Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pixlr photos: the original and 6 variations on a theme by Prata

I love Pixlr, the free photo editing application available either online, on your phone, or to download. It's versatile.

Yesterday morning I was out and about on a fine, crisp dawn. The moon was bright in the sky against a vivid blue. I took a photo of it, naturally. Here it is:

I'm always looking for pictures that have a lot of blank space and sky photos are good for that, when you want to add a caption or an overlay.

I used Pixlr with several other overlays of this same photo, so you can see how different they can all come out.

Neat effects, eh?

Here is an original photo of a cemetery followed by a Pixlrize:

Here is a photo of Portland followed by a pixlrize

Fun, isn't it! And I'm not even that skilled. You should see the Pixlr Twitter stream of the photos they highlight. Very artistic.

Saturday, January 30, 2016


We received our Bountiful Basket today. I made granola/cereal, pineapple cake, roasted cauliflower, roasted peppers, baked a spaghetti squash, made pita crackers, and chopped three large mangoes (for smoothies). I also washed and prepared radishes, apples, oranges, orange peppers, and more. We had a good Bountiful Basket this time.

This week we received:

3 lb bag potatoes, Lg head cauliflower, Romaine lettuce, Broccoli, Asparagus, Bunch radishes, Orange peppers.

6 apples, 6 Roma tomatoes, 5 oranges, 4 lemons, A Pineapple.

The produce is fresh-looking and luscious. It not only tastes better, it looks better. So of course I took photos, lol. The colors, shapes, and design of these pieces of produce are exquisite.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tea time- Dobin style

I love tea. I always have. Even  in High School when the game would go to the creamery after the Big Game and get ice cream sundaes and Coke, I'd order an English muffin an tea. Yes. I was that person. Anyway! I love tea!

Look at what my wonderful friends have given me over time. I've received an annual subscription to Tea Time Magazine, a set of handmade coasters, tea galore, and a Dobin Japanese tea pot with four cups.

Just as with anything, there is a lot to learning the intricacies of tea. No, making a pot of tea isn't as simple as boiling water, splashing it over a run of the mill teabag and steeping. England, China, Japan, India, and other countries all have rituals, ceremonies, implements, and a history with tea.

The basic teacup is called a yunomi. They are usually of cylindrical shape, (tsutsugata), and small, as seen in my photo. Though for especially fine teas or for certain special occasions, there is a smaller version of the teacup, a doll-size, but it's used by people. Teapots are called dobin. They usually have a twisted vine handle, globular body and a disc-like, finial-topped lid, according to this website. The vine or bamboo handle doesn't become hot so it allows for pouring without a potholder.

A Dobin teapot contains a filter-basket either in the spout or hanging down into the belly of the pot. Ceramic is used frequently for the filter, but a fine mesh stainless steel is also used, which is what mine has. As the tea connoisseur grows in experience and knowledge, he or she often turns to loose tea which allows for a better opening of the leaves as the heat and water permeates them. Thus, a filter becomes necessary.

The Tea Time Magazine is charming. Its photographs of tea settings, tea cups filled with steaming, aromatic and colorful teas, and the pages of anecdotes regarding tea history are always interesting. So are the recipes for canapes and sandwiches! I look forward to its arrival in my mailbox each time. The first thing I do when I get home from school each day is put the kettle on and look forward to relaxing with a cup of tea.

My coasters were made by a dear reader and I love them. They are sooo cute! So now I have a tea pot and up set, a tea bar with various teas from which to choose, and coasters to set my cup and a magazine through which to browse. My morning coffee is necessary and utilitarian. My teas, those are for enjoyment, relaxation, and ritual.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bountiful Baskets in the dawn morning

This week the Bountiful Baskets resumed after a long break for the holiday. The Baskets for our area had stopped even prior to the holiday because the numbers for the state of Georgia had been consistently low, and they stopped delivering so as to re-asses whether or not to drop the whole state. We were all holding our breath after the holiday to see of Georgia would be on the list again. I don't know how long it will stay, but I'm grateful that it came back, even for one time. Look at all that we got!

We received tomatoes, avocado, onions, cauliflower, spaghetti squash, grapefruit, apples, poblano chili peppers, navel oranges, mango, kiwi, and cucumbers.

The cost is $15 for the basket which is equally divided with fruit and vegetables, and there is a $6.50 handling and truck fuel fee, but if you go in on one order with someone you can split that fee up to three ways. All this produce cost me $17.50 all-in.

