem, and it was nicely in my range, so that was great. I think my best karaoke flop over the years was a long while back over at club 608 in Somerville, which is now some out-of-place rock blues hangout I think. I went for Praying For Time by g. micheal. Like No Ordinary Love, a fantastic song, but not one I should be trying. I don't learn. I like a song so I try it, but I gotta get into using a different set of selection criteria. Anyhow, it was a fun night. BUT, that place Do-Re-Mi, however nice it is that they turn a relatively blind eye and let people sneak in booze (one time the manager came in though and asked my group "No Tequila". apparently other hard liquors were completely fine), they overcharge. And then, as I'm signing the credit card slip the guy says "this charge doesn't include tip". The charge was $385! Obviously, I should have politely nodded and said "Oh, it doesn't, interesting" and continued without tipping, but no, I threw in a tip. Idiot.

I like karaoke because I love music and singing and watching others sing, and at any time during a karaoke evening, if I feel like dancing, singing, or chatting, all are options.

I also like karaoke because, good or bad, it's fun to watch people. It's really a goldmine: people trying real hard to get it out right, people with no sense of rhythm, people who simply want to impress everyone else, people who try to sing Sade and wish in the middle of it that it was a Johnny Cash song, and on and on.

Speaking of Johnny Cash, all karaoke goers should thank him for giving a whole bunch of guys a set of songs to sing that will sounds fairly decent with no vocal skills at all. Most people don't sing too often, and so those low notes are much more available to guys than something from AC/DC for example.

Something's up with Allston and sneaking in booze to places: they let us do it at Grasshoper - vegan asian cuisine nearby to do-re-mi - too. They let us dump wine into the stainless steel tea pots on the table. Nobody in Cambridge does that. And that might be the only thing Allston has over Cambridge, come to think of it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A pair of jacks at the jack and jill

Do animals like the snow as much as we do? I think about this always on the first snowfall. I think not, because I think the reason I/we like it has to do with the fact that the comfort of heat and a home is emphasized by the snow. That and, snow gives us a reason to slow down our fast paced lives. It's like having a cold when you are a kid - bad enough to stay home from school, but not bad enough to make you miserable.

Making fresh spring rolls is like making sushi but far less stressful; they are more forgiving to inconsistencies and sloppiness, they are almost as good, and they command an almost equal amount of 'wows'. Not that that last one is a good reason to make something, but, we all like the pats on the back. Bread making is the same way. Follow a simple recipe on the flour wrapper for bread, and serve it 30 minutes after it comes out, and you get far too many 'wows' than you really deserve.

Nice event last night at the gallery - jack and jill baby shower for Adam and Lorena. The summer rolls where my present. How can I get the little rascal something if I don't even know him yet. I wouldn't want to force him to get into say Rachmaninoff if that turns out to not be his thing. Although, come to think of it, who wouldn't like a nice set of piano music by him? Maybe next time I'll just give a homemade Baby Rachmaninoff. At the risk of making a frantic and over passionate baby.

I got a pair of jacks for my first hand, during the poker session for the jacks of the party. Even with absolutely nothing at stake - the game was friendly and all the 5 dollar entry fees went to gallery donations - I still got all nervous about my good hand. I was super tired, so that didn't help either, but really, to get an elevated heart beat from a pair of jacks...this is why I shouldn't be allowed to gamble. Having said that, a casino night at the gallery would be AWESOME and if we can pull the non-profit strings and see if there is any legal way we can do that, man that would be sweet, if stressful.

I'm supposed to work on shape generation software today. Currently wondering why I take on these extra projects, leaving me with a Sunday, otherwise pleasantly snowing and Bach playing in the freshly cleaned gallery, during which I stress out. All I need to do more of is forage, art, yoga, and music, and I'm sure I'll be fine. :)

Some Christmas carols in the works for Central Square, with a premier at an upcoming lousy sweater party. So far on the roster: O Come All Ye Faithful, Angels We Have Heard On High, and Silent Night. A bunch of agnostics(+)atheists (that word atheists has such a hard sound to me) whipping up tunes about the baby Jesus. Kind of strange.

Friday, December 5, 2008

14,000 years

Big day at the gallery. Here are the highlights:

Miriam, an artist who works over at the Piano Factory, came in and showed us some fun funky and funny illustrations she did on her press. I was wondering when I looked at them how she managed to get such a textured look but only have a few bold dark lines popping out. Thousands of pounds bearing down onto an etched piece of copper I guess. And then painted over to brighten it up. Very nice stuff, and we'll be showing it early next year.

Then Sam Thompson came in and we agreed on a set of watercolor classes for a younger age group, 8 to 16 or so. This will be on Saturday Mornings in January. At the end of January I'll be leaving for Costa Rica to get my 200 hours yoga training.

Then Peter came in to discuss music nights here. He's going to work on throwing the first one together (after the NH gig next week that is). We were sitting there drinking tea and eating pizza and imagining the G263 turned into a bunch of little round tables, cafe setting, string trio bringing it all together. We'll see what actually happens. Found some cheap chairs on craigslist. Emailed, no response. Drives me NUTS. Too many of my friends are into that too. Read an email that obviously could use a response - we are a society after all - and nothing. Thanks to all of you who reliably respond to emails :).

