Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dry, Dry, Dry

July 29 - After

We are unhappy here. We are having "Exceptional Drought" conditions. This is not a school report card so it does not mean we are doing well. Unless you count brown leaves and dying plants. I've had to sweep dead dry leaves off our deck several times now.

May 30 -- Before

Even my Garden Guards are tired of this weather. So are all the ranchers and farmers. Let's not even talk about the record 40+ days over 100 degrees. Let's not talk about the new air conditioning unit we had to buy. At least it works.

Late edit: A very demented blogger, who knows we look at her blog, has put up this evil post. Her own personal form of waterboarding, so to speak. Central Texans, do not let your children see her video clip: "Daddy, what is that stuff?"

Late, Late edit: As Robyn suggested, we did some rain dancing which was horizontal (better known as a "nap"). It worked. Sort of. We got a total of 17 minutes of rain. That's like spitting in the ocean and thinking it will make a difference.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Graffiti Guy Once Again

We have a new sighting of Graffiti Guy! The picture above came from Angela Cunningham and he was spotted in Davis Square in Somerville, MA. Congratulations, Angela, on your sharp eyes and thanks for the picture. He looks a little different now but it's still him. Blog Readers, be on the lookout for him!

Who is Graffiti Guy? I have no idea but we've spotted him ... correction: Susan has spotted him in New York City on 53rd St (seen in photo below in April 2008 and then again, looking a little bit worn down, in April 2009).

The last sighting (below) Susan made was on 17th Street in Washington DC in April 2009. Somehow she thinks having a camera up near your face makes traffic automatically stop for you as you stand in the street. Wrong.

Finally, who is Angela Cunningham? Go here to see some really cool stuff she has done and go here to see what I've said about her before. And, for a preview, here is sample of her work.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Quintessential Austin Experience

I'm lucky enough to be married to a very, very good cook. Back in the dark ages, when pasta meant only spaghetti she learned to make many kinds of pasta (we still have the pasta roller which has not been used for rolling out clay). And when anything other than white bread was hard to find, she made bread. She took cooking classes, bought, read (of course) and used cookbooks, and subscribed to numerous cooking magazines.

All of this was great and it made for some fantastic meals. We used to have a big hot tub in our back yard and we'd throw big dinner parties on Sunday night that were called "Smoke and Soak". This was the 70's. Enough said. But after about 10 of years of doing them Susan got tired of spending all day Saturday shopping and prepping food and then all day Sunday getting ready, She didn't "smoke" so she was the only one with enough logical brain cells to clean up (and pass out the kazoos to the idiots in the hot tub). So we quit doing that and focused on working 80 hours a week instead.

Fast forward a number of years -- Austin has developed Central Market and is the World Headquarters of Whole Foods. Gourmet food is easy to find and both stores offer many different take-out options so we do a lot of take-out, which Susan can't resist ramping up the quality on (see previous post).

But we very, very rarely eat out. Hardly ever. Two reasons:

Reason #1 - Susan can cook me a meal better than most restaurants.
She doesn't do things like "Oyster Gonads Napped with a Pomegranate Suspension of Fuzzy Wahoo Cheeks" or like "Fresh Bermuda Grass Marinated in Moose Cheese Reduction Goosebuds and Adorned with Blueberry Oatmeal Chaff" but I don't eat stuff like that anyway.

Reason #2 - I hate the pomp and circumstance.
That encompasses the tedium of be waited on (and I have been a waiter myself), of waiting for someone to pay attention to me, of waiting for it to be my turn for the server to bring the too hot-too cold dinner, of listening to a menu being recited and trying to remember each Special, of waiting for a check, of having to do the math for a tip, of having to tip for mediocre service, of having to pick an overpriced wine I know nothing about, and having to yell over the din of the other people because the room is loud and echo-y because they know that will move people out faster, or having to whisper because the place is as quiet as a tomb and you can hear the people at the next table chewing. Oh, and valet parking. I HATE valet parking.

So when Susan told me we were going out to dinner I was a little dubious. It was a 30-minute drive away from town, it was a fixed menu and a fixed time, and a small room. Maybe even we'd have to sit at a table with Other People! I splurged and bought a $15 bottle of wine and off we went.

