Corn from Atkins Farms, Q. Cassetti, 2010Atkins Farms was full bore into autumn. They were doing the make your own scarecrow thing (like crazy..since the last time we were there mid September). There were pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and varieties along with a crazy selection of gourds. Of course there were corn sheaves to decorate with along with popcorn on the cob and this stuff to the left, indian corn. I love indian corn….never buy it cause I just love it as a thing. You don’t eat it…you just hang it up or use it to add color to a little harvest shrine or decoration you make in the display area of your mansionette. We have yet to create a display area, and frankly, I would rather be drawing than making displays (more like work than play) . So pictures will have to do. Back to Indian Corn. In this day and age of politically correctness—when Christmas Cards are Holiday Cards and all the antics in December January are called the holidays and not Christmas, Christmas Eve, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa…Why is it acceptable to call this decorator vegetable/grain “Indian” corn? Just a thought. I like it because I do not have to change my vocabulary on this one…and it refers to those people who taught us that this was a worthy and fine foodstuff.

Big day today on the work front. Plenty to do speaking of holiday work…and small projects that need to be nudged forward. Need to work on a job description….for Craig’s List etc. Also, need to start upping the ante on some bad teaching happening with Alex. There is some stuff going on that is not acceptable. Wasn’t the first year he had this teacher, and now is totally unacceptable as we are paying good money for inadequate work on the school’s end of things. No, I am not going to negotiate with the individual as I do not have any control over those things that are important (salary, wages, benefits) but I contribute mightily to them. I am pissed off…and going to go nuclear on this one. Thankfully, Alex is right behind me and fine with it.


Goals, Roles

Sushi for Breakfast, 10/17/2010, Q.Cassetti, 2010On the second of September, we left our daughter off at college, to start the next chapter of her life as an individual and a member of our family—with all of our respective roles tossed into the air to float and fly until we redefine ourselves. Here we are, a month and a half later and Kitty is settling into this next chapter with a spring in her step, an Indian story on her tongue and a giggle. She is delighted, as she always is, in the opportunities, the joy of new friends, new knowledge and in a community where play and adventure is valued. Even Alex, our skeptic, was swept away with the sense of play, and reaching out to others, and the fun that can be had within this sort of environment. These Hampshire students are not sitting in front of televisions in elegantly appointed home-like living rooms, or stretched in front of cracking fireplaces intent on beating the next guy to Law or Medical school. The Hampshire student is the child that finds joy in a piece of string…and shares that joy with his/her friends until they figure out something fun, fabulous or even additive to do with this thing. Case in point: There were these students who were standing in one of the quadrangles with a tarp. A regular tarp with people on each corner— moving the fabric to make it simulate waves. Other students saw this, and engaged in this activity with dancing through and around it. Skaters doing the same…and it was magic. It stopped time. Alex (and Kitty) were enchanted. And this sort of thing happens every day. This playing with ideas, playing and making, thinking and doing, engaging and laughing. It is a charmed place.

Back to roles. Kitty has found her path. We are forging a new team with Alex as the main man which is beginning to get some steam and we are all enjoying it tremendously. He is in the spotlight…and responding positively to having the center stage, our attention and pocketbooks. And we are loving it too.  We can tease him…and he teases back. He is not as reticent to be honest—blunt, with us. But where are we as parents to Kitty? We spent yesterday with her, feeding and shopping—just spending time. After a day of hanging out, she finally, after the moroccan sandwich, began to loosen up and tell us Hindu tales, which coming from her was a hoot and a half. As we got in the car, it dawned on me we had something we could offer her. “Kitty?” I asked….”would you like to come back to our room, take a bath and a little nap?” Yes. That would do. Our role has been redefined. We bring home with us…and we need to offer up the hot buttons and allow our girl a bit of time just to unwind….and veg….whether its here or there. Tubs and naps. Food and truly, unconditional love. That is our role. She also said that she approved of my asking her if she was drinking enough water? or  what about her hot room or humidity in her space. She is looking for her mommy to continue to be home and comfort. I can do that. I can help her be comfortable. I can be a support. i can listen happily to her talk about the nutty eye covered Hindu god, or about the four elephants that hold up the world. I can meet her lovely friends and not need to be anything but enchanted. I can help and hopefully be of value to her and her friends. I want to be relevant and helpful.  I betcha if I brought a feast in a cooler, that might rock a bit. We could cook for the troops…take the cast party to the cast…and meet these lovely playful folk.  New role we can fill. We are back to preSeptember 2. We have all been redefined. And, its all good…and all the same.

White Pumpkins at Atkins Farms, Q. Cassetti, 2010We met Kitty for Breakfast (sushi today). Alex and Rob bought a dozen doughnuts at Atkins Farms (a food we never buy…but AF breaks that rule). I oogled the piles of white pumpkins, the gourds, the halloween candy and finally bought a gigantic rosemary plant (bush sized) as I am weak in the knees with rosemary. There is something so happy about the bush, it’s lovely scent and its heartiness. I hope I can nurse it with humidity and happiness through the winter.

It was a long drive home. We do not need to go to family events any more now that we know our roles. We just need to get our girl, get a tub, find a stove and settle in.  I did remember that tubs are something that you can get in Noho. There is a hot tub spa that you can endlessly use on Saturdays for $10 per person, so that Kitty and her gal pals can do some fun soaking together to get the tub thing in between going home….unless we buy them a portable spa…? Plus, from the lovely coffee opportunities, the thrifting (she has figured that all out), and the stores…she doesnt need us to make home for her all the time!

I am currently home, roasting some chicken bones (to go into the pressure cooker tomorrow), and watching Alex watch a frightening show about folks overeating… somehow adding enormous amounts of bacon, cheese and meat…I am belching just watching. Ouch.

Back from Shangri La

Old Forge Hardware, Old Forge, NY, Q. Cassetti, 2010Rob gave a great presentation Friday morning about the “three legged stool” of budgeting and how to compress your strategy into a single, workable document that becomes the milestone from which management, the museum board and each individual contributor can work off the same “song sheet”. The day was brilliant and surprisingly warm, “indian summer” with all of us searching our bags for the singularly cooler thing to wear contrasted with the clothes of the week. All the participants were melancholy as the time dwindled and they all had to go back to reality—energized and motivated by all they had heard, participated and responded to during the week of The Museum Institute at Sagamore from Museumwise. It was thought provoking for me to hear about the work and tribulations of these focused and stressed individuals trying their best despite odd board dynamics, small budgets, high expectations and the general accountability and record keeping around each and every accessioned object in their collection whether it be a museum or a historic building, site or event. Each shared in the same push pull…and took heart from each other.

While on the other hand, there was little old me, reveling in the language and nods to Adirondack fabricated romance and romanticism, imagery and iconography, language and form.

Sagamore Yin Yang, Q. Cassetti, 2010Where I am going with that is this: I am fascinated by the iconography of what makes up “Adirondack”. You know the drill: birch bark, canoes, ADK guide boats,  log or tree inspired architecture, twig chairs and furniture, adirondack chairs, taxidermy and “trophies” on the walls, snowshoes, enamelware, pine trees, hemlock trees, pinecones, stone, mossy/lichen, fish/ jumping fish, all things fish (creels, rods and reels, tied flies etc.), loons, ducks, herons, glassy lakes, rocks, pack baskets, bear, moose, deer, pine scent, wool blankets, plaid, all things native american, lean-tos. You get the drift.

