Dear Diary

Sunflowers In Winter
Sunflowers in Winter

On the front page of our local paper yesterday there was a story about some remarks that either Hillary or Obama made about race. We couldn’t tell from the article who said what or why it was controversial. But the headline made it sound as if it was newsworthy. The article came from the Associated Press and it was probably so heavily edited by one of the few full time Gannett staffers that it came out incoherent.

Which brings me to the comment that Steve Hoy made on the “Send Us Your Problems” entry. Steve bailed me out when I was a freshman and we were roommates. I had a paper due the next morning and I was grumbling about it and Steve said, “Let me write it”. He banged it off and called it “Time, The Fourth Dimension”. I had my doubts but turned it in anyway and got an “A” along with a comment addressed to “Mr. Dodd” with an explanation point after it. And I work for a small company named 4D.

My nephew who is a senior in high school and one year younger than I was when Steve wrote that paper for me is in San Francisco for MacWorld. I’ve been following their adventures on his blog, The iLife. He and his friend got in line yesterday for today’s keynote address by Steve Jobs. They were first in line and were interviewed by Justine from iJustine.tv. I love the “MacWorld Overnight” video she just posted.

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Stumble On

I have noticed that the sloppier I get while painting, the better my painting looks. I don’t mean that the painting looks sloppy, it’s the floor around the easel. And I’m not aware that I am being sloppy until I look down. I drop paint and then step in it and walk around in it. I get paint on the handles of the brushes and then on my hands and my clothes. I wouldn’t think this is anything to aspire to. It is probably some sort of phase that I am going though. And speaking of phases, I feel as though I am stumbling along and proceeding as if that is a method. I don’t know exactly what to do next so I paint something, react to it, correct it by scraping it off or wiping it with a paper towel and then move on. My paintings look better to me and that is all that really counts.

Our friends and neighbors, Rick and Monica, invited us over for dinner last night. Monica made what she calls “comfort food”. The dish had biscuits and chicken and peas in a milky broth and it was delicious. I felt like we were back in Bloomington, Indiana having dinner at the Workingmans’ Cafe. After dinner we watched “Yo Soy Cuba”, a wild 1964 Russian made film about the Cuban Revolution. It reminded us of Sun Ra’s “Space Is The Place” with its unreal setting, exotic characters and otherworldly soundtrack.

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Not Easily Impressed

Peggi’s mom’s church had their monthly Jazz Worship this morning. Two of the band members are former students of Peggi’s and so Peggi joined her mom out there for the service. I stayed home and painted crime faces in the basement. I went to the church of Ornette Coleman. I kept running upstairs to tend the fire in our new insert. I stoked that thing and got the temperature up to 82 in the kitchen. It was probably near 90 in the living room. Peggi’s mom is always cold in our house and I wanted to knock her out with the heat. When Peggi walked in with her I asked if she was warm enough and she said, “Yes”. My mother-in-law is not easily impressed.

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Rat Race

Peggi dismantled the xmas tree while I read yesterday’s paper. I will take the tree out back and cut it up into little pieces to recycle it. I painted for about two hours and then headed out to rake leaves. Won’t have to do that again until next year. Wait a minute. It is next year.

We helped our neighbor split wood for about two hours and he let us borrow a Jean Renoir’s “Boudu, Saved From Drowning” to watch. It was remade as “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” with Nick Nolte and Bette Midler. He also invited us over to use their hot tub tonight while they are out. We will definitely take him up on that offer.

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Intellectual Property

Peggi is teleconferencing at a webinar meeting and we are planning on going out walking when she is done. We want to check out the damage in the woods from the seventy five mile an hour winds that we had the other day.

I’ve been Reading Rich Stim’s intellectual property blog and have become infected by the format. “Dear Rich, I have a question”, “I’m so glad you asked” followed by the concise answers. I want the whole world to work like this.

I would like to know why Google doesn’t follow links on photos. That is, the robots that Google sends out to catalog your web site have instructions to not index pages that are linked from a photo. In my case I have hundreds of pages with instructions to “click photo to advance”. The photos have the standard “a href=” link tags on them but Google blows them off. So if I have content on a page that you can get to only by clicking on a photo, then that content will never get indexed. I will redo those pages but I would like to know why it is that they don’t follow these links.

I wish Rich’s blog covered this territory.

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Low Expectations

After the Margaret Explosion gig last night, our bass player, Ken Frank, told me that he was going to bring his stand up bass again next week now that they have taken the holiday tree down. I guess there wasn’t enough room where we set up with the tree. I told him I never even noticed the tree. We still have ours up but I’ve stopped looking at it.

