Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Frisky Pop

Susan speaks:

My best gift from Don was my new "Frisky Pop".

Yeah, yeah, they call it something else but that's because they don't know any better. I'm a big popcorn fan and got real ticked off at Orville R when he changed the size of the microwave sacks down from 3.5 ounces to 3.3 ounces. And didn't tell me and definitely didn't lower the price. I KNOW he did this because when we make popcorn it always goes in the same special popcorn bowls, always up to the top edge with just enough room to stir in the salt and sugar. All of the sudden, the popcorn didn't go up to the top edge. Did Orville think I wouldn't notice? Does he think size doesn't matter when it comes to food? Who does he think he's fooling?

Sugar on your popcorn? Probably you should not do it because once you do, you'll never stop. Although popcorn is good for you (lots of fiber), sugar is not so good for you. But, as we are constantly under Homeland Security's Red/Orange/Yellow/Purple/Blue/Whatever alert, which we all know means "Eat dessert first", I say just go for it.

Now that I've had real popcorn, popped as I slowly whirled it in my "Frisky Pop", I'll never go back to microwave again. I had forgotten how good real popcorn tastes! It's sort of like the difference in taste between the tomato you bought in the store and the warm tomato you just picked off the vine and bit into.

[Nope, no affiliation with the Whirley-Pop makers. Don got mine at BedBathBeyond but they are about the same price at Amazon, where they have a very high review rating.]

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My New Best Friend

I was a good boy this year. Very good. So good that Susan gave me this incredibly terrific gift for a Christmas present. No, not the attractive woman! The plastic skeleton. So WAY COOL! His name is Ray and he's wearing a hat she gave me also. Ray is my new best friend (after Susan, of course).

The woman who is trying to make time with Ray is Barbara ("BK"), a friend of ours from college days. She didn't want to mess with having a date on Christmas Day so we lured her over to our house for dinner (gumbo with shrimp and sausage and chocolate lava cakes for dessert). Then we told her we had the perfect date for her -- he had good manners, didn't eat much, never got drunk, and best of all, was a good listener.

BK and I met at Mrs. Grant's Boarding House for Women. Six rooms, twelve women, two bathrooms, no air-conditioning or heat, nightly curfews, and twenty meals a week for $100 a month. We all lived upstairs, Mrs. Grant lived downstairs and did most of the cooking with a cigarette with a 2" ash on it hanging out of her mouth. Lunch was always spotty, as it depended on what was happening on her favorite soap opera that day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Hope for the Holiday Season

Wishing for peace on earth. Everywhere. Now.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tuba Christmas

Yesterday was my favorite day of the whole holiday season: Tuba Christmas. Over 200 tuba, sousaphone and euphonium players entertained us with a one-hour noon time concert on the steps of the Capitol. I really don't know what anything but a tuba is; the other instruments are smaller but they still do the oomp-pah sound just fine.

Mike and Janis and Susan and I arrived in plenty of time to get front row seats with our folding chairs. Then Janis and Susan abandoned us to play paparazzi as they both buzzed all over the place with their cameras -- Susan with her taped-up little camera and Janis with her heavy artillery.

Some schools bus in their band students from over 100 miles away so we get little guys and we get the old guys too. They practice for just one hour and then walk in to the Capital grounds and group up casually for the concert. Everyone has a great time, especially the spectators. Because the event never seems to get any publicity, other than word-of-mouth, the crowd isn't too big.

If you've never been to Tuba Christmas, GO! You might still be lucky enough to find one near you or at least plan ahead for next year.

Here's a picture Susan caught of Janis. The pictures following this one are all ones Janis took.

Both Susan and Janis were fascinated with this guy's tuba, which he bought on eBay.
Nothing says Christmas like Jingle Bells played on a tuba!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Call Me Mr. Green Jeans

My Panda plant needed some attention. The tall picture is after I cut leaves off for transplant, the close-up is one I transplanted this summer. Transplant? Propagate? Clone? Multiply? Breed? Whatever.

The pots are raku clay with a raku firing technique to give them that metallic glow. Raku is a tricky process involving fireproof gloves and tongs and and coordination and serendipity to produce distinctive results. I like the effects I got but I don't plan on doing any more raku in the future, as right now I'm more interested in the shapes and the sculptural part of working with clay.

Mr. Green Jeans? Here's a hint: Captain Kangaroo. Unfortunately, most of you are probably too young to have seen him.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Button, Button

Life is improving slightly. The kitchen now has light, Susan's printer is temporarily happy, she has a new battery for her keyless car key, and my back is getting better. Some people have recommended a chiropractor but that's not my preference - accupuncture is, and that seemed to really help me so I'll stick with that (and massage). Different strokes for different folks.