What is curious to me is that all of this stuff is derived from a victorian style that emerged in these Great Camps (with Mr. Durant driving this forward) that romanticized the working man’s Adirondack lifestyle for these imports, these city dwellers who came North for vacation to participate in sampling this rough and ready, scrappy life that the loggers and true outdoorsmen lived. It was adapted and modified into this lovely depiction for these brownstone dwellers of fresh air, and a refined unrefinement which were polished and presented “naturally” (with hordes of servants and staff in the background) and became the style that we think of as Adirondack. Not to just make it stylistic, Tuffitts of Moss, Q. Cassetti, 2010Durant and others borrowed quite liberally from James Fennimore Cooper’s writings (Sagamore and Uncas being just two of the characters from his books)…to the naming of houses and lakes, places and things that were derivative of this victorian view of Central New York and the Adirondacks. It is inspiring me to see if I can chew on this a bit, read a few of these books and see how this romanticism is manifested (when John Muir lived in nature and spoke cleanly, and purely on his interpretation of his experiences). When it all comes down to it, it is a fictionalized, romanticized view of this life, which we have just accepted…somehow as more historic than it really is…a “disney-ifcation of reality”.

And yet, if we think of the Adirondack identity—it is the art, architecture and craft from this golden era, this fantasy—which is presented to us as the historic reality it isn’t.

I was horrified and delighted by the real life photographs at the Adirondack Museum of the loggers ridingfrom the collections of the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake,  these sleighs atop pyramids of enormous logs…with the narrative speaking to how these vehicles might lose control with the drivers jumping off and the poor horses left to fend for themselves if the sheer weight got the downward momentum of the load got to be too fast/too much. The impaled logger poster…and the descriptions of the camps and the absolutely primitive life these men had…eating and working with outdoors sport and hunting as the fun independent of family, or others. It was gritty, hard and though outside, as hard a job as any coal miner or railroad man might have had at the time. The trick was to stay warm, fed and active during the winter…and not to die getting the logs from the forest to the trains where they were taken away to the cities. Imagine the black flies and issues in the summer. At least if you fell in the river— the water might not freeze you…but being swept away with the tide and millions of pounds of wood would be horrendous. Not the cushy, pine scented, warm rooms with blazing fires in stone fireplaces with inglenooks and tea, oysters and champagne, (and people to make it for you and heat up your beds). 

Curious. Bring on the Cooper.

Speaking of continuing the fantasy, we left on our trip home to stop by the Old Forge Hardware Store.

Old Forge Hardware is the Vermont Country Store of the Adirondacks. They have all things woven, camping, enamel, food, outdoors wear, from bungee cords to campfire percolators (enamel or stainless?), from cast iron to smoked food…You could provision a cabin or a castle here…with chairs and back baskets, to canoes to Orvis fly fishing gear. It was fun. I was tempted but did not succumb. We have enough stuff regardless of how much I love this stuff. I mean, canoes and portable saw mills—beautiful enamel dutch ovens and tons of cool crockery that you can add a spiggot to in an instant (I adore these things). Gradient and colorful Pendleton shirts that put both of us in the way back machine (def. need to start thrifting for this sort of stuff). Crusher hats…the whole magilla. All there with brass sleigh bells on things, and huge jugs of maple sugar to go. Hardware store meets brand identity for ADK.

We got back late—and then up early this morning to get Alex to school to catch a bus to get to the Baldwinsville Cross Country invitational. “Bee Ville” is always one of the best meets, so we always go…and did. Alex and team did very well with some happy surprises in the JV, and a new varsity crew that did well. Tonight is a homecoming dance. I have thrown all sorts of leftovers from the week into a pot with some tomatoes and have a recycled soup in the works for the team next week.

Need to go…Alex awaits. More later.

Morning Mist: Sagamore Day Four

Lake View, Q. Cassetti, 2010Another day in the Adirondacks. Someone thinking about where we need to be and what and when we need to eat, talk, perform. Bliss. It really is a landlocked cruise boat experience where all you need to do is either go with the flow or do what you want to do. Its crazy, but just over the few days we have been here, you can literally see the trees changing color in the landscape as the evenings are cool/cold and the mornings just a bit warmer to give us mist rising over the lakes, these mirrored lakes that dot the horizon around here.

The words and ideas of James Fennimore Cooper seem to pop up even here. Not just Cooperstown, but points north with Sagamore and Uncas being characters in his books. I guess the Leatherstocking nomenclature and reach is part of this culture here—east and north of Cooperstown and Otesaga…but I hadn’t linked the two. Niagara Region, the burned out zone all have names and brands. The Finger Lakes with the lakes and waterfalls really do not capture any sort of romance or nod to anything beyond natural history…something with some toothiness that we could work with (I am thinking this with regard to Farmer Ground Flour and Stefan’s bakery). Where is our history with the plumb line county maps, the Greek named towns with the Greek Revival Buildings? Where is our history beyond that of fossils, salt mines, and deep cold lakes with the avian flyover? Where are our icons like the Adirondacks of pine trees and cones, snowshoes, loons, baskets, quilts, fishing gear, chairs, birch trees and the like? I am looking and cannot find a link. What is the key? How do we capture it? Time will tell. Often just letting it simmer, something will pop out.

Today is work on the Feline and Baker and then a trip to the Adirondack Museum for a talk by John Buchinger, Associate Director of Education at New York State Historical association and Program Development Consultant—on the cycle of community/individual that Rob has told me about so many times. We are applying this good thinking to localvore food…and I am anxious to hear it from the conceiver of this big idea.

More later.

Momento! Memento!

Kitty before the Prom, Q. Cassetti, 2010It’s funny that life is this long strand of time that sometimes just keeps going on it’s own without a definite time or date to tag things around. There are dates that are significant that one really doesn’t have any control over.Your birth and death happen outside of your control. But some you can impact and fix a time and date to. The day you enter college and graduate. The day you got your first apartment. The day you were engaged. The day you were married. The day you gave birth. The day your child went to school. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and birthday. Each date a thread that twined with the next to infuse the continuum with color and note, annual comparisons but blending with the main thread and becoming one with it.

Then there are the times that things change significantly. Deaths change lives of those left behind for good or bad. Births do the same by changing the family dynamic through causing everyone to budge up and make room (in their time, pocketbooks and attention) for the new member. This new one, a child leaving home has for me, caused the clock to stand still. She is gone from us. Not for summer camp but has crossed the threshold into her own life independent of us. Sure, she will always be our daughter and one of our most amazing God-given treasures , but she will not be late for breakfast every morning or floating in the bathtub late at night. She will not be singing at the top of her lungs as she walks the dog at night. She will not be here every day to tease the cats and cheer her brother. The wild,extreme outfits and hairdos every morning and the wonderful, kind humor every night. Her insights and observations, her ability to see the good and obvious, her delight in everything and everyone is no longer here. Our dancing girl, our laughing princess, our gentle girl has gone to grow and expand. She has moved forward to be her own person and to infect the world with her kind, rational spirit—and we have been bumped out of her direct sphere of life to another ecliptic path that has the occasion to be in her vicinity versus daily or hourly to monthly to an occasional week here and there. We have to share now, whether we like it or not…there is no choice in this matter. 

We can fix a date to this change (09/02/2010) which none of us saw coming. No preparation, no warning but this sort of thing can creep up on you. And it did.

And left us all winded as our light moves on. 

Group Hug

Kitty at the Parade, Q. Cassetti, 2010Wow. What a last few days. I do not think I will not run down the blow by blow as it seems irrelevant other than we got to Amherst, stayed at a Holiday Inn Express (thankfully with comfy beds and air-conditioning), and were embraced by the spirit and community of Hampshire College, its friends, families, faculty, staff and the blooms of this wild rose, the lovely, bushy tailed students. 