I also bought a flat of Kent mangoes and will cube half of them and freeze them. I am down to my last half-ziploc of frozen mangoes since I bought the mango add-on last year. I like putting frozen, cubed mango chunks in yogurt and blending it in the blender. It makes a sort of mango gelato, cold and refreshing.

The chilis will be roasted on Monday, the oranges will be made into sugared slices with the rind on. The bag of apples will be given away, and the grapefruits, kiwis, and the loose apples will be eaten regular, as snacks or desserts for my lunch at school. The onions and cauliflower will be both roasted and go into a veggie soup on Monday.

Our time to pick up the Baskets is 7:30am, which is tough on a Saturday (tougher is the volunteer time to show up- 6:30) but the up side to that it forces me to get out of bed and dressed early. Another bonus is that I get to see the town in the dawn. Where I pick it up there are cows and farms and pastures, and the sun coming up is very pretty. The day today is warm to start, predicted to get warmer (into the 60s) so the warm ground produced a lot of ground fog and mist, too. That is always pretty with the rising sun's rays coming through the wet air. It turns it pink, did you ever notice? A soft, flower dew laced pink. But don't take my word for it. Here are shots out the window as I was driving.

I'm grateful for every Bountiful Basket I receive, and for friends who order it and who go pick it up in Athens. It is a terrific way to obtain quality, fresh produce at an extremely affordable price. If you haven't looked into it, I encourage you. The website is here. You can click on "Locations" to see if there is a BB delivery site near you, and if there is not, it is easy to start one. Really. Read this.

It's a long weekend so I hope everyone has an opportunity to rest and relax. If not, then thank you for your labors and I hope you get to relax sometime soon. Don't put off relaxing and having fun with the family/dog/cat/spouse/friend. Enjoy the day, because as as Augustine of Hippo said,
Procrastination: God has promised forgiveness to your repentance; but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

The Fickle Muse

I really am a terrible collage maker. This is because I have nothing to say on paper anymore.

I used to have a lot to say, Even though my collages were not great, I liked them because I know what they were saying. There was an underlying theme, concept, or idea that promoted the visual representation of it. Now I look helplessly at the blank paper and have nothing to say. But I add "stuff" to it anyway and that is why there is no soul to it. I am still going gangbusters with writing. Over the last 15 days I've written 32 essays for The End Time and 6 for The Quiet Life. I made 7 photo-verse artistic pictures ahead for my morning posting on The End Time Facebook page. I've gone gangbusters on personal photos as well. But visual art for art's sake...I'm drawing a blank.

These are some of my favorite past collages before the muse had left me:


Revelation 20:2-3 sealing satan in the pit

"Navigating Spiritual Waters"

Bad Moon Rising

And some paintings:

Van Gogh Meets Marsden Hartley




As art brut as my visual creative work is I believe one can see a theme to them, a unity, if not expert execution. But for some reason even that speck of a vestige of a crumb is gone. This is the kind of stuff I do now:

This one below was a workbook practice lesson, to collage quickly using only white. The quick part is to deny the analytical side of our brain, or the no-confidence, editing side of the heart, no room, and just see what moving hands can come up with. I could not resist using some black, not just some hues of white because I liked the gritty quality of the 70's photo book I ripped the boy from. Normally I like monochromatic, so looking for pieces that were only shades of white didn't bother me, but I just didn't have a lot of white on hand. Maybe I'll try with a different color tomorrow.

My paintings just aren't good. I'd titled the top one "Bird of Prey" but it just looks more like a chicken. The bottom one are Four Puppies Watching the Sunset (Ode to Poky Little Puppies) but there is just no color depth to the thing as at least with the index cards above I had that going for me.

I decided to go back to functional art: making books and journals, and bookmarks and tracts. Maybe that will release me for a while. It's what I know.

"The loveliest Muse in the world does not feed her owner; these girls make fine mistresses but terrible wives" ― Alfred de Vigny, Stello

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Living simply. And tiny.

It is still vacation and it is still raining. I don't believe those two are linked together, but when we return to school Monday if the sun comes out I'll be less sure of that.

A LOT of rain has pushed through today. Temps were warm though, upper 60s
The rain has been wreaking some havoc. We are under a flash flood watch and indeed, the river down at the State Park at Comer has overflowed its banks and inundated the parking lot. Friends who ventured out tell me that Ingles and Kroger parking lots and the road approaching the two grocery stores were flooded with lots of water. I scheduled a trip to the stores on Friday then I remembered Friday is New Year's Day, and the day before that is New Year's Eve. I wouldn't make it till Sat or Sun, I was nearly out of litter as it was.

