The Dadaist Marcel DuChamps, after a short but mercurial art career,
reportedly gave up art to be a chess master. When I was in
college, I was inspired by his wit, such as the urinal rotated 90
degrees and renamed Fountain, by R. Mutt. Only in recent years
have some of his more esoteric references been given probable light by
the late scientist Stephen Jay Gould and his wife. I believe it
was discovered that he still dabbled in art, in spite of
avowing an end to such foolishness. Indeed, my treatise, Art as a
Bourgeois Sham was inspired by DuChamps, as was my subsequent devotion
to craft over art. I mention all this because the
local community is having a first annual art walk, so I relapsed and
made the sculptures shown in last month's blog. Currently they're
perched atop the woodstove, getting thoroughly desiccated before firing
early next week. The few times I tried to enter art contests in
college, I was rejected, whereas my pottery sold rather quickly, thus
making it easier for me to reject art than if I'd actually sold any...
Philosophy should always succumb to reality...
I added a couple more videos to the video page today. It was a
lovely sunny day, and I walked to the lake, but nothing struck me as
needing to be photographed. With the recent snow, most of the
tracks on the frozen lake were from deer rather than snowmobiles (who
are probably smart to avoid the ice, as the lake is all frozen over,
but not really thick... Since even the area by the bridge was
frozen, there was no place for ducks to land, although I thought I saw
a couple skid marks where they tried to land on the clear ice...
The relative fun of making 100 little penguins, turtles, and rabbits,
was somewhat dulled by the hour or more it took to glaze them today.
Glazing is a time when it's easy to mess up the pot--the
slightest touch can chip off a bit of glaze, or add a blotch of color
where none was wanted. The same is true with loading kilns.
I guess overall it takes a deft touch with pottery generally.
When I was in college, going to a theoretically Christian school,
enough pots were broken in process by students picking them up to
admire them, that I made a cardboard sign, "Thou shalt not touch pots
which are not thine own." When I came back to visit a few years
out of college, I was pleased to see the sign was still there.
We've still got about a half foot of slush on the ground, so it's nice
to go to Spokane, where it's mostly snow free, as I did today for a jam. It
was a new (to me) jam, with up to a dozen musicians, from novice to
professional, and me about in the middle in skills. That made it
stressful, trying to play uphill, so to speak, but it was still
enjoyable. The point of jams, for me at least, is to practice for
3 hours straight, which I won't do on my own anymore, and to try tunes
I haven't before. Sometimes good things happen musically at jams,
but usually jams don't sound that great to outside ears...
In church this morning the Presbyterian executive (I don't know what
they call them) was visiting, and he noted to me in passing that
he and I were the only ones sitting in one section of the church, so if
he looked at me during the sermon, not to take it personally. I
told him if he looked at me and saw me asleep, not to take it
March 5 So
the good news is our one hen that was injured has recovered pretty
much, and even started roaming towards the bars on Maine St. today.
The bad news is that if it's returned to its nest mates, they
don't remember it and peck at it. So some Internet wisdom
suggests putting it alongside the other chickens where they can see it
but not peck it, for a couple weeks. Since I had that idea on my
own, it's probably the next thing we'll try. The
old washtub with leaves in it that the hen has been calling home, is
where it goes to sleep, regardless of where the washtub is located.
But we move it in at night so things that go bump in the night
don't get it. Meanwhile, the two heads I sculpted
several weeks ago are in the final firing now. I took them hot
out of the bisque firing this morning, and poured glaze over them as
they sat on slats over a wide dishpan. The thin matte glaze that
I applied may be a bit too thick, in which case it will craze and look
white. I should know how they look by tomorrow night. The
art contest deadline is Friday.
This was the warmest and sunniest day of the year to date.
Spiders were hatching and descending from trees on silk, even
though we still have about a foot of snow. So I shoveled enough
snow out of the way to build a separate pen for our special hen.
After a few weeks, it can be joined to the other pen and they
will likely enjoy the increased space to wander about...
The two sculptures looked good fresh out of the kiln, except the one
pictured above (when freshly made) got a good crack up the back.
It was too nice a day for this to bother me.