The result? The best meal and best evening we've had in years and years. A small quiet room with only a few people gathered, casual but attentive service, and a gracious host. There is always an alternative vegetarian offering (Tempeh with Chimichurri the night we were there). If you ever come to Austin, go to Ronnie's. You might see us there because we'll be going back.

The picture at the top of this post shows how happy I was with my meal. The picture at the bottom shows the two main dishes (we had Ronnie split them for us) and obviously we were too busy eating to bother with the pictures until halfway through the meal.

Ronnie's Real Food Bistro at Elysium,
Menu for July 2009
Mediterranean Dip with Flat Bread
Watermelon Gazpacho
This is a savory soup with a subtle, teasing flavor and great color. It makes a terrific opening summertime dinner course. Served cool.
Roasted Port Tenderloin with Chimichurri
Mahimahi with Cranberry-Ginger Sauce
The pork tenderloin is rubbed with sea salt, ground cumin, ground coriander and fresh ground black pepper and then roasted. It is served with chimichurri, a thick herb sauce of Argentina, and organic couscous. Mahimahi fillets are grilled and topped with a cranberry, ginger and mirin sauce and served with organic couscous.
Seasonal Salad of Green Beans and Tomato with Pumpkin Seed Dressing
Green beans, tomatoes, and salad greens are enlivened by a thickened dressing that's almost like a Mexican pesto. Its body and creaminess come from ground toasted pumpkin seeds.
Espresso-Rum Creme Custard
Satisfying and creamy, this espresso-rum creme custard is a divine way to finish a summertime meal.

Complimentary Coffee
BCYOB (bring chilled your own bottle, no corkage fee)

Seating is at 7:00 p.m.
Cost of the four-course dinner is $25 and includes all taxes and gratuities.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Books and Laura Bush

Yes, Yours Truly, arm in arm with Former First Lady Laura Bush. If you'll look closely you'll see that not only did I put my arm around her (she's not the Queen!), she put her arm around me. Yes! The charm still works.

The occasion was the grand opening of the Laura Bush Community Library here in Austin. Susan and I have donated money to the Westbank Community Library for nearly 25 years, both as just plain donations and also as donations In Memory Of. As the community grew, the library got more and more use so finally it was time to open this second branch.

We ignore politics when it comes to books. Laura Bush, a former librarian, is a definite asset to writers and libraries. When she was First Lady of Texas she started the Texas Book Festival and when she becase The First Lady she encouraged the development of the National Book Festival.

Susan comes from a family of Readers and if you are a Reader you'll understand why that word is capitalized. Readers read books, as children they read books after lights-out with a flashlight, they read magazines, they read newspapers, they read maps, they read instruction manuals, they even read the back of cereal boxes as they eat. When Readers take plane trips they plan carefully the number of paperback books to take. For example, a 4-hour flight means 4 books -- one carefully selected to read on the 4-hour flight, one to backup the first one in case it turns out to be a lousy book, one to read after the first one in case the flight is delayed and the first one is finished, and one to read once you arrive just in case there isn't a place to immediately buy another one. Kindle is not an option because you can't stack it in your bookcase and admire the stack, you can't make pencil underlines of your favorite lines, you can't fold the corners down, and it looks strange if you take a Kindle into the bathroom.

My Mother thought reading was a waste of time and my family ridiculed Susan for reading books so much she learned not to bring them out when she was around them. I never cared that she read all the time, in fact I was envious I couldn't easily do that. Years ago I was just a "slow" reader, but today it's identified as a particular form of dyslexia. Even reading a newspaper front page can take me over 30 minutes.

Susan kept patiently giving me books, pulling me into bookstores and libraries and encouraging me to just "practice" reading, telling me it would eventually become more natural and I would learn to love it as much as she did. She was right. Today I finished Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 and I fell in love once again with words and books and the magical worlds they create for me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Voice, Now Silent

In 1994 we were in Normandy for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, with Susan's step-father in a special tour with his military veterans' group, the 29th Division. Our three large busloads of veterans and their families had been feted and honored for a week (the 29th Division went on Normandy Beach on D-Day and then on to liberate St. Lo and many other small villages). A typical day with the veterans involved visits to as many as six separate villages, each visit involving a parade, speeches, floral presentations, French and American national anthems and songs, elaborate meals, special wine (even at 10 a.m.), many, many toasts, and many hugs from the local French. By the end of each day we were stuffed, drunk and exhausted but the veterans, mostly in their 70's, were energized by the excitement and the warmth of the French people of the villages.