I had to get a new keyboard for my computer. It was just my bad luck that I took Susan with me and just my worse bad luck that Fry's Electronics is located in the same shopping center as Harbor Freight, Half-Price Books, and Dollar Tree, some of our favorite stores. That turned out to be a three-hour trip.

How could we turn down Dollar Tree buttons like these? The classic question non-art people have about items like these is, "What do you plan to do with them?" The classic answer, said very innocently, after a long pause while looking intently at the items, is always, "Beats the hell out of me."

Susan adds: I have no idea why this video of "How To Make A Button" is so enchanting but it just is. She is so earnest about explaining it all that I want it to be true!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Bad Week

Life is not good this week. This piece is a nice example of how I feel right now. OK, I know everyone else has their tough times and and calamities and tragedies and mine aren't big at all but right now I feel like I'm getting pecked to death by ducks.

Our city, in all its infinite wisdom, has provided us with a new recycle bin. We used to have two blue plastic boxes, one for newspapers and one for metal/glass, and they sat out at the curb every week along with our 30-gallon trash can. The city's plastic boxes are gone, replaced by a 90-gallon blue recycle bin. The sucker is huge and we had to spend about 4 hours reconfiguring our garage just to find a place to put it.

The good news is that everything gets thrown into the bin, all kinds of plastic, glass, metal and paper together, no sorting needed. The bad news is that our city is so stupid they set up single stream recycling and planned to build a plant for the processing of the recycled stuff but decided not to. So our city sends all our recycled stuff 214 miles BY TRUCK down the highway to a city that does have a recycling plant.

To add insult to injury, the last day we had the blue boxes out at the curb the recycle truck picked up the recycle and took the boxes -- we had planned to save them to store stuff in. Nope, just crunched up in the truck. What a waste.

The kitchen light fixture is acting like a disco strobe and replacing the bulbs won't do the trick, the whole thing needs replacing. Not getting fixed, see Number Six below. I'm trying to convince Susan that a dark kitchen means we have ambience but she says it just means take-out food and no dishwashing.

Susan's closet door fell off its track. It takes two people to get it reset properly, one to hold the door up straight, one to fiddle with the pin thing at the bottom. Not getting fixed, see Number Six below.

Susan's printer is acting up, making grinding noises and generally not printing. This makes Susan act up and do strange computer techie things like lifting up the printer about 3 inches and then dropping it. Doing that several times and cursing a lot usually fixes it but sometimes it spontaneously and loudly fixes itself when she isn't even sitting there. Then she curses a lot.

Susan's keyless car key (which is really a key so why is it keyless?) that has a lock-unlock button stopped working but fortunately for the atmosphere, which was already blue from her cursing at the printer, it stopped working when the car was unlocked. And fortunately, I told her, the last time we replaced that battery I bought you a spare. After pawing through numerous drawers she found the tiny little screwdriver that opens the case and she replaced the tiny little battery with the spare we had in the Battery Drawer. Still didn't work. More cursing as she pawed through the trash can to find the package the battery had been in. Who would have thought that little thing would have an expiration date of 2005? A lot more cursing.

This was not the time to remind her that cursing doesn't help. Or that bad luck comes in threes because she's already counted past that. Number Five was the plumber's bill which included 4 digits before the decimal point showed up. OK, let's think about the greening of our environment (since our city seems to not do any thinking): What should we waste and what should we try to conserve? Water, natural gas or electricity?

The original plumbing in our house was laid out wonky, with the kitchen being the last point on the circuit from the hot water heater. That meant everytime we wanted to do dishes we had to run water for nearly 4-5 minutes until we got hot water. So we added a circulating pump to the water heater which means hot water circulates through the pipes continually and you have instant hot water at every point. So now we don't waste water. But the circulating pump uses electricity. The best compromise we could think of was to have a circulating pump with a timer so it only kicks in between 5-7 every night.

Expensive? Yikes. And add in the labor costs so we could finally have hot water to the washing machine because no matter they say on those "Cold-Water Detergent" bottles, your clothes do not get that clean (and Susan got weary of claiming that her socks were supposed to be grey). Tankless water heater? Not possible in this house unless we rip out part of the roof area.

And number six? The final blow that has brought down the House of Madden? Three days ago I wrenched my back. Bad. Big time. I can barely walk straight. Treatments: Ice and heat and heat and ice, lots of Advil, gently stretching, minimal sitting, slow walking (shuffling?) and lying on my back on the floor and a massage yesterday and one today and accupuncture tomorrow.