Ugh, I had to reschedule my weekly airing out and that meant going out today. But the thunder was booming and the rain was pouring so I decided to just go the one mile into Comer to the Dollar Store, and grab a few fresh things at the tiny grocery store next door. (A store I never go into). I'm glad I didn't make the trek even the 8 miles up the the slightly less tiny grocery store I usually shop at because of all the water on the roads. I got soaked just bringing the cart out to the car and walking it back. I always walk it back. I feel guilty leaving an unattended cart in the middle of the parking lot.

I am still having a quiet week. I love it. Right now I've got the Jimmy Buffet station on Pandora and listening to tunes from Buffet, Creedence, Paul Simon, James Taylor, etc.

I have watched a lot of tube. Well I don't own a TV but I watch on the internet on my laptop. I fell in love with The Detectorists, a British slow moving, quiet show about a small group of friends in County Essex who use metal detectors as a hobby to find Saxon gold, or more usually, pop tops and coins. I had mourned the loss of the 2-season BBC show called The Cafe, and The Detectorists is very much like The Cafe. Witty, understated, character driven, quiet, but sentimental and tender. British shows only have a 6 episode season so bingeing through 2 seasons is still only half as long as one American season of a show. I finished The Detectorists a few hours ago and I hope there will be a third season someday, but no one is sure if it is coming back.

I also watched a Doris Day film called That Touch of Mink, which was just OK as far as plot goes and visually stunning but had Audrey Meadows which was the best thing about it. Also the back and forth between Gig Young and Cary Grant was great.

A sweet little movie called Foster AKA Angel in the House was also a pleasant find. Interstellar was OK, I fast forwarded it and read the recap after a while just to get it overwith. Good Ol' Freda the story of the Beatles' secretary was a delight from start to finish. The HGTV show Fixer Upper was a delight too, I watched the entire season over the last ten days. Ingrid Bergman in The Inn of Sixth Happiness (story of missionary Gladys Aylward) got me to order her autobiography, which came today. Maid in Manhattan was terrible but I watched anyway, and Little Boy was terrible too.

And sermons, sermons, sermons. I love the internet.

I played with photos and banked some for my morning posts on Facebook.

This is the time of year a lot of people make resolutions, and one of those sometimes is to simplify lives. I learned a lot about living simply throughout the 1990s when I experimented with it. I had to shed the American materialism instilled in me that more is better, bigger is better, and I downsized my house, my car, my possessions. Here is a link that makes sense on how to start simplifying, if that is something you want to do.

101 Physical Things that Can Be Reduced in Your Home

I agree with these in the article. Especially glassware. I have three kitchen cabinets in my small apartment and two are devoted to food and half the other is devoted to Tupperware and casserole dishes. That leaves one shelf for dishes, glasses, bowls and mugs. It's plenty, believe me. I've possessed and given away more furniture than anyone I know. I have a hard time with not collecting too many books but when I buy one it's with giving it away in mind. If I end up with too many that means I'm not giving away enough. The only ones I'll hang onto are the JMac Commentaries and other commentaries. The Tiny House movement is making headway as is the Tiny Apartment movement too, sometimes called micro-housing. The second link mentions aPodments, which are storage containers made into apartments and when you want to move you load the whole container onto the truck and move to a different city (as long as the receiving aPodment has a vacancy). Live small, you won't hoard or possess. Live big, and you'll feel compelled to fill up all that space.

I'm on the downward slope for back to school. Once January 4 hits, there will be a long haul until the next break. We are technically half way through the year. Wow, hard to believe I've been working as a para-professional for 6 years and working for the Madison County Schools for 8. I'm proud of that. Madison County schools are spectacular and the Board, Superintendent and principals are tremendous.

Oh well no point in thinking about work when I still have 4 more wonderful vacation days to cling to! Happy new Year early everyone.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jon Naar: The Birth of Graffiti

This week I wrote about having to go out and do errands. I hate errands. But I also decided to do a little shopping in town, so as to lengthen my 'airing out' as I like to call my reluctant emergence from the apartment, and to support local merchants. I'd found some fabulous finds at a second hand store, one of them being a Swedish classic book printed in the late 1800s with pretty endpapers and a marbled cover. I also mentioned I'd found some other books, two art how-to books and a graffiti coffee table book by John Naar.