This evening my son and I watched The Prestige, which was another good
film about stage magicians. The bitter rivalry made the film less
pleasant to watch than the The Illusionist. Still, it had Nicola
Tesla figured into the plot (I always admire crackpot geniuses), and
even mentioned a Chinese magician who did a gold fish bowl appearance,
which I'd read a solution to when I dabbled in stage magic over 10
years ago. At that time, it was to add some
visual flourish to putting on musical entertainment for kids at the
seminary my wife was attending. I was a bit nervous about whether
the administration would like magic, that some Christians object to, so
I was relieved after performing to meet the seminary president's son,
who was a semi-pro magician himself.
I've added 3 more videos in the last couple days. Some of them
derive from the idea of using some of the music I composed on the
computer in MIDI format as background for slide shows of my nature
photography. They aren't exciting, but are hopefully pleasant... The weather remained warm but turned to drizzle this afternoon.
The new restaurant in Spirit Lake, Las Cazuelas opened today, named
after a style of Mexican or Spanish pottery. My wife and I
enjoyed eating there. The service was (predictably) slow,
particularly since there were lots of patrons for the small restaurant.
The food was good. The wall decorations include hand
painted jungle scenes with fanciful birds, bright and very nice.
The family of the owners is associated with the Casa de Oro
restaurants in Coeur D'Alene and Spokane, and seem very nice.
Downtown Spirit Lake has always been anchored by the 3 bars in
the main block of businesses. Restaurants have come and gone,
like most of the other businesses. For me as thinking as
the pottery business, the restaurants draw people in to eat, after
which they may wander over to shop for pottery. So I am very
interested in seeing the restaurants do well. (There are two now).
Unfortunately, most businesses in Spirit Lake face the double whammy of
high rents and long slow winters. We don't have to pay rent, so
that's not an issue for us. And as the longest running proprietors on
Maine St., we've long grown accustomed to slow winters. While at
the restaurant another local mentioned that the ATV sales place on the
highway was going out of business. Meanwhile we're gaining a
dentist, so life goes on in a small fringe town in Idaho...
I woke up today, inspired to run for president. It's apparent
that the rest of the candidates are either going to self-destruct or be
investigated to death before the end of the month, so if I run as a
stealth candidate, I can be the last man standing, so to speak. I
was going to start today making my official announcement for Youtube,
but I got busy manufacturing pottery instructional videos, so it will
have to wait another day or so. That's okay, I think the rest of
the pack is jumping the gun... Also, since I'm running as an
independent (well, actually a third party, called "Let's"), I son't
have to sweat the primary season. So you, the faithful few who
read my blog, get to read it here first. Ain't America grand,
where a dumb schmuck can not only run for president, but often
had to run into Spokane on some errands today, so I'll have to put off
running for president for another day. I walked around Manito
Park, where there's a popular duck pond. The water is brown and
murky from years of people feeding the ducks. A lot of the urban
bird problems would be solved if the people could be convinced not to
feed them. Any wild animal that's fed becomes dependent,
and often problematical, such as chipmunks or bears at campgrounds.
On the other hand, if I had to live in a city, I'd probably feed
the ducks... Anyway, the staple waterfowl at
urban ponds are mallard ducks, Canada geese, and seagulls.
It's hard to see how anyone could be a duck hunter, when the
ducks are so beautiful... I mostly ignore the common ducks, and
look for the true wild ducks that are just passing through. The
one pictured is a male American Widgeon, which I'd heard of but not
seen before today. I love the white tips on the back
pinfeathers, and white beak. There were only two pairs of them
there, but the bird book says that out of breeding season they
congregate in large flocks. Our local song
sparrow has begun his courtship calls, as have the chickadees.
But the pond was still half frozen over.
My friends (and you are my friends, in the sense that I fully expected
you to vote for me for President of the United States), this was
to be the happiest day of my life, the day when I, a simple everyman,
growing up in the farm states of the Midwest, yet feeling psychically
connected to every state and major urban center in our great nation,
was to announce my candidacy for the Presidency.