It was hot going—with the temperatures in the mid to high nineties. But, as we approached Kitty’s dorm, a swarm of black shirted orientation guides, surrounded the car and deftly made light work of getting her stuff to the second floor of her dorm in short order. Then it was the fam doing the furniture re-arrangement, making of the beds, identifying the things to buy, and buying them, and finally leaving Kitty to empty her totes and really settle. She was worried and fretful, anticipating failure (my daughter, entirely). However, after the speechifying, the clapping and nice dinner under the big white tents in the central quadrangle (lets not forget the biodegradable corn starch cups filled with frosty water), and before her first floor meeting, we said goodbye and watched her introduce herself to a pair of women sitting outside who were formerly being chatted up by Mr. Younger Brother. After that, the texts got better and since then, silence. So, silence is good. I know she is happy and having a ton of fun.She might even have a few friends (do you think>?) and maybe not have to move out of her dorm (that was in the last hour of our visit). My guess is no change will be necessary.

 There were apple trees all over campus. Many dropping big red orbs (so early) that were rotting which scented the air from a sweet apple-y smell to the pungent reminder of vinegar…not all together unpleasant, but memorable. Many of the buildings and grounds had facelifts since the spring, so the property seemed really nice and tidy…a little less ramshackle and far more presentable if physical plant was key in the decision-making of future students and their parents. However, the spirit of the place was the same.

 There is something about the Hampshire Community, which I now feel fully entitled to talk about as I am now part of it. There is this ephemeral essence of smart, questioning, embracing and empowering. There is a push pull of ideas which can be (I am sure) strident (as with new ideas) to skills…and the approach that why not “try it”. Try philosophy, try rock climbing, try dance, try joke writing, try astrophysics, try it all, taste it all, question it all…and its all okay. There is no right way, its all right. There are no grades, but evaluations which can give you better feedback because it’s not about competition. The race is all between you and you (something I wish I had known sooner) and that the person you should concern yourself with is you. What makes you happy? What makes you think? What makes you expansive? What kind of person are you? How are you going to engage in your community and make a difference? This is what the Hampshire students learn along with the nuts and bolts of how to learn things, try things, grow and grow and learn until you are no longer. And these simple things are for me, a hallmark of an educated person. Empowered, confident, engaged in one’s community, growing personally, spiritually, physically and contributing with a happy heart—would be real lessons (the one’s without grades) that I would hope my children could learn and exemplify in their lives.

Kitty and Robbie at Hampshire, Q. Cassetti, 2010There is this embrace, as we experienced this weekend of students with students, faculty with students, staff with students, staff with faculty, parents with students with faculty and so on… which outwardly was expressed by the speeches and generous and thoughtful gestures on move in day. They had watercoolers in the quads and piles for paper recycling mid hallway for pick up. There were the onslaught of troops of happy helping new friends. We had visits from bouncy students just coming in to say hello and remark on something nice in Kitty’s room. We  met the new hallmates (kindred spirits to Kitty) and more upperclassmen who confirmed that this was her tribe. We were delighted by the details from the regular, vegetarian and vegan options for the nice lunches and dinners offered to the completed ID badge, kit and key that was easily handed over to Kitty hour one. The new president was enthusiastic as a new president and parent of a Hampshire student as well. Her remarks were thoughtful and meaningful. And no one felt the need to be a JK Rowling character from the Harry Potter books (thank goodness).

The next day was the beginning of orientation for the students and a full day orientation for families. I had signed us up “to be responsible parents”—and it turned out to be a pleasure without the least bit of pain And Mr. Younger Brother sat through the whole thing and was thrilled. So, much so, that he could easily see this sort of program for himself…so he can study music composition, film, and run cross country for the school. I think it def could be in the future mix too. He was on fire…and wanted to enroll for January term. I wish it could be that simple.

The family program had open panels on topics such as the program of study, of life beyond the classroom, ofNew Crew, Q. Cassetti, 2010 the dorm/dorm issues which were lead beautifully by members of the faculty with lots of question and answers with the parents. The families weren’t slouches with good questions (there were a few nervous nellies getting into the details of the bus routes etc as a for instance). We had a nice time during the lunch time meeting other parents and learning about their students (that’s what we call our kids)—their interests, backgrounds and where we all sit on the alternative scale. We are pretty mainstream/mild compared with the range. We will see these folks again in October and so on until graduation, so I know there might be some new friends in the bunch. If Hampshire pushes community, then we are there to embrace the whole thing.

 I just wish I could do it all over again on this campus, sitting between grain fields and the beautiful bowl of mountains that surround the school. The gold and pink, green, purple and blue were quite breathtaking now at the height of the season. I know October will be wonderful as will the cool winter. The opportunities and friends abound.

Independence Musing

The Mice are burying the Cat”, a 1760s lubok print. It has been commonly thought this plot is a caricature of Peter the Great’s burial, authored by his opponents. The caption above the cat reads: “The Cat of Kazan, the Mind of Astrakhan, the Wisdom of Siberia” (a parody of the title of Russian Czars). It has been claimed by modern researchers that this is simply a representation of carnivalesque inversion, “turning the world upside down”.In the spirit of independence and change, I submit this lovely lubok illustration of the dead cat being buried by his prey, the mice. This terrific lubok print really captures in my heart, how we had been captivated by the cat or the “Man” and we need to , as a community of weaklings, band together and let ourselves be heard. The multiple wars and occupations we seem to be embroiled in—seemingly endlessly weaving ourselves deeper and deeper into the tribal hierarchies we do not even begin to understand spending treasure and people on protecting something we have no understanding of, nor heart to feel true compassion. The obscenity of the oil spill (gush) off our beaches with the fingers being pointed to one after the next greedy, self possessed individuals who are so intent on not stepping up and taking the heat, and equally not charged to change the situation for now and for later—has this mouse enraged to the point of not knowing even how to react other than  stew. There is nothing to do. Sure we can raise money but for what? for Whom? Should the money raising be to raise the other mices’ consciousness to prevent another one of these disasters? Should it go to alternative energy solutions and stop offshore drilling none the less? Should we all take a week off and turn off the lights, stop driving and test to see whether we could make this work for us…?   When is it when we mice, the community of mice, grab ahold of this tragedy and not wait for some paternal character (not the president of BP) to console us and tell us everything is back to status quo?

The corporate world, one for “training” and “accountability” as part of their human resources requirements for all employees has tragically failed to not trouble shoot the trouble shooting, or the trouble shooters. The military training program for creating failsafes (even I as a dumb graphic designer had to take) to ensure there was a backup plan to a back up plan somehow failed. Did the boom create this moral bust? Did the culture of greed and irresponsibilty of people like Bernie Madoff, or companies like Enron override this aspect of our culture that it is better to point the finger when the immoral jig is up than to plan and do the right thing to get ahead?

On this Independence Day, as we slice up the watermelon, turn on our grills and kick back, I suggest we think about our independence and ask ourselves if we truly are?


Cold, Dark Night, Q.Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink/ digitalI love the idea of WYSIWYG. Its a very "my lifetime" phrase. They did not say WYSIWYG in blackletter in church manuscripts from the scriptori, nor did they say WYSWYG  at the advent of handset type. What you see is what you get. Pretty much from my vantage point, a very NOW statement. What you see (right now) is what you get (right now). Not what you might see if you wait. Or what you will see when you get it...or the like. Its two now statements. Pretty much speaks to our culture, our nowness, our immediacy of on-demand everything from television to movies, to printing to food. Its all on demand..and its exactly what you see. No variations, no more thought than making it JIT (just in time), and predictable. Its a problem we have culturally, as many things you cannot see or if you see them, you may not get them. Or if you see them, they may not exist (such as movies such as Lord of the Rings or Avatar or even the hyper realistic games that Alex plays with blood and guts). 