I'm not a huge fan of graffiti. Certainly it distresses me when I see it on trains or buildings. It seems to me to be only artistic litter. And yet, there is also something compelling about it. Maybe it's that the voice of the voiceless is crying out from rain darkened streets from the depths of poverty and oppression, the medium being the message, as Marshall McLuhan would say. If we were to put words to the pain of graffiti in poetry it'd be Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl's opening lines:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
I noticed at Thanksgiving when I was re-organizing my photos into folders, that I have apparently taken a lot of graffiti photos over the years. Huh.

In the store when I leafed through Naar's book, I saw that the photos themselves were stupendous. Eyes and faces and fists and art and life and streets and subway tunnels, not howling naked but vibrant and saying something. This guy can take a picture. I bought the book. After all, I could not go wrong for $1.

When I researched Naar I discovered that the man is a renowned photojournalist. I learned that his book The Birth of Graffiti was a follow-up to his (and Normal Mailer's) seminal and culturally ground-breaking book The Faith of Graffiti. I definitely had a find on my hands.

Naar's Wikipedia entry states-
Jon Naar is a British-American author and photographer celebrated for his pioneering images of New York City graffiti in the 1970s. Still active in his nineties, Naar has had a multifaceted career as an intelligence officer in World War II; a globe-trotting executive during the postwar years; and an environmentalist, with nine published books to date.
It seems now with this new information that his book selling for only a dollar is a crime. Some of his work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for heaven's sake!

Of his book The Birth of Graffiti, Wikipedia says-
By the 1970s, Naar's reputation was well established and he was redirecting his energies toward on-location corporate work for a diverse range of clients. Then in 1972, a commission for the London-based design firm Pentagram morphed into a full-length book project, with the 1974 release of The Faith of Graffiti (UK title Watching My Name Go By)—the first book-length examination of New York City graffiti art. Featuring an introduction by novelist Norman Mailer, the controversial collection would become "like a bible to later graffiti artists," in the words of Brian Wallis, chief curator at New York's International Center of Photography. Naar "legitimized" graffiti "a decade earlier than anyone else, and he came at it with a graphic design sensibility—he understood color and composition and bold design." It is for this groundbreaking series that Naar himself remains in demand, with numerous recent retrospectives and a 2007 collection, The Birth of Graffiti, which includes 130 previously unpublished photographs from the original assignment.
Oh my. I definitely, definitely had a find on my hands. There is minimal text in Naar's book, just an introduction, and then the photos speak for themselves. And they do speak. His work is colorful, artistic, voicing the minds and hearts of a generation of graffiti artists/vandals now grown and gone. Graffiti wasn't born in NYC in the late 1960s-early 1970s, that happened in Philly in the late 50s-early 60s. But graffiti came to popular culture in NYC during the cultural revolution and in effect that is where it was really born or at least came to consciousness to the eyes and horror of America. And NYC Mayor John Lindsey who went to war on graffiti, a howling suit shaking fists at empty spray cans and running feet...

Here are a few of my own graffiti shots.

The moral of the story is, when you shop at an eclectic second hand store, keep your eyes open, peer into the untraveled corners, and take your time!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas movie watching: Good Ol' Freda

Merry Christmas! I hope your morning has been relaxing. Or at least joyful over squeals and ripping wrapping paper.

My cat woke me up at 6:00. He likes to shoot a glass coaster off the coffee table. I put it under three heavy coffee table books last night to prevent his unique breakfast call, but he still managed to unearth it and shoot it off the table anyway. Good ol' Murray.

Speaking of good ol', I watched a great documentary last night. It's called Good Ol' Freda. For fifty years, the untold story of Freda Kelly remained untold, until Freda herself decided to speak. Freda was the Beatles' trusted secretary since before their rise to fame until their breakup, 11 years overall, and their friend throughout their rise to fame. Yet never then or now did she capitalize on her insider status to grab fame or money for herself. Her integrity is noted throughout the film. The movie synopsis says,
"Freda Kelly, a shy Liverpudlian teen, works for a new local band -- the Beatles -- hoping to make it big. As the band's fame multiplies, Freda bears witness to music and cultural history but never exploits her insider access."

Here is a Guardian story about the premiere, Good Ol' Freda: The Beatles' secretary tells her story.