However, as a keen student of electoral politics, and realizing the
scrutiny that my personal life would come to, were I to undertake the
candidacy which I could so easily fulfill, I find it necessary to
withdraw my candidacy before officially entering the race. While
it is possible that the parking tickets I collected while having
an affair with Hillary Clinton, during the time I was in Washington
investigating the sex life of Newt Gingrich, may have influenced my
decision, I prefer to think it was because I know a man better suited
to the task of quixotically running against all odds for leader of the
free world. That man is Phil S. Steen, known to a select few of you as
the protagonist of my alternative history, The Fiction Blog.
Although he bears a passing physical resemblance to me, I have
never sold banjos, nor been repeatedly abducted by aliens. That
said, he possesses all of the characteristics of a presidential
contender--he is an Native born American over age 35 with no felony
convictions. As disappointed as I'm sure you all
are (and I use the word "all" guardedly, since I fully realize that
average readership of this blog is 15, so that even though "all" does
mean "all," it doesn't imply "many"), it comes at a good time for me
personally, as I was running out of story ideas for my fiction blog.
But there's still one story to be told, politically relevant,
which starts Sunday, in which Phil and his friends investigate what
happened to the missing billions of dollars lost in Iraq. I fully
expect him to announce his candidacy at the conclusion of that exciting
adventure. Whoops, he couldn't wait--here's the link to the announcement video on Youtube.
Phil's candidacy is off to a slow start--18 views so far, but one
person actually committed to voting for him, so that's a start.
My son took an extra large teddy bear skiing today--a birthday
tradition he has. They both came home soaked from the rain and
warm temperatures that most of the rest of us were enjoying. The
bear is drying out over a cooling kiln. This
being Sunday, I went to church again, and there was another guest
preacher, whom I didn't warn in a humorous way that I might fall asleep
(as I did last week), so of course I fell asleep during the sermon
(which didn't happen last week). When I woke up another fill in
minister, who happened to be there, was stomping a wasp
which had woken up from the warm weather. Then there was a third
former minister in church also this morning. For a congregation
with about 20 in attendance, that's a lot of potential preaching power.
The six or more inches of snow we had yesterday disappeared with the
strong warm winds overnight. There was at least one new tree down
along the lakeshore today as a result of the wind. Spring
projects suddenly become feasible. But I committed to skiing for
tomorrow, so Spring will have to wait another day.
March is de facto Irish music month, since every band that can play
Irish does play it around St. Patrick's day. So today I made my
modest contribution, a short version of St. Patrick's Breastplate, put up on Youtube today.
March 13 The
kids mural project that our clay group started is still in
process--drying slowly to be fired in a month or so. But I made a
webpage with photos showing the process to date: http://cagni.org/mural2007/mural.html The skiing today was generally viewed as bad, since it was all icy and mostly stayed
that way , but I enjoy skiing hard icy surfaces, as long as
they're groomed smooth, so I had a good day. A couple times I
would catch a tip on something, and the potential was then there for a
crash, which would have been bad, since I was going fast, but each time
I managed to recover. The conditions were such that my son and I
reversed roles--he went and took a nap in the lodge in the morning
waiting for the snow to soften, while I skied. In the afternoon
the pattern reversed again and I took the nap while he skied...
My first spring project started today--screening in the porch in back.
The only pests the screening is desired for are mosquitoes and
yellow-jacket wasps. The mosquitoes come out in the evening, and
the yellow jackets come to lunch. So when the project is done we
can enjoy eating outside and sitting outside in the evenings...
I bought all the 4 foot wide screening at the hardware, and was
still short by about one window sized piece... It
will be an additional rompus room for our kittens, who are getting
bored with their current environment. They're scheduled to get
"tutored" next week (as the Gary Larson cartoon put it), after which
(or maybe more accurately, starting with the neutering) we'll start
introducing them to the real world.
The cats, indeed, got to rampage about the new screen porch today.
I think it will take hours more work to seal it to keep out bees,
but it's mostly done otherwise... I returned to the hardware
store today and bought all the 3 foot wide screening they had on hand,
to finish... My mother called up today and
invited me to go on a tour of eastern Europe this fall with her.
Aside from Canada, which is 50 miles away, I haven't been out of
the US since a trip my parents provided us to Mexico more than 10 years
ago. Before that it was 20 years farther back, during college.