There is so much behind WYSIWYG. A whole system and structure that is invisible and rarely even approached. You buy a loaf of bread at the store and what you see is what you get. A loaf of bread. Do you see if there is local flour there? Could you see if there are preservatives in it? Can you see if the people who make this bread are satisfied with their work? their lives? How did that loaf get from their ovens to your doorstep without being damaged or aged? Do we even think about these things? What are the ramifications of buying a loaf of bread made in your village versus one made in Cinncinnati by an enormous bakery? Do we see a change in our health directly? Does it better our neighbors versus someone elses neighbors? Does it teach us anything about our area? or local culture and expectations? I know I am ranting on about something (WYSIWYG) that  is really more about computers and not really having to learn about code and the like...which is fine by me-- but WYSIWYG is ingrained in the way we think and behave such that if we just started peeling it apart, think of the thoughts, ideas, and passions we could all inspire. Enough of this rambling.

Kids are skiing. It was gorgeous at Greek Peak. Plenty of snow and happy faces all around. We came back to do house projects. I made a "Church Supper Chicken Pie" and cinnamon bread ( both from the highly recommended (I am cooking my way through) The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook I am working on some more of these Home Sweet Home pictures and thinking a lot of gingerbread houses and witches. I actually cracked open the brothers Grimm this morning and was pleased with what I saw....plenty to work on.

Eve Song

Today is the day before the future. Tomorrow, a new year filled with change, new opportunities, a new spring, a new summer, a new autumn and then the winter, just like today--begins again. It is snowing this morning in a steady stream of the white stuff that sticks. Somehow it seems right--a quiet day with the beautiful pearly grey sky, muted warm grey trees and the thread of snow building up around us. Of course, my mommy head is filled with "is there enough milk in the house?" and "what to eat if we are stuck"--but the girl inside me thrills to the cuddly day with pictures and tea, lazy reading and the radiant, hot wood stove.

This angel suggests the hope and light in the New Year for all of us. She is the brightness in the dark. The warm center that I hope for all of you. May your new Year radiate with love, friends, new ideas and opportunities in health, happiness and joy.

I am crazily obsessed with wooden nutcrackers and angels. I had forgotten the angels I bought a few years back--and the nutcrackers were something we bought one of each year to add to the collection which a very young, old fashioned boy, Alexander, thought was just fine. In getting back to all the holiday tchotchkes, I am humored to find a thread of love...those wooden, German holiday decorations that I have not until now, realized has a place in my heart. They are so stiff and frightening that I am charmed by their unfriendliness and have started drawing them. I am also possessed by rocking horses, tin soldiers etc. these days and feel that I may let this thread go a bit before I bang into something else. It seems a bit after the fact, but as in my musings above, they are just around the corner for 2010.

Work on amending the Hangar work continues. I am working on perking up the Man of LaMancha (adding more eye detail and a windmill). Completed the Spelling Bee changes and helped Penelope. I added her love interest (Odysseus in army gear)...and added a texture of army camo to the background which surprisingly looks like peeling paint. As an aside, I had the best time researching the Army Uniform to find out the pros and cons of the new uniforms along with something tremendous, a whole deep dive on camo patterns. More on that later. Time is more later...Hopefully before the New Year!

Yankee Swap

Byzantine depiction of the Three Magi in a 7th-century mosaic at Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.

We are on for the yankee swap tonight. We have 20 confirmed yeses and 29 confirmed maybes. There are invitations outstanding, but this world of teenagers--one needs to stay flexible. So, I am keeping my head on straight, not worrying about enough food etc. What will be will be. If the RSVPs are casual, so can my hostessing be the same. Kitty and friend, Emily, dipped pretzels in chocolate. We have mini pizza bagels and chips from the regional. Gorp and cookies--also thanks to Kitty, Alex and Emily. No tree yet, but the chandelier is decorated lavishly and we have my wreaths and our marshmallow wreaths nailed to the wall. So, there is a general air of festivity despite no tree. And if the trial music sampled by Alex promises to be the play list (Biggie)--then, that's all we need. I

t was an up and back to Rochester yesterday. Big news was the amazing thing that UV ink on uncoated paper does. It sits up off the paper and one can get a more solid hit than before. Plus, with the uv inks, they are heated and set before they come off the press (much like web) so the offsetting cannot happen along with other gems of problems that happen with wet ink. I am on this right now. Additionally, they have this new method of printing a heavy (seems like a varnish) that sits off the page dimensionally, sort of a poor man's thermography that could be very interesting to investigate. As usual, I love working with the folks at Cohber. They never slack off with the active problem solving and energy they bring to the printed work. I hope I have more to send their way. They are a really great partner. The drive up was beautiful and wintery with the blues and lilacs in the landscape. The drive back was in the dark, so I got a dose of the confabulous lighting displays in Waterloo and Romulus. All in all, very pleasant way to finish up the week.

While at Cohber, I did some research on the three kings. You know, they were never cited in the Bible. Wise men, yes. Kings No. However, the Kings are celebrated nonetheless--particularly during Ephiphany (January 6) when many cultures eat variations of the King Cake and celebrate their quest to see the child. Wikipedia on the Magi says:

Magi (Latin plural of magus, ancient Greek magos, Persian "مغ", English singular 'magian', 'mage', 'magus', 'magusian', 'magusaean') is a term, used since at least the 4th century BCE, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which was – in the main – the ability to read the stars, and manipulate the fate that the stars foretold. The meaning prior to Hellenistic period is uncertain. Pervasive throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia until late antiquity and beyond, Greek mágos "magian"/Magician was influenced by (and eventually displaced) Greek goēs, the older word for a practitioner of magic, to include astrology, alchemy and other forms of esoteric knowledge. This association was in turn the product of the Hellenistic fascination for (Pseudo-)Zoroaster, who was perceived by the Greeks to be the "Chaldean" "founder" of the Magi and "inventor" of both astrology and magic. Among the skeptical thinkers of the period, the term 'magian' acquired a negative connotation and was associated with tricksters and conjurers. This pejorative meaning survives in the words "magic" and "magician". In English, the term "magi" is most commonly used in reference to the Gospel of Matthew's "wise men from the East", or "three wise men" (though that number does not actually appear in Matthew's account, and various sources placed the number anywhere between two and twelve).[citation needed] The plural "magi" entered the English language around 1200, in reference to the Biblical magi of Matthew 2:1. The singular appears considerably later, in the late 14th century, when it was borrowed from Old French in the meaning magician together with magic.

Wiki on the Three Kings gets into some detail>> Excerpted from the Wikipedia Three Kings page are some of the traditions that tickled my fancy:

* Holidays celebrating the arrival of the Magi traditionally recognise a sharp distinction between the date of their arrival and the date of Jesus' birth. Matthew's introduction of the Magi gives the reader no reason to believe that they were present on the night of the birth, instead stating that they arrived at some point after Jesus had been born, and the Magi are described as leading Herod to assume that Jesus is up to one year old.

