Saturday, August 29, 2015

Art Deco, steampunk, Metropolis, Tesla and Sherlock: what do they all have in common?

I like the early Art Deco movement's style.
Art Deco is an influential visual arts design style that first appeared in France after World War I and began flourishing internationally in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s before its popularity waned after World War II. Deco emerged from the interwar period when rapid industrialisation was transforming culture. One of its major attributes is an embrace of technology. This distinguishes Deco from the organic motifs favoured by its predecessor Art Nouveau. ~Wikipedia
Art Deco's strong lines, streamlined aspects, and heavily graphic qualities are intriguing to me. I like them. Examples of the style range from the Chrysler Building

To the Chrysler Airflow

You might recognize Art Deco from the frequent use of strong sunbursts, like this Parker Duofold Desk Set

I became interested in this form of art after watching the incredible silent film Metropolis.
The appearance of the city in Metropolis is strongly informed by the Art Deco movement; however it also incorporates elements from other traditions. Ingeborg Hoesterey described the architecture featured in Metropolis as eclectic, writing how its locales represent both “functionalist modernism [and] art deco” whilst also featuring “the scientist’s archaic little house with its high-powered laboratory, the catacombs [and] the Gothic cathedral”. The film’s use of art deco architecture was highly influential, and has been reported to have contributed to the style’s subsequent popularity in Europe and America.
Here is the movie poster for Metropolis

The movie's premise was that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, the movie was about machines and man, man and machines, and what we lose due to the nature of 'progress.' It really is an incredible movie, especially since the message resonates more even now than it did nearly 100 years ago upon its original release.
Roger Ebert noted that "Metropolis is one of the great achievements of the silent era, a work so audacious in its vision and so angry in its message that it is, if anything, more powerful today than when it was made." The film also has a 99% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 116 reviews. The film was ranked No. 12 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010, and it was ranked number 2 in a list of the 100 greatest films of the Silent Era. ~Wikipedia
But it wasn't only the message that caught me, it was the look. The film is visually stunning, a blend of machine and art, humanity and technology.

The architecture in the film was its own character.

This is the iconic picture from the film most people remember:
Pic of Freder arduously working a ten-hour shift on the clock machine

I love clocks, watches, the concept of time, and clock design. Clocks and time figure prominently in Metropolis:

Interpretation of time: One great example of German Expressionist mise-en-scene is in the scene showing the two clocks. Much is encapsulated in the spatial, semiotic and geometric relations of these clocks. The two social classes exist in different zones. The bottom clock counts off the time in ten hour increments for the workers. Implying that its readers have only basic numeracy skills. They are also systematically denied the rhythms of daylight and night. The upper clock uses a 24-hour system. This is intended for use by the managers, engineers and administrators; it relies on a more sophisticated mathematical concept. the numbers are literally higher as well, and the clock is placed higher in a position of privilege. 
Finally the relative dimensions are significant. the lower clock has a greater mass. This depicts the social crisis of capitalism graphically. In order for the 'haves',( the Club Sons) to have noticeably more than the ''have nots', they must be out of balance. The placement of these two clocks symbolizes the inner workings of metropolis in miniature: a utopia for the few on top and a dystopia for the many on the bottom. It is interesting to study the complex meanings of just one frame of Metropolis and to realize the depth of meaning that was expressed in this remarkable film.
And this gives rise to steampunk. They call Metropolis "A Steampunk Opera".
Steampunk refers to a subgenre of science fiction and sometimes fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. It may, therefore, be described as neo-Victorian. Steampunk perhaps most recognisably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.~Wikipedia
If Firefly had lasted longer, it'd have gone steampunk, I guarantee it. See? Almost there...


Steampunk has a fascination with watches and clocks because they exemplify the overall durability, design, and functionality of intricate machinery and mechanisms (mainly powered by steam, of course). So the Laughing Squid's promotion of a Steampunk Tesla watch caught my eye:

Tesla Watch, An Elegant Steampunk-Styled Analog Watch That Features Two Light-Up Vacuum Tubes on Top
The Tesla Watch is an elegant steampunk-styled analog watch from ThinkGeek that features a “weathered-brass look on metal findings, a leather strap, and two light-up vacuum tube LEDs on top”. The Nikola Tesla-themed watch is available to purchase online. ... The Tesla Watch goes with your steampunk aesthetic. With a weathered-brass look on all the metal parts, this analog watch features a leather strap. The highlights of this design, however, are the two faux vacuum tubes with red LEDs inside that you can turn on and off with the flick of a switch. Everybody will want to ask you what time it is so they can see your watch. Just remember to follow the answer with, “… 1875.”
LOL, I'm not SO into steampunk that I'd go this far, but I understand the fascination. In my tiny apartment I have one nod to steampunk, a glancing reference to intricate but highly functional metal mechanisms...the clasp to my prayer journal

It's interesting that art and design can incorporate futuristic elements of Art Deco and still give rise to the retro/futuristic look of neo-Victorian Steampunk. Cool.