At that time I toured about 15 countries in 2 weeks, which I
thought was enough travelling to hold me for quite some time. So
now I'm ready to journey again. This tour will include
Prague, Dresden, and Nuremburg, about which I know little, but expect
to enjoy a lot. Plus I expect the accommodations to be better
than youth hostels...
was the kind of day that just begged to work on taxes. Cold,
gloomy and fog. So I worked my way through the tax program, whose
new credo seems to be, "there are loads of different forms, and you can
pay for our special program for each one
of them." Because they've separated off the estimated tax
payments, I was feeling particularly gloomy until I added them in
manually at the end, because it was showing I owed $5000 in taxes,
which was actually the amount of the estimated tax payments.
It does work, in a perverse way, to make you feel better about
it, sort of like as a child on hot summer days I'd go up in the attic
for a while, because then it would feel cooler down below in the 80
A nice thing about Spring days is that the last day has little to do
with the next. It was a nice sunny day today, where you could sit
outside without a sweater, so I sat out there and played Irish tunes on
guitar and tin whistle in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Earlier I
pruned most of the fruit trees. I'm working off a list of spring
chores, so it's nice to knock one off to get started on the rest...
Of course Spring nights vary on Maine Street--I expect with St.
Patrick's the natives will be restless tonight, at least at the bars...
I went to a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe today.
The key to enjoyment of G and S is being able to understand the
witty lyrics. This is a challenge, when many of them are sung in
choruses. And the general consensus where I was sitting was that
understandable words were few and far between in this amateur
production. It didn't help that as I struggled to make sense of
the lyrics, it put me into the hypnotic state of mind that induces
dozing, so throughout the first act I tended to doze off in the middle
of each song, then wake up to clap at the end.
But what made the performance memorable, was sitting next to an old
lady who wanted to chat, and learning she lived up the Bear Paw Creek,
about 60 miles from where we live. It happened that we visited
some people who lived up there 4-5 years ago, and I was impressed that
they had feral peacocks living in the neighborhood. So I
mentioned it to this lady, and it was her daughter (sitting behind her)
who'd lost the peacocks that turned up at the neighbors. There
were also two regular pottery customers in the play (which was in a
town 30 miles away). It's always fun to make unusual connections.
I got the first bee sting of the year today, crawling around under the
fruit trees on hands and knees to pick up the branches that I pruned.
The yellow jacket was looking for bits of rotten apple, and found
my knee. Fortunately my mother had introduced me to a simple
product called the Itch Eraser which is nothing more than liquid
ammonia, and somehow does a lot to remove the sting pain and itch.
It was the kind of day that allowed crawling under fruit trees, so that was nice anyway.
I made about 100 pots again today. I've recently fallen into a rhythm
of making enough pots to fill one or two bisque kilns, then glazing
them all and firing two glaze kilns in a row. I think in the
summer it gets more of a one bisque, one glaze rhythm. Today I learned the origin of Elmer's Fountain, one of my many webpages. Elmer
Almquist who built these fountains was a silver miner, resident of
Mullan. He was part owner of the Sunshine mine and he died in March
1986. His brother Harry Almquist (died March 2007) lived in
Murray ID where there is a museum he and Walt, the third brother
founded. Harry is my wife’s grandfather.
Arnold was Elmer’s best friend and the original owner of the land the
fountains are on. For years it was known as Arnold’s Fountain. Soon after
Elmer’s death the name was changed to Elmer’s Fountain. The Sunshine Mine is a major silver mine in the area. Elmer's Fountain, like the Shoe tree , are both thought provoking folk art...
So when you make a 100 pots one day, you pretty much know what you're
doing the next day. At least I spent half of the day trimming,
adding handles, etc. Then this afternoon I unloaded a couple
glaze kilns. The interesting thing about today for the potters
reading this, was an idea I had concerning honey pots.
Someone locally had started making honey pots with the wooden
honey dollop glued sticking through a hole in the middle of the lid.
I thought it a good idea, making it like a jar of rubber cement,
with the applicator in the middle where it won't be likely to get the
sides goopy. But then I thought, why not add a thicker knob, with
a hole drilled into it from below, so that you could just glue the
working part of the dollop in, and have a nice pottery knob above.