We got our fireplace insert installed today and I can’t stop looking at that. I thought my camera had gone haywire because when I took a photo and switched to review mode to check it out, it always showed the same photo from a few weeks ago. But I saved all my photos tonight and noticed that the number on the .jpg files had reached its limit of 9,999. It’s hard to believe I’ve taken that many photos. I certainly haven’t saved them all.

Bed & Breakfast near Ithaca

I just saved this one from the bed and breakfast we stayed at on New Years’s Eve. Taughannock Farms Inn is located just up the lake a bit from Ithaca. You can see the lake off to the right and the old yellow house with the widow’s walk is where they serve dinner. The state park and falls are next door with some beautiful hiking trails.

We have had a party on New Years for many years and we always waited to the last minute to invite people. If somebody had something better to do they would not be at our party. The key ingredient to a good party is low expectations.

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Thread in the Labyrinth

Holland Cotter reviewing a Stuart Davis drawing show in the New York Times says, “We are a linear-thinking, line-making people, a nation of surveyors, measurers, calculators, plotters, mappers, dividers. To our forebears the fearful wilderness was something to build a straight road through. The horizon wasn’t some romantic Beyond; it was a goal to be reached in x number of days, months, years. Drawing anchors us in space, gives us coordinates and direction. It is the thread in the labyrinth, guiding us through.”

That reminds me. I have to do a site map for the Refrigerator.

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No Heavy Machinery

Peggi driving leaf picker upper

Here is Peggi driving our neighbor’s leaf picker upper. She had to wake up at four this morning and drink the second half of her MoviPrep. The doctor’s office was cozy. I brought the paper and then moved on to some of the reading material that they had there like “Diseases of the Liver” and “W, The Biggest Issue Ever!”.

The routine procedure went well and her doctor told her that he would see her again in ten years. We drove directly to Golden Dynasty and had Chinese food. Peggi ordered General Tsang Soy but still under the influence of her narcotic, it came out “General Chang Choy”. Her fortune was, “There is beauty in simplicity”. It was about seventy degrees when we got home so we went out to rake leaves. Peggi had instructions not to drive or operate machinery and not to make any major decisions. She broke the first rule and the night is still young.

Let The Drummer Take A Ride

Stella and two small snowmen
Stella checks out small snowmen on a 60 degree January day.

Coltrane’s drummer, Elvin Jones, is quoted as saying, “Usually the material we played was new to us in the studio. We would only do second takes for technical reasons, not because of the musical content”. And the only time he was given charts was for the “Africa Brass” album that John and Eric Dolphy arranged and scored. So all this amazing music was a first take. And Miles is quoted as saying, “There are no mistakes”. Easy for him to say.

I’ve been listening to “Africa Brass, The Complete Sessions” as I paint and I am completely taken by the alternate take of “Africa”. There are three takes of this song in this package so there must have been some technical problems and I am thankful for that. The bass playing is so strong it comes off as a lead instrument. The horn arrangements are unlike anything in jazz. Of course, Coltrane is superb. And Elvin Jones takes his sweet time developing his solo section. His playing is beautiful. He never loses sight of Coltrane’s melody and only heightens the impact when it returns.

I’m thinking about this first take approach as I make mistake after mistake with my paintings. I have been trying to roll with my mistakes, correct them and use them to develop my painting. I’m seeing how valuable my mistakes are. I know that I have to paint the parts with the melody or theme in mind and not lose sight of it.

In the early eighties when drum solos were way uncool someone slipped a note to our band, Personal Effects, that read, “Let the drummer take a ride”. Even if I could talk a good game, the proof is in the pudding.

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It’s A Plus, Plus World

Before Christmas I stopped in this women’s clothing store near Starbucks called Avenue. I saw a brown hooded sweatshirt that I thought Peggi would like but they only had one size. It looked like it might fit so I bought it. When she tried it on at Christmas it was to big and we finally got around to returning it.

Peggi saw this sign on the way in that said “for women size 14 plus”. She asked a clerk if they had anything under size 14 and she said, “No”. A large women standing nearby said, “You’re just too teeny, tiny”. As we stood in line to get our money back it couldn’t have been more obvious that this was a plus sized store. We were marveling at the size of the clerks behind the counter and the other customers.