* Christianity celebrates the Magi on the day of Epiphany, January 6, the last of the twelve days of Christmas, particularly in the Spanish-speaking parts of the world. In these Spanish-speaking areas, the three kings (Sp. "los Reyes Magos de Oriente", also "Los Tres Reyes Magos") receive wish letters from children and magically bring them gifts on the night before Epiphany. In Spain, each one of the Magi is supposed to represent one different continent, Europe (Caspar), Asia (Melchior) and Africa (Balthasar). According to the tradition, the Magi come from the Orient on their camels to visit the houses of all the children; much like Santa Claus with his reindeer, they visit everyone in one night. In some areas, children prepare a drink for each of the Magi, it is also traditional to prepare food and drink for the camels, because this is the only night of the year when they eat.

* Spanish cities organize cabalgatas in the evening, in which the kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children (and parents) in attendance. The cavalcade of the three kings in Alcoi claims to be the oldest in the world; the participants who portray the kings and pages walk through the crowd, giving presents to the children directly

* A tradition in most of Central Europe involves writing the initials of the three kings' names above the main door of the home to confer blessings on the occupants for the New Year. For example, 20 + C + M + B + 08. The initials may also represent "Christus mansionem benedicat" (Christ bless this house). In Catholic parts of Germany and in Austria, this is done by so called Sternsinger (star singers), children, dressed up as the Magi, carrying the star. In exchange for writing the initials, they collect money for charity projects in the third world.

* In France and Belgium, the holiday is celebrated with a special tradition: within a family, a cake is shared, which contains a small figure of baby Jesus, known as the broad bean. Whoever gets the "bean" is "crowned" king for the remainder of the holiday and wears a cardboard crown purchased with the cake. The practice is known as tirer les Rois: drawing the Kings. A queen is sometimes also chosen.

* This tradition also exists in Spain, but with one small variant; the cake, in this case actually a ring-shaped pastry or Roscón de Reyes, is most commonly bought, not baked, and it contains a small figurine of a baby Jesus and a dry broad bean. The one who gets the figurine is crowned, but whoever gets the bean has to pay the value of the cake to the person who originally bought it.

* In Mexico they have the same ring-shaped cake Rosca de Reyes (Kings Bagel or Thread), it contains figurines of the baby Jesus. The figurine of the baby Jesus is typically hidden inside the cake. Whoever gets a figurine is supposed to take the figurine to the local church and buy tamales for the Candelaria feast on February the second, which is the feast of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

* In Puerto Rico children cut grass or greenery on January 5th and put it in a box under their bed. The grass is for the camels. Children receive gifts on January 6, which is called Epiphany, and is traditionally the day in which the Magi arrived bearing gifts for the Christ child. Christmas starts in December and ends in January after Epiphany.

* In New Orleans, Louisiana, parts of south Texas, and surrounding regions, a similar ring-shaped cake known as a "King Cake" traditionally becomes available in bakeries from the Epiphany through Mardi Gras. The baby Jesus is represented by a small, plastic doll inserted into the cake from underneath, and the person who gets the slice with the figurine is expected to buy or bake the next King Cake. There is wide variation among the types of pastry that can be called a King Cake, but most feature baked cinnamon-flavored twisted dough, thin frosting, with additional sugar on top in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of gold, green, and purple. To prevent accidental injury or choking, the plastic doll is frequently not hidden in the cake at the bakery, but instead included in the packaging for optional use. Mardi Gras-style beads and doubloons may be included as well.

So in some worlds from Advent to Easter is just one party of cakes and celebration. From what we know here, we entirely miss the opportunity to eat cake and revel. But, as you can see, there are pictures from now until January 6th at least. Post Advent calendar?

back in the saddle.

Stephen Huneck
Lend a Helping Hand
Image size: 6" x 7"
Paper size: 8 1/2" x 11"

So, I have been thinking about a lot of stuff. First off, a name for a friend's new business. He has been giving it a lot of thought and has some possibilities--but after having a dose of Vermont and the naming that goes on there, I think this could go further. I am intrigued by the name/word "Vermont" and how that has come to mean pure, good, wholesome, farm grown--excellent, though reading the labels might dissuade you from buying the entire package. However it really works. There is Vermont Butter and Cheese, Vermont Smoke and Cure. There is Vermont Maple Syrup (with no other brand than that). Vermont Cheddar and Vermont Cheese (though Cabot Creamery might be the big owner there). Ben and Jerry's is identified with Vermont. You get the Idea. I was tickled to see that there is a Vermont Mystic Pie Company who is using Stephen Huneck to design and illustrate their packages for pie. The look is distinct and frankly very "Vermont". That is one train of thought. What makes Vermont, Vermonty? What is it about Vermont that embues all of this expectation and promise for pure excellence? Do we even have glimmers of that here?

Then there is the approach with getting a bigger name, a wider reach. What I mean is that if my friend is going to make one thing, but possibly blow that channel out a bit, or have other offerings that complement the product he is focusing on, how do we name that entity that has all that the word "Vermont" offers, and yet keeps it broad enough to embrace more. "Vermont" interestingly is a place, a location, a specificity that adds the novel "localvore" connotation as it is to those who can buy those Vermont brands,something desired, something special. So, place is part of the equation, a locality, a pinpointable place. Could that place be even more local? A farm? a street? a town, a village? a hamlet? That resonates for me as the place is the source, the lodestone from which all this goodness, this thinking, this approach comes from...Of course, it comes from the people, but the product is an outflow from the place. So, a place name makes sense with a describing word that situates it like farm, street, ville or burg, hill or river, stream or bend. That can help our name.

That's the thinking now.

Rob is off to Cooperstown and back for an interesting board meeting. Kitty is nursing a sore throat and Alex is nose to the grindstone. I am looking at my list of dos and redos and know that things are going to crank up. Ahhh. More holiday shopping online as today is Cyber Monday? and we all must spend all of our holiday money online as fast as we can. And did I mention holiday cards! Yikes.


The trip to Newark and then on to Florham Park was uneventful. Smooth sailing via Continental and picked up at the International drop off by an wonderful driver I have had before. John, or Johnnie as he calls himself, is an engaging person who is passionate about a hobby he, his grandfather, his great great had, coonhunting. Johnnie breeds, trains and runs a pair of coonhounds, bringing in sixty pelts a season and proudly trading them for a fur coat for his wife. He loves doing that...picking up the phone, calling the furrier in the Catskills (who is also the grandson of the furrier his dad did business with) and telling him that he and his wife would be up to make the trade. His pride in the closet of fur coats his wife has was palpable...and his love of his dogs and their world made the trip so quick it was remarkable. John's dogs are from the dogs his father and grandfather had. He told me all about flea and tick prevention, their food, and the way he handles them "I have soft hands". He told me about the relationships he has with farmers in the New Jersey countryside that allow him to work his dogs in their fields ""They"[the raccoons] love corn fields"--and how those relationships are generational as well. He was going to swap dogs with a friend of his from Maryland--taking his puppy and leaving his younger dogs to teach them. He prides himself in his soft approach--playing with the dog evolving to training and learning. He believes that six weeks with a puppy can move its behavior from being disinterested to really wanting to go out and tree the raccoon. It was great getting a dose of him. I love talking to drivers, its always a rich slice.