That's what I did. It's a fair amount more trouble than
having the dollop as a separate accessory, so the price will have to
March 22 Even though Phil Steen's campaign has barely started, he's already under vicious attack by the Ultimate Liberation Front.
If you follow the link, this anonymous group has cast scurrilous
aspersions on my fictional alter ego. While it's true that Phil
does play the banjo, he doesn't play it badly. And any relationships
with chickens were strictly platonic, while nursing a sick hen back to
March 23 The
lake is full and flowing out the outlet. Looking back at last
March's blog, Spring seems a couple weeks earlier this year. Since
I'm talking local issues, the Spirit Lake business community
continues to fluctuate. Carl Johnson, who ran an auto repair at
the north end of town, died this winter... The hair dresser on Maine
Street is moving where the ATV place was. The taxidermist seems
to be gone from the corner across from the Post Office, where it lasted
a lot longer than I ever imagined when it started. (I'm not a big
fan of taxidermy, since the results are usually animals I'd rather see
alive... Whenever I'd walk by with my dog, its hair would stand
on end from the cougar and bear smells) Meanwhile the highway
continues to add businesses, becoming the defacto downtown, with a two
story dental building, a book shop, and bank, all slated to open this
summer. Also the Chamber of Commerce is fixing up the old gas
station where Maine and the highway merge, hoping to start a farmer's
market this spring. And the Mexican restaurant looks to be
hitting its stride, with a regular flow of customers.
Now that the kittens are neutered (Tuesday), they can theoretically go
outside. So I let them loose, and learned what the expression
"hard as herding cats" is all about. As good of buddies as they
are, it was every cat for itself out in the real world. When the
white one (they're still unnamed) headed toward the street, I had to
grab it, toss it in the house, and go back to locate his brother.
It will take two people to watch them outside till they develop a
March 24 The
robins got back early a couple weeks back, and had to hang around and
wait for the snow to melt. Today they were waiting for the
effects of the first soaking rain, to bring up the worms.
You know how the authorities always seem to contradict all the truisms
you learned as a youth, such as waiting an hour to swim after a meal
(not necessary). Another one is that worms are good for the soil.
It turns out that the nonnative worms (which are the most common
earthworms) are bad for forests, as they compact the leafy layer by converting it to worm castings.
So I won't feel so guilty at the worms cut in half as I dig in the
garden, as I did today. We had some (also nonnative)
blackberries with thorns that were more pain than pleasure, so I
leveled them last fall, and today dug out as much of the roots as was
possible. Although relatives of raspberries, the roots on these
plants are much more serious to contend with. When finished, I
covered the area with cardboard, then dumped a lot of leaves on top as
a mulch. In May I might dig a few holes into it to plant some
tomatoes, but between the blackberries and the fiercely spreading
oregano that was mixed with them, the whole area needs to die for a
year or so. Fierce oregano--there's an image for you...
Then I planted all the tomatoes, cabbages, and some of the cucumbers,
as well as a few pots of pole beans to try as a green house vine.
I noticed for the last two years I've planted within 4 days of
this date, without any conscious planning. The robins and I are
creatures of habit.
March 25 We
had a post collegiate goddaughter and her roommate visit today from
Minnesota--nice visitors, and nice to have them. They rode the
train out, so I sympathize with them (although they said they enjoyed
the journey). A year ago today I broke 3 ribs. I have no
lingering aftereffects. I led the guests at a brisk walk up the
ridge and around the mill pond. The first flowers of spring spotted
today were grass widows. Water
was pouring out of the outlet at the end of the lake, after rains
yesterday, and all the ice on the lake was gone. The usual boat
docks that float loose have appeared at the public access. Ahh,
The big news today was that none of the sculptures I submitted for the
local art show was accepted. This did sting, since it was a local
school sponsored contest, limited to local artists. It makes me
inclined to follow Marcel DuChamps' lead (March 1 entry) and give up art
again. For myself, I was pleased with the results, considering
they were made without a model. Of course, if there were a model,
chances are they wouldn't have looked like it anyway.
But a couple hours after getting the mail, I got an email from someone
who'd seen the works in progress in last month's blog, and was
interested in them, so that helped put life back into balance again.