The sweatshirt was only $14 bucks. We walked over to another store called AJ Wright where everything they sell is marked down or discounted and Peggi found a sweater that she liked for $7. On the way home we went by the Dollar Store and Peggi told me she stopped in there before Christmas and someone had just puked so she left. It seems like the whole world is a flea market these days.

Peggi is preparing her insides for inspection. So it was no nuts or fruit with seeds today. We spent some time discussing whether or not that would include apples and pears and figured that they would be OK. She made lentil soup in the Crock Pot and we took that over to her mom’s apartment where we ate in front of 60 Minutes. Roger Clemens told Mike Wallace that he didn’t use steroids. Tomorrow it’s all liquids, the three tablets and the liter of MoviPrep.

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For A Few Dollars More

Our NetFlix cue has reached the Sergio Leone clump that we stacked up a few months ago. We watched “For A Few Dollars More” last night and I was struck by how intriguing each character looked before they even uttered a word. The director sought a strong visual impact with the introduction of each figure even going overboard with a hunchback on Klaus Kinsky.

Which brings me to selecting faces to paint. I should probably have a “duh” category over to the right because this is so obvious. The more intriguing the source, the more likely the work will be of interest. I have mostly been trying to draw, to capture the essence of a pose and some snapshot of a personality from the source, and in the process I bring my own experience with people, the way I feel their presence, to the characters that I’m trying to draw. Why not help myself by choosing more animated sources, accentuate or even exaggerate the features? Why not give the few people that look at my paintings a break? Why should they have to look at these mundane characters? I prepared myself to be more discriminating in selecting source material instead of just trying to paint every mugshot on the Crimestoppers page. But I’m looking at the most recent version from the Democrat & Chronicle and every one of these photos has potential. Duh.

Crimestoppers from local paper.

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No Vacation From Painting

If you are a painter there is no downtime. This is the way it is. My painting class is in recess for the holidays but we will soon be back in the basement of the Memorial Art Gallery on Tuesday nights. And in the meantime, we paint or think about painting. Thinking about it heightens the moment when you are are standing in front of a blank canvas. “This time it will be different”, for why would you want to repeat yourself? This isn’t rock and roll.

I just posted some photos of paintings by people in my painting class. Lorraine Bohonos and Alice de Mauriac are two of my favorite painters and it is a joy to watch them paint. I think you will like their paintings.

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Big City

Rochester’s Eastman Kodak Company announced that they were discontinuing the manufacture of infrared film on December 30th. So now only some digital cameras will be able to take infrared shots. Luckily Duane Sherwood’s camera is one of them. I just spent some quality time with his new show, “Big City“. The human eye cannot see infrared radiation, but the camera lens can and Duane’s photos of buildings in Manhattan bathed in infrared radiation are beautiful.

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33 Feet Taller Than Niagara Falls

We usually drive to Ithaca by going through Arthur Dove’s home town, Geneva, at the top of Seneca Lake and then cutting diagonally across to Rod Serling’s summer hometown at the bottom of Cayuga Lake. This time we drove down the east side of Cayuga for a change and stopped in Aurora to check in on the place after reading about it in the Times. Wells College just went coed and a 1962 graduate of that school, who made some money when she sold her American Girl doll and book company to Mattel, has been refurbishing the college and town. It is a pretty little town. We stopped at an art gallery but they were closed for New Year’s Eve.

Our first stop in Ithaca was the bookstore on the Commons. We have been here may times over the years but this will be our last visit. They are moving to NYC and they were having a 50% off sale on everything. I bought Marsden Hartley’s autobiography, a book of Rembrandt drawings, a 1931 book about Daumier (I was so taken by the drawings that I didn’t realize it was in German until I got it home) and a book called a “A Day With Picasso” with photographs by Jean Cocteau. All for about twenty bucks.

We walked around town and bought a few things at a natural foods store and then drove to a bed and breakfast near Taughannock Falls. We had a great meal in the Inn. I had portobello mushrooms and cheese infused pasta and Peggi had duck. We took a jacuzzi and slept in a king size bed. We turned the tv on around midnight and wished we hadn’t after seeing Dick Clark, Carrie Underwood and the Jonas Brothers. The show creeped us out before they dropped the eco-friendly ball.

White deer near the old Seneca Army Depot

We set the alarm to get up in time for a continental breakfast and we took a walk in the State Park next door. We hiked up the gorge to the falls which we read are 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls. We drove back through Middlesex (I love that name) and Lodi while skirting the Willard Facility for the Criminally Insane. We stopped by the side of the road to photograph some white deer on the former Seneca Army Depot grounds and talked about stopping for coffee as we drove though town after town with everything closed for the holiday. We finally found a suitable shop open and drank Ethiopian coffee by their fireplace.