The meeting and my overnight was at the Hamilton Park Hotel and Conference Center. The hotel is very nice, very comfortable and accomodating. However, the conference part of the deal was GREAT. First off, they have a floor or two of conference rooms. Each room is equipped perfectly with plenty of supplies, water etc. No drippy water pitchers, no overdo of anything. There was plenty of electric for the powerbooks that were snapped open. The coffee "thing" which generally is to the side of the conference room (often really looking bad,messy and stinky) was set up outside in a central coffee station that had everything you would want in appropriate (no passionflowers or cut fruit decorations), business style. No mess, no fuss. Then, at lunch, instead of the clattering teacart carrying stacks of plastic buffet boxes of messy sandwiches no one wants with huge slice and bake cookies no one should eat...with more stinky drinks and coffee...we were ushered downstairs to a generous dining room with tablecloths and service to help ourselves to an enormous, high quality, buffet with everything from perfect greenbeans, to soup, to the big dinner to tidbits for lunch. Everything was beautiful and accomodating with the service being on the mark and receeding. They even had compostable paper and plasticware for lunch. Again, knowing the needs of business and delivering it. And with all this lovely treatment, the meeting went smoothly and was effective.

The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the document review process--with many of the big marketing and communications managers/directors, some doctors and lawyers, writers and administrators all working to hammer out a better process. It was a bit frustrating as a corner of the room kept on focusing on how understaffed they were and how they couldnt do their work owning this process--and were unable to get their heads out of now and into "what if" which was unfortunate. If I had any criticisms, it was that they were not managed bettter to keep the tone of the meeting from kvetching to actual dreaming. Ah well.... this is why I like being on my own.

Then back to the airport, sharing a ride with a really great guy, an australian who runs the marketing and sales for a very cool little esoteric lab that develops very high end tests-- one current splash is the H1N1 virus test that is a boost to my client's bottom line. He was insightful, funny and poor guy, tired as he had taken the red eye to get to this meeting in New Jersey and was off to Ohio for a meeting the next day. Its for guys like that that these business style services and kind treatment at the airport helps to move him forward. Had an uneventful time at the airport...reading my library of books on the now established Kindle (and downloaded Dante's Inferno for FREE as its one of those classics that are free)--with a quick ride home to Ithaca sitting with a guy who is involved in textbook publishing. It was a fun chat to make the time go faster!.

Erich is home with the flu, so it's just me today.
Lots to do...but first, coffee and the scanner!

getting going

School One Act plays were great. I was very much the proud mama with our Kitty being the ham she is able to be with great confidence and aplomb. It was a very fun evening with people laughing in the right spots--and no perceived forgotten lines. Matt P. took the audience with him with his very funny roles of a mourner in a funeral and as Medea's husband (complete in toga, black socks and shoes, plastic breastplate and helmet with a plume). Alex looked tall and elegant in his suit as one of the mourners at the funeral (in the funeral play).

I decided that I would lean on to teach InDesign to the class at the High School. We watched 5 video clips (I learned quite a bit) and was happily surprised that the students seemed to glom onto these lessons. Onward. Feeling brave, I came home to InDesign and taught myself how to port Microsoft Xcel spreadsheets into an InDesign file to dress it up and make it look more designed. Surprisingly, not hard--but not a sure bet the first time out. But, I did it and more tool in the toolbox. Next step, can I format the type etc. in InDesign so when I import the file, it will be immediately formatted within the type frame? Wouldn't that be total slickness? I think so.

Illustration wise I am betwixt and between. I have entered the Society of Illustrators Show in NYC, the same in LA (did I mention I am now a member?). Communications Arts I need to check the deadlines as this is a good one too. The new Creative Quarterly should be out soon--so a bunch of my stuff should be there too. I will post the link to the page of the pieces that did not get into the printed piece. I have 3 out of the 5 Hangar Theater posters done....need to get the other two : 39 Steps and The Piano Lesson done. One is typographic, the other illustration (a double portrait, I think). Got Bethnal Green done (you saw it this week) . I am also doing a bunch of little odds and ends for others who have things out there. All gratis of course. But in the cracks, I am working on an illustration of a lady riding a rooster (a partner to the little man riding the horse in the Fraktur work). I was thinking about the imagery and type that these Pennsylvania Germans use and putting the hat on of that wonderful artist , whose name escapes me, who creates these full sized vignettes of colonial people beautifully dressed in colonial garb made out of african kente cloth. He takes one idea and just twists it a bit to make it evolve to a new, fresh message. I like the idea of these little colonial people doing ordinary things...but evolving to less ordinary and more modern or whimiscal things. I like the idea of taking the birth and death, marriage and house blessings and twisting it with modern phrases and words. I like the idea of keeping a simple palette and taking the imagery to another place. Must mull on that.

I am fascinated by being fifty. It seems that many of my friends and acquaintances are all changing their thinking to change their lives to do what they really want to do, to pursue their bliss, to take all that they know and love and spend time doing it. Its interesting as so many are opting for more creativity in their lives for a bit less in the paycheck. These are folks with jobs, often good paying jobs with benefits and vacations and perks....but somehow crossing fifty with many of their obligations of family winding down with kids going to college or even kids having kids, that the measure of their lives, how they spend their time, and the second career or chapter seems to be something open to them. The prospect of the new vista with more time is charging people to regard themselves, their community and their role in that community with new energy and focus. It is an interesting thing to have these boomers focus their trained brains on a new place. Life should be richer for all of us. It's pretty exciting to be on the front end of many of their thoughts, thinking and plans. I view myself as blessed.

Rob is home at one. I have to order my new favorite thing for cast parties --italian subs, hold the dressing. These babies are scarfed down in short order--and all I have to do is pick them up. Another key to these treats working, -- they are cut into little 3" its enough, but low High School waste factors. We have more play today along with a cast party. I am opening up boxes of things I have ordered for Christmas and starting to wrap. But you were the first folks on my list as I have been remiss in our chats.

tomorrow, then...if not sooner!


Okay. So we have Rob, who is going to the SOFA show in Chicago today, tomorrow and back Saturday. Company plane going to Chicago/commercial back. Takes the pain down to a low level. He should have fun. SOFA is at the Navy Pier in Chicago and defines itself as the annual international Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Expositions (in NYC and Chicago). Its fun and I am sure totally inspiring. Rob always comes back charged up.

We have Alex running all day at big regional meet at the Chenago County Golf Course. He has food to take, drinks to drink and clean running gear (always a last minute event). He is back in time to go to the last rehearsal prior to our Friday and Saturday performances. So, a busy day with lots of friends and teammates to his delight. Alex loves his people.

Kitty is motivated beyond what we have ever seen these days. She has dropped math (not loving calculus and not a must to graduate) and has gotten herself enrolled in a year study of astronomy and another class, production design which includes time in the woodshop. I couldnt be happier with her taking charge and doing this with great confidence and pleasure. She is also ready for the play and says that she and her fellow actor in the one act " DMV" have people in stitches. She plays the touchy DMV functionary--with lots of funny lines. She too, loves her people and looks forward to her debut tomorrow.

I keep getting thrown off course with trying to wrap things up. Little firebombs of "I need it in an hour " "I need an entire presentation by tomorrow" is getting in the way of completing a 60 pp book and wrapping up a 16 pp calendar that also have deadlines. We are pedal to the metal here...literally from 8 til 7 and the weekend beckons for work too. It puts me in a dilemma as being employed and working/ getting paid and adding value to my customers is important. I understand I need to bend and go with the flow, but when is enough too much? When is it appropriate to squeak? Or can I as I am perceived as a virtual member of the team, something that is, an enviable position (or at least to my thinking))? I also did some dumb stuff by taking on some gratis pieces that I want to commit more time to...and the time is just not there. Dumb me, dummy!

I am sure I will get through this moment, its just I have got to think about what it is I am doing, keep tight lists, and not stray.

Morning Sunshine!