This evening I rode my bike around the periphery of the town, exploring
the ring of development going in on the east side. One, called "R
Ranch" will be about 80 homesites, judging from the sitemap, and the
land is rapidly being transformed from "R Forest" to "R Suburb."
Of course with the housing market gyrating, it may not get
occupied till the next wave of development. Another development
in that same area is called "Genesis 1." I'm not clear if the
developers see themselves in the role of God, or not...
I was scraping the bottom of the barrel of pottery (and blog)
ideas today, since there's a good supply of every pot I make, except
garlic keepers and salt and pepper shakers. Garlic keepers
are just highly perforated honey pots. Salt and peppers are
predestined to a high rate of failure, so I put them off as a matter of
course. To make them I throw a small cylinder and close it in at
the top, leaving a bulbous part that is reminiscent of salt and peppers
where the stainless steel top is unscrewed. The next day I sort
them into pairs (by size), and invert them on a thrown cylinder of clay
(chuck), and make a small hole in the middle with a loop tool, then
down around it to make it more funnel like, for easy filling. The
hole is sized with a cork, then it's tipped back upright and I drill
holes in the top. That's all pretty straight forward. The
hard part comes when glazing, to keep the holes from filling with
glaze. Over the years I've used children's modeling clay, bits of
candlewax, and lately toothpicks to block the holes while dipping in
glaze. The toothpicks work well if they don't fall out, but still
tend to leave a thick bit of glaze around each hole, so after removing
them they have to be cleaned up, and sometimes touched up with glaze.
Even then, some of them get their holes filled with glaze, which
can't be removed after firing without breaking the pot, unless it's a
very thin layer... So I end up with a set of orphan salt and
peppers in the workshop, hoping for a similar one to appear down the
road to match it.
The sun shone today, and as I worked in the garden tossing manure
hither and yon, I let the young cats out to explore our yard.
Having explored our house and porch on every level, they were
ecstatic to have a new play area. This time they tended to stay
together, so they were easier to keep track of, and stayed out for a
half hour before they started heading towards the street. When
shut inside the porch again, they complained vocally for about a half
hour. They're instant teen agers...
March 29 The cats are now in and out cats--they stayed out all day, without wandering into danger.
I bicycled out to the new housing development again. I believe
I've made the point before that housing tracts' names ought to reflect
their true nature. "Stinking Flat Desert Estates" was the name I
thought of, years ago, for a sample of this truth in advertising plea.
While "Clear Cut Acres" would be appropriate, I also saw, in the
middle of their pristine blacktop road, a well chewed deer carcass,
leftovers of the "natural world." So "Deer Carcass Lane" is
available, if they need some more street names. It's a wonder I
haven't gone into the business myself... :-) The
other thing that struck me, as I bicycled around, is that the exposed
"soil" there is pure gravel, mostly rocks of 2-3 inches in diameter.
The whole area tends to be that way, where the forest duff has
not covered it, since the area was once the bottom of a deluge
flood when glacial Lake Missoula would burst ice dams loose in waves to
rush to the ocean, slowing enough in our area to fill our valley
with gravel, which provides the basis of our local aquifer. I
mention the aquifer, because as the local land gets covered with
development, most of these expensive lots will get suburbanized, with
sod, which requires a large amount of water, even more if the subsoil
doesn't hold any, as with the aforementioned gravel. At least
they'll be replenishing the aquifer as it gets drained to water their
yard, so, as Voltaire mentioned in Candide, all works out for the best
in this best of all possible worlds...
skied this morning, on the mountain pictured above. The view is
from the lake, which has dry patches since they lower the level in the
winter to use the water to generate electricity. Ski mountains
always look unnatural, as they have channels cut through the trees to
make the runs, unless they're above the treeline... This makes
nature lovers sad, and skiers drool. I guess I'm drooling sadly.
After skiing in the morning, I ran some errands in the town, then
drove along the northern lake shore looking for ducks to photograph.
I did get some duck photos, but they were far enough away that
the quality might be good enough for identification, but the results
are not beautiful. I read recently that Georgia O'Keefe didn't
really like flowers, but they didn't move like human models, and didn't
cost as much. I really like wildlife photos, but wild flowers
hold still better, and you can get a lot closer to them. So I
guess it's time to start photographing this year's wildflowers again...