Susan is being sort of patient with me and has insisted I take my prescribed Valium pills in the afternoon when my back seems to spasm up the worst. I said "sort of" patient because she's already told me to quit whining or she'll take the Valium herself. I'd sic the pecking ducks on her but she'd probably stomp on them.

Late note: What was I doing when I wrenched my back? Yoga. Like they say, Growing Old is Not for Sissies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Julie's Banana Boat

Life is good when you have mentors and instructors to help guide you as you grope along your artistic journey. Life is even better when you have a person who watches over a kiln for you.

Julie Isaacson is my Kiln Goddess and an incredibly gifted artist also, as her work shows, both here and here. Recently she was part of the Travis Heights Art Trail and it gave me a chance to buy one of her "Banana Boats". That's definitely not what she calls them but that's what will be going in it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Street Art

Susan speaks:
I like Street Art but only when it's creative, done well or makes me smile. Some people call it graffiti, some people call it stencil art or spray can art, some people call it subversive art. Whatever you call it, it is a contemporary product of our urban culture

These pictures show a commissioned Street Art product.

So You Think You've Got Enough Stuff?

One of my instructors has been Sharon Smith (work shown above). Sharon is the person who gave me the Carrion plant, not because it was a sly stinky plant, but because she knew it would be weirdly beautiful when it bloomed.

Maybe you think you have enough Stuff to make art with but I can promise you that Sharon has more. Lots more. And she's makes her Stuff her art environment. On her website click first on the option "Studio", which she has subtitled "The Real Smithsonian", and you'll get an idea of the real impact of her house and yard.

Yes, I've been in her house. No, it isn't as amazing as the pictures make it seem -- it's even more amazing and wilder and crazier and brain-exploding creative than you can ever imagine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Everyone has to try making a teapot at least once. Ok, now I've done mine. It actually is functional as you can pour out of the mouth on either side. It will be very messy and you'll need to hold the little bird lid on carefully. I like it and think it is interesting to look at but I don't think it has much soul.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Librairie de France

Some people think New Yorkers are rude, abrupt and unfriendly. NOT! We took a 4-day trip to New York City and, as usual, we found New Yorkers to be some of the friendliest and most helpful people we've ever met in our travels. We have learned the hard way to never open up a map on the subway unless we want to have at least 5 totally unsolicited different opinions of the best way to get there from here. Of course Susan will talk to anyone, in fact I think she'd probably start up a conversation with a corpse: "Hey, how's it going? Been here long?"

A very special shop in New York City is Librairie de France at Rockefeller Center. Susan's stepfather was a World War II Normandy Beach veteran who fell in love with France and Paris and passed that interest on to her. So we've always stopped by just to browse.

This time when we wandered into the basement we met Emanuel Molho who let us take pictures of that area of the shop and of his office. While we were talking to him he stopped to take a phone call: "I'm quite sure I have one, let me check." Sure enough, he had an English-Zulu dictionary in stock! I didn't even know people spoke Zulu. Zuluese?

One thing Susan was particularily interested in was the French books that had uncut pages. Her bookbinding instructor had talked about how books used to be printed and pages had to be cut apart with a knife so she thought that was pretty special. But, according to Emanuel, not a big deal for older books printed in France.

Susan and Emanuel had a long conversation about the fate of his store, which is not good: After over 72 years at Rockefeller Center they are having to close in just a few months. Beautiful French books on sale? Foreign language books at sale prices? French children's books? Stop by and go in. At first it will look like a small shop with a few books but look for the stairs to the basement -- that is where you want to go and where we took these pictures. This store is a treasure and it will be a shame to see it replaced by some useless chain store.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winter Vacation, Part 4

The windows were at a store called Anthropology or something like that, as if you would dig up old clothes. Susan liked the old-fashioned paper chains made from book pages (good recycling!) and mixed in with old postcards.

Somehow this little bit of landscaping must have seemed welcoming to New Yorkers starved for anything that wasn't concrete. Unfortunately it reminded me of the battle between Mr. Gopher and Bill Murray in the movie "Caddyshack" and Susan said it reminded her of frost heaves.

In case you don't make it to the lighting of the big Tree in Rockefeller Center here's a Before picture. All I have to say is that it is in there somewhere and it is a LOT smaller in real life than it seems in pictures. Or maybe it's that the buildings around it are so big?

Rockefeller Center is a nice place to be a tourist -- lots of flags, skaters, and tourists taking pictures of tourists.

Tomorrow, a final very special post about our trip to New York City and then it's time to head back to my clay.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Winter Vacation, Part 3

No, there is nothing wrong with your monitor.