These were the days of the presidency of Bill Clinton, a man who did not serve in the armed forces. This fact did not sit well with these veterans. Not well at all. In fact, there was grumbling and harsh comments made by a number of them. This surprised us because up until that point we had seen the veterans being pretty polite and docile as they were being herded around. (This Youtube video will give you an idea of how it was and what the average veteran looked like). Our generation was the one to protest and make loud accusations, not theirs.

The day of the anniversary we were processed on to our buses at 7:00 a.m. for the ceremonies at the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy Beach, which didn't actually begin until about 1:00 in the afternoon. There would be traffic jams, bus jockeying, long lines to stand in and numerous strict security checkpoints before we could even get to our reserved seat section. On the way to the ceremony the buses for all groups were pulled off the road and active duty French and American military officers got on and proceded to sternly lecture us all: Under NO circumstances would any negative statements or negative actions about President Bill Clinton be tolerated.

Evidently word had begun to filter out that the veterans in many Divisions and in other groups also were not happy about Clinton's appearance at the ceremony and might do something public to demonstrate their disapproval of his lack of military service, something like boo him or stand up and turn their backs when he spoke. We were told any "controversial" actions would result in immediate "ejection" from the ceremony. This was a little frightening and the bus was pretty quite and subdued for the rest of the ride.

Having to be to our seats about three hours before the ceremony gave the veterans plenty of time to go up and down the aisles and visiting the veterans in other Divisons, units and groups. They reminisced, told stories and began again to grumble about Clinton.

What was the grumbling like? "That s.o.b. had better not have anything to say." "We won't listen to any draft-dodger." "Who does he think he is to talk to us? Nobody ever fired on him." And the worst part: "We're going to let him know what we think about him." This was really making us nervous. What would happen when the speeches began? Would the veterans shame themselves by making a disturbance?

No, they didn't. They behaved with dignity and showed respect to the gathered leaders and dignitaries. How did they manage this complete turn-around in attitude? The opening speaker did it. One magic, reassuring voice came out over the loudspeakers to begin the ceremony, one immediately identifiable voice calmed them, one voice that they knew was the heart of all the daily stories that defined their America: Walter Cronkite.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One Step

Diane asked "Where Were You on July 20, 1969?" as man first walked on the moon.

Don: It was Day 176 in DaNang, Vietnam for me. I set up my big reel-to-reel tape recorder to tape the broadcast of the moon landing that we were able to get there on the base. I wanted to have a verbal record of history being made. (One of the "spoils of war" most Vietnam vets recall is being able to buy cameras and stereo equipment incredibly cheaply at the base/post exchanges. Many long, tedious, exhaustive conversations there had to do with the various pros and cons of the equipment being contemplated for purchase.) The recorder reel would tape for about 2 hours so when chow time arrived I left it running and went to grab a bite. The chow hall had the broadcast on so I listened there to the actual landing. When I came back, the recorder was shut off! My roommate had come in, seen the recorder going and thought I had forgotten to turn it off. So he turned it off for me. So much for the recording of history.

Susan: I walked out into the parking lot of the apartment building I lived in and looked up at the moon with binoculars. It seemed as if you looked hard enough you'd be able to see someone there. I knew history was being made but all I could think of was that Don was probably looking up at the moon the same time I was, halfway around the world, away from me.

Don: A movie that is still makes be hold my breath as I try to white-knuckle the space module down is Apollo 13. For a real kick, download Google Earth. Click on the icon for Moon and in the Layers box click on Apollo Missions, Apollo 11 (the moon landing). You'll be able to watch old video clips of the landing transmissions and see close-up photos. Cool stuff. And it's interesting to scan the surface of the moon and see all the little national flags showing the landings over the years. I had no idea there had been so many hits on the moon by other countries.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not Calorie Counting Here

Mushroom, artichoke heart, pesto and goat cheese pizza from Central Market. They never put enough stuff on so additional mushrooms, sauteed with garlic in butter, were added along with extra goat cheese, pesto sauce and parmesan cheese. If you are going to eat decadently you might as well go all the way.