And here is a review:
Freda Kelly was the the secretary to Brian Epstein and The Beatles and the president of the official fan club all throughout the history of the band, and started with them when she was 17 years old. She was there from the earliest club performances in the Liverpool underground – literally in the case of The Cavern – through and even beyond the breakup. Aside from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr themselves, there’s probably no one living who has more insider info and stories about those heady days than Kelly. And she’s never cashed in on that trusted relationship, nor broken confidences in 50 years. It’s that kind of integrity and trustworthiness, along with hundreds of rare Beatles photos and a soundtrack that features several Fab Four tunes that buoys Good Ol’ Freda from the opening frame.
There are hundreds of candid photos, some archival footage, and the testimony of Freda herself. A documentary that rests as much on one person as this one does needs to ensure the personality is sincere and engaging, and Freda sure is. She's humble and sincere, witty and with a twinkle in her eye, tells the story plainly, but never turning it sordid or gossipy. That's a rare thing for any documentary, but especially one involving the music business. Coming in at an hour and a half, the length is just right. And surprisingly, they managed to obtain permission for four original Beatles songs to be used in the film, along with other great music of the era. All in all, it was a pleasant surprise to discover and well worth watching. On Netflix.

Have a pleasant day with family or whatever you're doing. May it bring you peace, though the best peace of all rests in knowing the reason for the day's celebration, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

This is why I love second hand stores

I mentioned earlier today that I'd planned to go out. I needed to do some errands and then I wanted to check out the new stores in town. After I did my mundane things, I went to the new produce shop, then around the corner to the not so new antique shop. It's been there a while but I've never gone in, and they recently expanded, too.

The ladies had a wonderful inventory at present. I fell in love with a mid-century modern chair and a lamp, and enjoyed looking not only at the hung art, but the frames. Gorgeous.

Then I headed to the more my speed price-wise second-hand store. It is an auction house that buys lots when things get damaged or been in a crash or just is used You never know what you'll find, and inventory changes often.

Since I'm frugal, I didn't really have any particular item in mind to buy, except a kitchen cooling/drying rack. When I make candied citrus or bake something I'd like to have a rack to dry or cool the items. But it isn't a big deal as I can make do with what I have. I'm on vacation and I wasn't in a hurry. I was mostly just taking the car for a ride since it doesn't like to sit for long periods, or else it hesitates and tends to want to stall if I let it sit.

I didn't see a drying rack nor did I see anything else to buy or even anything I was especially interested in anything I saw...until...I saw a marbled book lying as a non sequitur amongst some clocks and sheets.

Picking it up, I saw that the marbling was genuine and the leather binding was too. Knowing something about bookbinding, the cover style meant it was probably published in the 1800s. The title page held no publishing information, but the language was foreign. I surmised it was Swedish.

Pretty end papers

Title page, Svenska is the word Sweden in Swedish, so...
It was selling for $2 so I put it in my basket with little hesitation. Now the problem was to find enough other things to raise my minimum limit to $5, the lowest amount they will let you use a credit or debit card. I had no cash on me.

I poked around some more and went to my trusty section where I know I'll find functional things- I usually need a fridge magnet-pad, where I write my grocery list. I also used up my little post it tags to mark pages or verses in my bible when I'm reading. I don't write in my bible or underline, so the sticky tags are my go-to item for marking stuff I want to remember. Hmmm, still not up to $5.

I wandered toward the back of the store. It's in an old gym without large windows, so the place tends to be dark. They have lights stationed around, but it's still a dark place and the back is really dark. I peered around and spotted a bookcase with some books in it. Hmmm, anything good? Yes! I should say so! I found a hardcover John Grisham I never knew existed! "The Innocent Man". I thought I'd read all his books! It had no dust jacket on it but in scanning the first few pages, it looks like one of his non-fiction tomes. It was selling for $1. Score!

Then I found this! I was excited because artist instructional books like the Mixed Media one and the Collage one pictured below usually run around $20-30, and these were all $1. Although I'm not a huge fan of graffiti, I saw when I reorganized my photos on the laptop that I have taken lots of pictures of it. I recently made a folder containing all my graffiti pics. When I saw the book chronicling the rise of graffiti in NYC for $1 I thought it'd be an interesting read.

So definitely the haul was a good one. I came home and looked up August Strindberg, author of the Swedish book. It turns out he was a prolific and famous novelist, playwright and poet in Sweden at the turn of the last century. His book Swedish Destinies and Adventures, the translated title of the one I bought, was published in 1883. Here is a link to his amazing life, career, and hobbies (he was an excellent painter and photographer too).

August Strindberg
A hundred years after his death, August Strindberg (1849-1912) continues to fascinate. He was a trailblazer and innovator in his time and still manages to provoke audiences in theaters around the world.
LOL so I go out the get gas and check for eggplants at the produce store and return home with an antique book by a famous and controversial Swedish playwright and novelist. You never know...that is why I love second hand stores.