So that was all probably way more than you ever wanted to know about art deco, Metropolis and steampunk. Unless it's these two PS's:
Nikola Tesla is the quintessential 'mad scientist', (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system...(Wikipedia).
Futurists like Nikola Tesla and Jules Verne are well known to Steampunk/neo-Victorian enthusiasts. If you want to know more about the crazy scientist Tesla, Netflix has a bio-pic on him.

Speaking of neo-Victorian enthusiasts, fans of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch know that the art design and costuming for that British series treads a remarkable line of keeping the Victorian roots of the inimitable detective intact by nodding to but not indulging in blatant Victorian pieces. Until this Christmas, when Sherlock and his trusty sidekick Doctor travel back in time to the original Sherlock's time of 1887!

ha ha ha Sherlock is wearing the hat. ;)

All I can say is AWESOMESAUCE! (hey, that's a word now)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mona Lisa's changing smile, and other art thoughts

A flurry of news articles related to the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting "Mona Lisa" have come across my twitter stream. Here's one.

Mystery of the Mona Lisa’s smile solved: Second painting shows how da Vinci created an optical illusion to trick viewers
The Mona Lisa's mysterious expression may have captivated the world, but hers isn't the only enigmatic smile Leonardo da Vinci created. Researchers examining an earlier painting by the Renaissance master claim to have unravelled the painter's secret to creating an 'uncatchable smile'. The study reveals how La Bella Principessa, painted by da Vinci before he completed the Mona Lisa in the late 15th Century, uses a clever trick to lure in the viewer. Researchers found that by expertly blending colours to exploit our peripheral vision, the shape of the subject's mouth appears to change according to the angle it is viewed from. When viewed directly, the slant of the mouth is distinctly downwards, according to the research by scientists at Sheffield Hallam University and Sunderland University. As the viewer's eye wanders elsewhere to examine other features, however, the mouth appears to take an upward turn, creating a smile that can only be seen indirectly, much like the Mona Lisa's.
The Mona Lisa is an interesting painting. First, it is SMALL. With the centuries of hubbub and attention one would think it was as big as Picasso's 25 foot wide Guernica. Mona Lisa by comparison is just 30 in × 21 in.

It is also encased behind bullet proof glass, thick glass. And roped off. You cannot get close to examine the brush strokes or colors, since it has been the target of vandalism.

But is still an extremely compelling painting, as evidenced by the story above. How did Leonardo do it? Who is the woman? Why is she smiling secretly?

When my husband and I traveled to Italy and Rome I kept a travel journal. Here it is,

Here are the two pages logging my trip to the Louvre in Paris, where Mona Lisa is on display.

I'd written, "I won't even try to describe the Louvre. It is huge, wide, filled and absolutely tear-jerkingly beautiful."

So much art, so beautiful. I'd been moved by the power of the art of the Raft of the Medusa. The desperation the fear, the sweat, the piercing pain of sharks, sting of salt water, all palpable.

...intrigued by Cimabue's Maesta. Cimabue was the bridge between the Byzantine era and the Renaissance, when perspective and shadow began to be used.

...kind of disappointed by the Venus de Milo. I just don't get that one. but then again I've never been able to understand statues that well (except for Michaelangelo's David).

and fell in LOVE with the Renaissance ceramiche
Source: Louvre
It's been a long time since I gazed at beautiful art, except for the art in my home. Art is moving. Art is thought provoking. Art chronicles history. Art is necessary. Encourage your kids to experiment with clay, paints, pencil. Have fun one Saturday making papier-mâché. Indulge the crayons. I still remember the glory of coloring with sharp crayons, and when Crayola expanded the colors and included gold and silver. It was thrilling. It turned out I cannot make art all that well, but I enjoy looking at it and thinking about it, and being moved by it.

My aunt gave me this Childe Hassam "Boston Common at Twilight" twenty, thirty years ago...and I look at it all the time. It calms me. It's a charming and wonderful painting. I always discover something new to admire in it.

What are some of your favorite pieces of art? How do they make you feel, what do they make you think about?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pixlr collages

Here are a few Pixlr collages I created for this week's Pixlr challenge. I am really no good at collage. If you want to see some good ones, and by good I mean witty, thought provoking or just plain pretty, go here or here or here or here

I can't wait for Monday and a new challenge. I feel I have hit the wall with artistic photo collage.