How far is "all the way"? Dessert was Key Lime Pie Ice Cream (Susan) and Hot Fudge Sauce on Vanilla (me).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Seth's Buried Treasure

Seth Apter continues to encourage and promote a lot of artistic bloggers. And, as the photo above shows, he is a very talented artist.

His current project is Buried Treasure: "There are usually many, many posts that I have never seen that were put up before I discovered a new blog. I just don't have time to go post by post from beginning to end in order to see all that is available. So...Buried Treasure is about digging deep to uncover some hidden gems. The premise is simple. On Thursday July 16 all participating bloggers will re-post one (or more) of their favorite posts from their blog. "

I'm giving you three selected posts. One because it shows one of my favorite art pieces, one because it shows you a rare picture of my Blog Wrangler, and then there's one that is a pathetic attempt at making excuses for my slothful blogging and posting behavior.

Thanks, once again, Seth, for doing so much to promote blogging and encouraging us all.

Originally posted on September 3, 2008:

Sometimes all I have to do is look at my scrap metal and a piece will turn into a person before I know it. Then, it's just a matter of waiting until the right ceramic head appears. I don't design the heads with the scrap metal pieces in mind. But, when the right combination happens, you just know it. It speaks to you.

Originally posted on August 11, 2008:

We picked Janis and Carol up at the hotel for a quick trip to Whole Foods. As soon as Carol had settled in the car she said, "Oh, Don, I've seen your blog and you and Susan seem like such a loving couple!"

Susan and I both burst out laughing. We explained to Carol that she needed to rewind the tape to 15 minutes earlier as we drove to Target to get one stupid item:

D: "If you think you can do a better job, then you can drive!"
S: "Watch out! You're going the wrong way down the parking lane!"
D: "I'm looking for a spot in the shade!"
S: "Just park the damned car in the right direction!"
D: "You want to drive?!? I'm looking for a shady spot."
S: "This is it? You park the %$#*-ing car in the shade to keep it cool but I have to walk back past 4 empty rows in the 175 degree heat to get in the store?!?!"

Why does Target put all the totally useless junk at the front of the store but puts very useful things, like light bulbs, toilet paper and boxer shorts, way in the back? Fortunately, we managed to get out of Target without ripping each other to shreds. So goes a normal day in the life of a loving couple.

Originally posted on January 1, 2009:

Here's hoping we all have a Happy New Year. Zee Bunny went to my sister-in-law, Linda, who took the snowy Taos picture posted from a few days back.

To all the faithful readers of my blog, thank you for your validation. Throwing thoughts, words and art out into the vast anonymous cyberspace can be a lonely feeling but you have all made me feel so much richer for your comments and your contact.

My Blog Wrangler, Susan, is everything a computer-klutz like me can hope for. She types for me, fixes my photos, sends me off to Adult Day Care (better known as my ceramics class at our community college), and keeps order in my world and on my blog. She has pushed me and shoved me into the art world and into the blogging community and I'm a much happier person for it all. However, she has given me my one New Year's Resolution: To be better about reading other people's blogs.

Is a Resolution resolved if you do it 3 days in a row?

Susan speaks:
Don used to claim that his dyslexia made it hard for him to use the computer. But his prolonged playing of Bejeweled and TipTop let me shoot that claim down. I do try to balance out internet information time with creative time for him but, as we all know, any type of balance in life is hard to maintain. We'll continue to work on it.

For those poor demented souls who think we are such a Perfect Couple, here's a brief peek into our life that might provide a little reality wake-up:

S: Check out the blogs, ______ has a great entry today (just fill in your name here).
D: What does it say?
S: Check it out yourself. Besides, you haven't looked at anyone's blog in over a week and they look at yours all the time, you rude clod.
D: How do you know they look at mine?
S: By their comments. You have been checking your own comments, haven't you?
D: Oh. Sort of. Well, what do they say?
S: Say about what?
D: Anything. What do they say in their blogs? And in comments?
S: Read them yourself, you lazy bum! I can't be reading everything to you. I already have to tell you when you have email.
D: Email? Do I have email? What does it say?
S: Definitely what is says it that you're not going to get lucky at all, ever, in 2009. And now you're working on 2010.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stay Tuned

Tomorrow is the day for Buried Treasure.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Man and Metal in Motion

My Blog Wrangler, Susan, has figured out video!!! Yes, I am real! The music you hear in the background is She Ain't Me by Carrie Rodriguez.