When we got near Pittsford, we stopped to say hi to Peggi’s mom and she had the Buffalo Sabres outdoor hockey game on the Bills’ football field on so we watched a few periods of play. We left when it was tied but heard that Buffalo lost in overtime.

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Send Us Your Problems

Lake Ontario in Winter
Lake Ontario

We took a walk down to the lake or up to the lake. It’s downhill but it’s due north so I don’t know which is more correct. This same shot would look completely different everyday if I took it that often. The color of the sky, the water and the land are always changing.

My father hired a plumber a few weeks ago and he used a flashlight that he cranked to get going. It’s a wind up LED flashlight that doesn’t require batteries. My father was so impressed with it, he ordered one for each of the kids for Christmas. It will be perfect for taking walks after dark.

Our nephew, Matt, emailed that he had done a tutorial and screencast on his site (theilife.com) of one of the tasks that we gave him while he is staying here over Christmas. He says he is “having trouble finding Mac problems to solve and he would appreciate it if we could send him questions that we or our friends have in the future.” So send us Mac questions and we’ll pass them along to him.

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Pizza Without Cheese

It is possible to enjoy a perfectly good pizza pie without cheese being involved. Jeff Munson and Mary Kay proved this last night at their holiday party in Scottsville. He made at least fifteen pizzas. We sampled one with walnuts and spinach and went crazy for this one with arugula, figs and shrimp. Jeff suggests marinating the shrimp and figs for a couple of hours in olive oil, garlic and vinegar (Chinese Rice and Balsamic). My wife had a cholesterol problem but got it under control by staying away from butter and cheese. Her doctor doubted that it would be possible to bring her levels down with diet but she did. And her doctor was at the party last night.

Orchid in New York

We were talking to one of Jeff’s neighbors and he told us that he grew orchids in a climate controlled greenhouse next door. So we took a tour of his place and Bob Mahoney snapped this shot on his new cell phone.

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Betty Davis Eyes

Snowmen melting

I caught the snowmen before their heads fell off this morning. Five minutes after I took this shot the one on the right was headless. Actually they were already headless. These are their midsections looking like heads.

Our old neighbor, Sparky, played out at Peggi’s mom’s home last night. We were planning on stopping out there but didn’t make it. Jeanne was in town from Nashville and she hooked up with Patty and they both stopped by. Jeanne brought over a bottle of Korbel champagne that had been sitting on her father’s shelf for a few years. It was warm but we popped it open anyway. It was sort of dark and it tasted like vinegar so we didn’t drink it. We made a fire and sat around talking. We hooked our laptop up to the stereo and streamed music from the other room. “Betty Davis Eyes” sounded good. Patty’s family sold the LDR Char Pit when her father in law retired and she told us about her new job at the local guitar cord factory, Whirlwind.

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Ultra Thin, Ultra Cool

Kinda had to wait around the house today for UPS to drop off our new MacBook. Hope Apple doesn’t go and blow our Christmas by announcing some sort of ultra thin, ultra cool laptop at the MacWorld in SF. Bob Martin (Margaret Explosion’s guitar player and Mac guru) says it might be a Flash drive machine without a cd-dvd burner because people aren’t really burning stuff to disc anymore. I hadn’t noticed that but it’s certainly true in our case where we just buy more cheap drives for backup. UPS got here at 3:30 and just left it at our door so I guess we didn’t have to be here to sign after all. I’m going to wait for Peggi to get home before I open the box.

I might ride my bike up to Starbucks and pick up a New York Times. We tried not to work today and didn’t answer the work phone. I cleaned out the one gutter that we have on our house and raked a few wet leaves. I started going through the photos that have been piling up on my camera since Halloween. Here is one from a video installation at the Getty in LA. It was a white room with white chairs scattered about and monitors mounted to the ceiling with exotic interior shots on them. It didn’t look that exciting to me so I turned around and started to walk out and the guard said. “Sit down in one of the chairs”. I did and I looked up and there I was in this scene.

Nicole Cohen installation.

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Field Recordings Of The Future

Our snowmen’s heads have both fallen off in the rain but their sculpted bodies are looking good. We put our rain gear on to walk in the woods. When the temperature goes above freezing things can get ugly but down by the creek the woods were misty and beautiful. It was a good day to contemplate the lyrics to “The Willows” from Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel, ”Always Coming Home”.

Music and poetry of the Kesh

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