Today, it feels like things are going to happen. We have a big document review conference call with Webex this morning which should be illuminating (at least, I hope). We review documents for one of our clients for identity issues but it has expanded to language, actual design/communications criteria and in some cases total redesign (in less than a day)of brochures, newsletters etc. that have reached this approval process and goes to the end customer in a sad visual state. I get all righteous when I see that some pretty lame/amateur designs created by someone who just needs a communications piece and has no resources--particularly when it goes to the end customer representing this company which is one of the largest in it's industry and should look "Fortune 100", instead of clip art, twenty different fonts (including one of my favorites--Comix Sans), and all the wild stuff you can do with MSWord. Did I mention for the hundredth time that MSWord IS the devil's tool?

As I look out the window, the high sky day only a half an hour ago now has become leaden and promises rain. I saw a multipointed buck, posed as if for the illustrator's camera--nicely blending in with the yellow, gold and beige colors of the fields and flickering leaves still hanging on to the branches. He was glorious...and smart enough not to race across the road to confront the Wonderbus. So, we both have a nice morning...not one of sadness and hurt.

Alex was musing in the car about why we need to rake leaves as they always end uup on the ground, again and again. Rob's response was that we get to make nice compost for the village. Somehow I am more with Alex on this one...I don't think our fellow villagers rake the leaves for nice compost. Perhaps for good citizenry? or better, the layer of leaves are not terrific under the snow for traction? Either way, Alex C. was on point, as usual.

All the alarms on my desktop are reminding me my call starts in ten minutes. I think I have to "powder my nose" prior to this electronic adventure into approval.

More later

Wednesday catchup

Rapid fire blog entry this morning. Interesting news. I have my work on Behance, a cool creative resource/social networking site...and I got an interesting job (albeit gratis) that came across the email. There is The Star of Bethnel, a pub in East London that has a poster program that they ask international artists/illustrators to submit art for. They have a good deisgn firm doing the branding--and they came across my work on Behance and want me to do the December poster...anything I want. How fun is that...Rob thinks I should go totally Memento Mori on it... I am thinking more a la valentines with Fraktur angels as it is December and the English don't really have an issue with Christmas as the December Holiday.

Work here has been from fire drill to fire drill...the quick, drop everything approach to no planning and trying amidst the chaos to not let anything slip through the cracks. I have been carless for well on to two weeks which is making me a bit of a princess in the tower--- with work, cooking and general house stuff keeping me land locked. Timmy, our painter, spent the better part of Monday getting a small cherry picker into the back yard to paint the roof trim of the house. As I hung up the phone with another rush completed, my mother in law came in to tell me " Timmy is up in the air". What? And I need to be the adult for this too? So, I went outside to see that yes, Timmy was up in the air--with the cherry picker somehow stuck--locked so the mechanism wouldn't work. Everybody was hanging back...and yes, I had to be the adult. So, Timmy and I talked it through...and I tried a few things and managed to get the up/down mechanism unlocked so that we could get him down. Then, it was back to the other emergencies...not as scary as that...but still scary for the two hour turn arounds/bailouts that keep coming.

That is why the star project seems so fun. No emergency there.

Kitty is crazed with her play practices. Alex with Cross Contry training and trying to make up the work he lost last week with his ill days. Rob has left every morning before seven and this morning at five to get to NYC and back today. Its pretty much everyone nose to the grindstone.

This weekend we have a celebrated apple picking/cider pressing event that we have been included in...which should be interesting and fun. But first, we need to get through this week.

Changing of the old guard?

“To say that ‘literate’ and ‘intelligent’ is elitist - that’s insane, the way people sling around ‘arugula’ to be synonymous with highfalutin,’’ says [Laura] Shapiro. “This is another nail in the coffin of literate journalism.’’ from The Mourning After (
How sad. I thought with Ruth Reichl at the helm of Gourmet Magazine, there was a chance that this old school magazine could pull through the crash and burn that is going on in print media today. Reichl, an author and realistic food person is an inspiration in her energy and approach to her writing and passion for food, I thought would bring a spirit and splash to this tried and true publication. Granted, I thought that Gourmet was for "grown ups" until I had 6 weeks of being at home with my new baby daughter--sleepless and living in the moment. I found that I loved Gourmet and the New Yorker for their little mental vacations they took me on...and the recipes that I began to cook out of Gourmet were easy, delicious and inspiring me to go further, to crack open more books, to try the untried. It got me through the early days of mom hood and frankly was part of my evolution as a cook for a new little group of eaters.

Since then, Gourmet has been a monthly occasion in my life. Now, it won't be.

Interestingly, in looking around a bit about the demise of Gourmet, I ran into some interesting articles

Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl: Print Magazines Are Toast
by Henry Blodget on the Business Insider page
Ruthie in Wonderland: Ruth Reichl Reflects on Conde Nast by John Koblin from the New York Observer
Clearing the Table by Deborah Solomon, New York Times

From the Koblin article

“That kind of luxury that we all had [at Conde Nast] is probably a thing of the past. The new business realities have changed the life at Condé Nast. I think print magazines as we know them will cease to exist...

“I do think that there is going to be something that will be very exciting and that will incorporate video, instant shopping,” she said. “I think that the rich experience that is in magazines will likely move to another platform. It won’t be online. It will be what magazines are now, tools for living and inspirational and intellectually rich. I think magazines in that sense won’t be going away.”

As an illustrator, the great publishing industry changes. The magazines and newspapers that were solid clients for articles, book reviews, Sunday supplements and all else are dying. So, where does that leave us, the great great grandchildren of Rockwell and Howard Pyle-- the great illustrators of their time? Where will the painters go? I guess, children's book and advertising, portraiture and gallery work. Holiday cards? A santa or a teddy bear as a client told me..."thats what their Chairman loves" (OY!).

Now, if we look at Will Bradley, he illustrated for publications and then some...Bradley might have made the jump to web design and imagery or even flash animation. There is work there. I mean, if you have the wits and imagination that illustration training should hone, this new media beyond paint, beyond ink on paper has room.

I had the opportunity to work with a client and a consulting company of the development of an e-card for the Holidays. These guys gave us story boards which we didnt approve and immediately launched into a direction we had never even seen...fully developing it in flash with this easy listening "fashion show music box music"--so middle of the road and tacky. I had to pull it back and talk about Tiffany and Company, the "little black dress with pearls" positioning (which in the old days might be associated with class..and today, no one gets the whole "its like this and this and this" gets you there in a less abbreviated way). These guys are computer jocks--not problem solvers.For really good designers or illustrators thinking about the problems, thinking about transitions and messages, about the story and the impresssion is part of their training, their make up , their MO. It was illuminating to work with these functionaries that we essentially had to "move their hands with our own" to get the changes to move it towards good...not even great. But back to the premise...There is just might not be the tradtional "old school" venues that many of us hoped would bloom and blossom for us, but new trees, new orchards where the fruit has yet to be discovered. And picked.


I am in a miasma of ideas, things to do, things not to do, packages to send, people to call, chores to do, clothes to fold, leftovers to reconfigure. The sublime and the ordinary and somehow I am stuck dead in the middle. A bit stunned, but in the middle. The ideas that are whirling vacillate between the biography I am reading in Julia Child and the informal research I am doing on the German Pietist in Pennsylvania -- their life, their lifestyle, their art, their healing practices, their the middle is an odd place to be. The only similarity that these topics have is that it about people who have strong beliefs and are committed to doing the right thing with those beliefs.