My workspace is one large corner of her studio space. I have strict orders to keep flames and clay out of the house so all my ceramics and soldering work is done in the garage. But here in her studio I can work in air-conditioned comfort and you see me working on bezels like I showed you in a previous post.

The painting shown above and in the video is by James Janknegt, an Austin artist. Susan bought it for me the 10th year I was in the corporate world. At that time it cost us an amount we could NOT afford and it scared us both enough that I worked even harder, thus becoming even more like the man in the picture. The scene is downtown Austin, next to IH 35, and the figure in the car is a woman.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Man and Metal

These first three pieces were made in a class I took. They probably won't get any more work done on them as Susan doesn't wear jewelry, but some of my ceramic dudes might wind up wearing them. They are made of old roof tin, copper tubing from old air conditioners, copper wire (soldered), copper rivets, and rebar wire.

The next picture shows my first attempts at soldering. Yes, I can weld but until I took a class from Stephanie Lee I didn't seem to be able to solder at all. I was trying to create an organic look around some bezels made from 1" copper pipe.

Finally, the pieces below are what I'm going to be working on next. The flies and the turtle are bought pieces, the mask is a button, and the hand is a charm I found. I plan to solder the bezels and then do a resin cast for the pieces in the bezel. That's the Plan anyway, Susan Lenart Kazmer will be my mentor in this.

Ceramics is taking a back seat for a while. Since we are projected to get to 106 degrees today I find it much more enjoyable to be inside working instead of in the garage.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

3rd Rock From The Sun

This is Violet BGH (Big Giant Head). She is Spike's sister but they have a lot of sibling rivalry and don't speak to each other.

I like to combine metal and clay because I think it adds a 3rd dimension and I like the weirdness it gives a piece. The spikes and nails I put in pieces don't signify anything mean or evil, they are just giving me a contrasting material to work with.

Colors come from different layers of underglaze that I apply and then sand down until I get what I think will be a good blend of colors. My inspiration in a lot of this is Seth's work and the effects he gets from layering.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ixion, Tin Man

Were you wondering about those doll heads (and their arms and their legs)?

I made Ixion, my Tin Man, in Thomas Ashman's class. Susan decided he needed a turban. I like his arms the best.

Susan speaks: At the store he poked at the doll's heads, pulled up their dresses and checked in their bloomers to see how the legs were joined, and pulled at their hair to see where it would come off. I pretended I wasn't with him. At home he undressed them (baby doll clothes going to Goodwill), pulled their hair off and ripped off their arms and legs, all in the name of art. After he took the butane torch to this doll's eyes ("I had to get rid of those eyelashes!") I told him to be sure he kept the garage door closed. No sense in having the neighbors thinking he's really weird.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Remembering on the 4th of July

Today, July 4th, is designated as the day we celebrate our 1776 Declaration of Independence, a national holiday with its roots strongly based on a foundation of political freedom. That freedom has been protected and preserved by our military forces and continues today.

I took the photo above of some army nurses in Vietnam, not because I knew any of them (I didn't) but because they were the first American women I had seen in months and they all smiled at me. Their job was to help patch up the wounded soldiers, making the pain and fear ease as they smiled and joked with them.

Today, women are on the front lines in Iraq, even though the government likes to pretend women don't serve in combat positions. They had courage, dedication, and responsibility back in 1969 and they still have it in 2009. When you see veterans marching in our 4th of July parades, look hard for the women. Do you see any? You should.

Americans will have picnics, parades, concerts, and fireworks, all in celebration of our country's birthday. We'll also remember those who died making sure we still have that political freedom today.

Captain James Clifford McKittrick is still Missing in Action. And I'm still waiting to be able to send his bracelet to his family.

Captain Barry Lynn Brown was returned to his family. I was the one who gave his family the flag that had covered his casket.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dug Up

Meet Mach. His body is some kind of stop-piece that's used in organs.