There is a very special exhibit by Pipilotti Rist ("Pour Your Body Out") at the MOMA in New York City and we were lucky enough to experience it. On the second floor atrium a huge round couch is set up, if you take off your shoes you can cross the white carpet to lie on the grey couch (there are bright pink pillows scattered around) or crawl in to the center to lie on the black carpet, otherwise you just lie on the surrounding carpet area. By the time we left it was hard to find room to lie down. There were a zillion museum visitiors just lying on their backs, watching the videos projected on all the walls. And I promise, HONEST, I did NOT fall asleep while Susan wandered in to the other museum exhibits. I was just resting my eyes by closing them. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So why are you looking at a blurry picture? Because if you go up to the 6th floor of the museum and look down to the 2nd floor atrium you can see that the couch area looks like the iris of an eye. This is a secret fact and not advertised so you have to take my word for it and see that the picture does show this. Unfortunately, this is is the best picture we took but if anyone else has a better one we'd love to post it.

The cool thing is that for the first time since they opened the newly renovated MOMA the artwork exhibited feels like it belongs in the space. Originally they had Waterlilies by Monet and, beautiful as the paintings were, they were dwarfed by the space. Now, with this weird video and everyone lying on the floor, the space seems special and, strangely enough for New York City, friendly.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Here is Austin

I took an early morning bike ride but not any earlier than this guy on the lake. It isn't really a lake, it's a river that is dam-ed (?) up both west and east of Austin. It used to be called Town Lake but now it's been renamed Lady Bird Lake. A lot of people row and kayak on the lake and in the spring a number of colleges have rowing competitions here.

Barton Creek runs behind my house, feeds through Barton Springs and on into the Lake. This is a shot from the main bridge spanning the creek and heading to the Lake.

People who don't live in Austin say they like to live up north because "there are season changes." OK, we have season changes -- here's proof. It's just that our Fall season arrives unexpectedly, lasts 5 days and then disappears. But when it's here we do have beautiful colors.

Yes, there will be more New York City pictures but not many. Susan's camera is working but is a bit wounded so it didn't get much use.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bedsprings Bob

You can have your Joe the Plumber and Joe Six-Pack. I have Bedsprings Bob from Ohio, spotted outside Athens on Hwy 50 early in the spring and very early in the morning.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Winter Vacation, Part 2

Here in the US it's called "window shopping". In France they have a different expression for it but the direct translation winds up being the equivalent of "glass licking". So we braved the cold to walk down Madison Avenue and do some licking.

I don't get it. Who wears tights with a bikini bottom? What the %&*$ is that bra thing? If it's cold she'll freeze her tips off, if it's hot she'll burn them.

Susan liked the scarf and sweater colors but I'm wondering about that saw. Do you carry that instead of a purse? Is that how you hack your way through the subway crowds?

This kind of stuff had me, as usual, Fully Flummoxed. Susan was no help whatsoever because she shops at Salvation Army or from Lands End catalog and just kept saying "Everyone in New York City is dressed totally in black. Who wears this stuff?"

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I Did on My Winter Vacation, Part 1

How does a Texan ice skate? Very, very cautiously. Here I am at Bryant Park in New York City with three of my new best friends. We had a great conversation - I spoke English, they spoke something else. As you can see, I know how to skate without falling down.

More to come.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bee Man and a Short Break

Susan started this piece in a class taught by Jacqueline Sullivan and it's one of her favorites. The man's head was cut from a postcard she received and she glued it down without checking to see who the artist was. If anyone recognizes the work, let us know so we can give proper credit. Those are washers she glued on and the top left area has some molding paste on it.

Note: We're taking a break for a few days. Posting (and Comments) will start back up next week. Why? Here's a hint: We are warm-blooded Texans digging around in the backs of drawers looking for our mittens and wool mufflers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Naming My Work

This is Merope. Merope is a member of the Pleiades star cluster which is in the constellation of Taurus. I am a Taurus. Heavy stuff here but this is how I really came to name her Merope: Susan printed out a list of stars, planets and moon names and I picked Merope.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Previous Life, Part 2

There seems to be an interest in my Previous Life. Maybe you'd like to know how it feels to sit in corporate meetings, totally bored out of your mind, listening to the Big Boys tell you how it is and how it will be and when all is said and done, you know nothing will change. Well, here's your answer.

The eyes are stones, the mouth has a plastic fish in it and it isn't glazed, it's spray painted. It's in the front yard up by the sidewalk and Susan is quite sure no one will steal it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Previous Life

For 32 years I had another life. This is how it was for me every day.

Now I make art. Don't waste your time asking me if I'm happy now.