Julia Child was someone who pursued her love of eating to that of cooking to translating that discipline of French cooking for the layman to experience. She introduced measuring and repetition to the processes that were art to the French. She was always drilling down and asking herself if the newly wed wife who was cooking from her book could follow her writing. She refused to dumb down her roast chicken to a mere 24 words (as her competition did)--simplifying but not compromising her beliefs and not giving the editors a "ladies magazine" approach to the cooking she loved and believed in.

The Pietist....No compromise, all passion...afterall, they were Germans. Everything exuded their belief from their art, to the healing invoking the Virgin or Jesus, to the blessings on their houses. They were not dour in those beliefs. Conrad Beissel (1690-1768), the founder of the Seventh Day Dunkers (another name for the German Baptist Brethren),a hermit and then founder of the semi- monsastic community at Ephrata, wrote hymns galore. (I have found there was a real flourishing of hymn writing in Pennsylvania during this period with the Quakers, Moravians etc. to name a few groups)). His hymns were then embellished and designed within the community and either hand done in a scriptorium at Ephrata (one of the tasks the sisters did) or printed (Ephrata had one of the most significant presses/printing operations at the time...working alongside Ben Franklin who also printed some of Beissel's philosophy tracts). These hymns were embellished with flowers, crowns, birds, angels/spirit guides, hex marks, little faces, sometimes unicorns, sometimes lions. All in brilliant red, yellow, blue, brown and black. The same color palette and spirit we see, not in the spaces at Ephrata, but in the Peter Wentz Farmstead with the brilliant yellow walls and bright blue built in cabinetry. And the enormous black polkadots adorming those bright yellow walls. Nothing dour there.
Alex has pink eye and at the doctors as we speak. Kitty still sleeps (I am going to wake her up as there is work to be done). Rob and I are making lists of things to be done in town and here from bulb planting to spackling and sanding walls. I think th ere is lots of work to be done...and my time here is needed elsewhere.

ps. The images of Penelope and the Gorgon I posted yesterday are sketches for a theatre poster for a future Hangar production....


The Adirondacks charmed me with snowshoes. First, there was the grazing, amazing, big rabbit at the Great Camp Sagamore which our friend and guide, Beverly, pointed up that he changes color--brown to white for the winter and then vice versa in the spring. His big feet keep him above the snow. This rabbit was happy to let us watch while he snacked on the grass amongst all of us people. Then, at the Adirondack Museum, there was a remarkable collection of images and ideas around the snowshoe--from the various shapes and weaving, Different fasteners and photos of people using them. My absolute favorite snowshoe was the one on Rutherford B. Hayes' iced cream plate he had in the White House (see pink plate with a golden snowshoe). Hayes, as an aside, showed his pride in the Adirondacks through his table service and had a treed bear on a charger that was part of this look and feel....but the snowshoe...!

I have been musing over Mr. William West Durant and his loves, specifically, his visual loves. This is a man who, like friends of ours, are part of the "I love wood" group. This love is manifested in detailled architectural screens from the mosaic work of the lovely little Sunset Cottage to the bark panels at the Sagamore to the linear rails and and porch details of Pine Knot (now owned and run by SUNY Cortland as Camp Huntington).

"Camp Pine Knot was built by William West Durant and sold to railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington in 1895. In 1947, Huntington’s son, Archer, and his wife, Anna, presented to the College the original 201-acre site and historical buildings in the memory of Collis P. Huntington."

From my brief reading, Pine Knot was where it started. WW Durant built this place for his parents and used it as a showcase to show his friends and possible clients what an Adirondack Camp was about, and didn't they want to share in this adventure. This was just a glimmer of the force of Durant's talent, desire to decorate and work with wood, wood bark combined with architectural inspiration from Germany and Switzerland. The idea of a rusticated way of living for those who inhabited the large marble palaces in Newport and Manhattan was such a jump in comfort and concept it really must have been quite a sales job to get them on the train, on the boat and on a carriage to get them to Pine Knot to see and experience the wilderness Durant was inflamed with.

We are busy putting a bunch of holiday images to bed...and finishing. Ahhh. So, new things can slip into their place on the desktop. The Tropic wine and the images for the Hangar are in the roster to move onto the live lists. Alex is running a lot. Rob is working a lot (lots of work at the office, lots of projects coming to close here. Kitty is doing the school improv and has been cast in two of the five performances. All we need to do is finalize a lot of the college stuff--we had a good talk last night about that. I am busy and a bit wild..and would like a lull to get back into my little drawings about Fraktur.

A Labor Day Gumdrop!

A break from Fraktur. The images above are screen captures from the most inspired little film I saw last night. It is Nina Paley's autobiographical "Sita Sings the Blues", an interwoven story with interwoven techniques and voices (many very cute and funny) about a woman's break up with her husband after he is sent to India to pursue his career...and the story of Sita and Rama with a thick overlay of this boop boop da doop love sing/songs from Annette Hanshaw. It is a must see for all of my illustration friends as it charms with color, wit and the clever use of cut paper, shadow puppets (as the narrators), stock art and of course the drawn media. It makes a very strong vote for the world of vector and how lovely it can be. Plus, this is a rich and inspiring slice for all of us. The under 20 set here went wild. It is an inspired gumdrop personal to Nina Paley, a real star and creative who is the writer, creator, animator of this singular gem...We should expect to see more from this thoughtful, fun, visual artists...and I hope soon. You all know how I feel about Indian art, and this was such a unexpected gift delivered to us in a mention from the tuned in Mr. David Lucas, designer and astute observer of the world. Thank you David for this wonder! We are all beneficiaries of your suggestion!

If you go a bit deeper into the copyright issues surrounding this work which I will allow Wikipedia to explain clearly:

In the 1920s Annette Hanshaw recorded the songs that director Paley used in the film. These recordings were protected by state commerce and business laws passed at the time in the absence of applicable Federal laws and were never truly "public domain".[12] In addition, the musical composition itself, including aspects such as the lyrics to the songs, the musical notation, and products derived from using those things, is still under copyright.[13] In the case of this film, the syncing of the recording with the movie is the infringing act.
Without a distributor, Nina Paley was unable to pay the approximately $220,000 that the copyright holders originally demanded. Eventually, a fee of $50,000 was negotiated. Paley took out a loan to license the music in early 2009.[1]

Unorthodox distribution
Due to terms of the music license, one limited DVD pressing of 4,999 copies will be printed. The film was released for free download starting in early March, 2009 "at all resolutions, including broadcast-quality, HD, and film-quality image sequences", licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-alike 3.0 Unported license.[14] The freely downloaded files will count as "promotional copies" and will thus be exempt from payments to the copyright holders of the songs.[1]

The full film can also be viewed in low-resolution streaming video on the web site for WNET, a PBS member station in New York City. WNET broadcast the film on March 7, 2009.
Nina Paley plans to make money through voluntary payments, ancillary products, sponsorships, voluntary payments from public screenings, the aforementioned limited DVD sales, and possibly other methods.[1]
A cornerstone of the distribution model is the "creator-endorsed" logo, developed by Nina Paley in cooperation with Although anyone is free to distribute the film, distributors who do so while giving a part of the profits to the artist can get the artist's endorsement and use the "creator-endorsed" logo on their promotional materials.[15][16]

so you can download the film, watch it on YouTube
Not much labor for Labor Day. We are wrapping up the perishable foods and getting the wheels in motion for school. Rob is off to France, Amsterdam and Germany (a ten day trip) starting Wednesday. Alex is having a birthday "Sausage Fest" complete with tee shirts and games next Saturday. So, things are likely to be a bit more Tburg centric until R. comes back.