Stef dropped by and did a bang up job flyering the town with yoga and dec 13 flyers. Then she won 4 dollars on a scratch ticket and basically told me I was an old man. Speaking of scratch million dollar drawing this Sunday. If anyone who reads this goes out and buys a ticket as a result, and wins, remember that that could pay for G263's operations for about 14,000 years, literally. So be kind.

There's a gigantic red flag waving outside the gallery right now that says open and people are walking by left and right and not coming in. Maybe I should shave my beard, or just hide.

I didn't include inflation in that 14,000 year calculation. Or the probability of the demise of human civilization.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The fate of bread machines

So many bread machines end up in the goodwill. This is too bad. I mean, if it was that people were throwing them out in favor of making bread by hand, that would be great, but I doubt that's why. I guess people prefer buying store bread than spending all of 3 minutes throwing in the flour yeast and water and oil and salt and pressing START. That's all it is, and the result is that 5 hours later (depending on the model...I actually once lived with a bread machine that would make a decent loaf in 20 minutes, which seems impossible, but it did it. It was German I think.) your apartment smells wonderful and you are good on bread for a few days.

My kitchen is so close to my bedroom - I live in a shoe box - I haven't been using the timer feature on my bread machine lately. The noise of the kneeding would wake me up. But if you have a better situation, USE THE TIMER FEATURE. Fresh bread smell when you get up, look out.

I think one reason these fantastic appliances end up on the shelves of goodwills is that they get given as gifts, but the recipients don't know exactly how easy they are to use. So, here's an inexpensive gift idea: go rescue a bread machine from a salvy (there will definitely be one there, probably several), try it at home after a cleaning, and provide simple instructions to whom you give it to, and tell them they are nuts if they don't use this.

I'm going to try the no-kneed recipe that was all the rage a couple years ago and report back. Same author has a newer one for whole grain breads which I may try too. Kneeding bread is good exercise and otherwise therapeutic, so I have mixed feelings about this whole no-kneed method from the get-go, but, it's interesting anyhow and so I'll try it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pencil sketches of the masters

Art night, the weekly Wednesday night friends art session that Rob and I started a couple years ago, is back in full swing. I like to have canvases around for people who show up with nothing to do, but I'm thinking of scaling this back to pencil sketching. Now it's true that most museums and galleries show paintings and not drawings, but it's not true that paint is required for beautiful art. All of the masters have fine examples of pencil sketches. I should link to one or two here, that would the proper blogger thing to do, but I'm in a rush. It's almost yoga time. Jordan's late.

Anyhow, I was thinking about this on the ride home today, and it occurred to me that this would make a great Gallery 263 lecture: Pencil Sketches of the Masters. I've been trying to come up with something to prepare a lecture for, and, given no training whatsoever in art history, I feel like this one is at least within some realm for me to do. I just need a handful of hours. Was also thinking I should play music as much as I've been doing yoga these days. I like sleep too much for all that jazz though.

Tonight's plan for art night: learn some Christmas tunes, four part harmony. Possible highlight as I look into my crystal ball: Boar's Head Carol.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bulgar wheat

Bulgar wheat isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. I whipped up a bulgar wheat pilaf last night with Jordan and Brian, after trial yoga run #4 at the gallery, and it was downright edible. I'll be pushing the stuff, especially since when I go vegan in January, I'm going to be seeking out new food varieties to keep me happy.

In pleasant harmony with yesterday's post, it turns out the Thoreau was the first Westerner to identify himself as a yoga follower. That guy must've been an awesome person. It doesn't bother me an ounce that his mother and sister did his laundry, or whatever it was that people like to point out when his living in the woods at Walden comes up. I'd do the same thing. It's not like having someone do your laundry completely brings you back to the bustle of modern life. There's still plenty of hours alone with the fishes and the birds and the squirrels. People do this all the time with me and my 95% vegetarianism: they jump all over me when I sneak a bite of salami or what-have-you. But really, if every one was a 95% veggie, then it's exactly the same as having 95 out of 100 people be full vegetarians, and that's a great thing. Here comes the Einstein quote I always bring up at this point.

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winter tea pickings

Falmouth MA is full of walking paths, which for some reason were all but abandoned this past summer, but over the Thanksgiving break I was happy to see lots of people out and about. The foraging for the year is coming to a close, but I keep going out 'one last time' and this time it was a batch of winter tea that I will dry up and try soon. The stuff: wintergreen (enormous amounts in Beebe woods), white pine needles, hemlock needles, rose hips - intensified in flavor since there have already been a few frosts, and some northern bay thrown in there too. Not sure about this last one, since I've read that bay (as in bay berries) around here is more intense than the European bay that we find in our spice racks. We'll see.

I've been enjoying Cape Cod by Thoreau this past week too. He travels around (c. 1849) and meets the locals, walks the beaches, observes what plants grow in the sand, and generally offers a glimpse into life on the cape 160 years ago. He has success making candles from the bayberries. Props to Henry David - I tried that once when I was about 10 and got about 1/2 teaspoon of wax.

Falmouth also has a town dump which has a take-it-or-leave it swap shop that my mother frequents. The current word, and I verified it myself, is that people aren't leaving as much stuff as a few months ago? The bad economy? Anyhow, dump some stuff off if you are in the neighborhood.