Friday: from sunrise to closing song, it was a good day

My favorite parts of the week are Friday nights and early Saturday mornings. There's a sweet relief of having made it through the week and then being able to come home and just exhale.

Saturday mornings before dawn are pregnant with weekend possibilities. What shall I do with this time I'm afforded? Craft? Cook? Read? Nap? Anything is possible with the dawn's early rays still below the horizon and all is quiet.

Yesterday was a great day. On the way to work there is this one spot junction that always has beautiful sunrises,

and some days they are just spectacular,

There is a 4-way stop with an old timey (closed) General Store on one corner

A convenience store on the other, and the industrial park on the third. The Middle School is located here, some chicken houses, an engineering/electrical company, and fields. Even the industrial park is picturesque.

But on the fourth corner, ahhh, this is the one everyone loves. It is a canola field and when canola blooms it is gorgeous.

The field is atop a long, slow rise on all sides, so you get these dramatic cloud formations, with the "Christina's World" aspect of the old store and run-down house next to it.

You can see the local fascination with the location on this Flickr page. Many other photographers have stomped these fields to get just the right vantage point for the house, store, fields, and dramatic sky with clouds. An independent movie company recently filmed some sequences here. It's funny to see on Internet Movie Database "Filming locations, Comer Georgia". LOL.

Anyway, my day began with a dramatically painted sunrise over the field, gorgeous colors and silence except for dawn light breeze.

It was a good day, and finished sweetly at the end with songs.

I was on duty in a classroom, watching some kids who were going to line up for car riders. Their teacher had brought the bus riders to the bus line. During the five minute interim or so, we have some down time. On a Friday afternoon with five or 7 extra minutes to kill, until they left for home, it could get wild unless I engaged the kids in something. There were about twenty. As they sat on the rug, all packed up with their little bookbags on, these little first graders looked so cute. I said, "hey, boys and girls is there a song someone wants to sing?"

Some hands shot up, and I picked a boy I knew liked to sing and I knew he would remember the words. He stood and sang a song about Jesus.

A second girl wanted to sing and I let her because she is usually shy. She also sang a song about Jesus. All the kids looked at the singers and listened patiently and clapped approvingly when he and she were done. Then a third girl stood up and she sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It wasn't more than a few notes when one or two others began to sing, then a few more, and by the last line, all twenty children were warbling it out in their best little voices. It was as if I could see the notes in the air ascending to heaven with Jesus looking down and loving His children so much. Even the kids felt it too, their union of hearts and voices through song and a small sweet moment to end the week.

So my day began with a sunrise and ended with children singing, and all is well.

This weekend I plan to cook cream of carrot soup; roast cauliflower, potatoes and Hatch chili peppers; and make oatmeal/banana cookie bars. I also plan to nap. Of course, all those plans could be interrupted if the Lord returns. And that is more than all right by me.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Fig extravaganza

A friend at work gave me a gallon of figs. I LOVE figs! But they start to go over in two days. I had a lot of cooking to do! First, I ate about ten right away. Yum.

I made fig muffins for the first time and that was a success. I doubled the recipe and brought a bunch to school and gave away to friends.

Today I made fig preserves. All that means is you chop figs, put in pan with sugar and other spices you want (I added cinnamon and salt and lemon juice) and simmer it down until it's thick to your preference. I halved the figs because I like chunky preserves.

I chose not to sterilize the jars and preserve them on the shelf for long term because I understand it is not good to re-use the lids. You have to make sure to get a good seal and re-using them will not ensure that. (I'm not speaking of the rings, they can be reused). I made enough preserves to fill three little jars and gave one away to a friend. I do enjoy a fig preserve and cream cheese sandwich now and then. Mental note: put cream cheese on the grocery list.

This morning's breakfast was scrambled eggs and figs, another good dish I enjoy cooking and eating.You would not think to put figs in an egg dish or use them for breakfast but there ya go. Figs are versatile. I didn't have the heart to use the rest of the figs in the preserve because I like fresh figs so much. I kept back about 20 more figs, but I'm on day two and there isn't much more time to eat the rest. Get ready for some fiber, stomach, it is coming your way.

Today's Bountiful Basket was super. Watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, raspberries, papaya, apples, carrots, onions, red potatoes, peppers, French eggplant. I haven't had eggplant in a while because the local store doesn't sell it. I'm excited about the two I received in the basket, and I also have on hand some garden tomatoes. I see something Italian in the future.

It's a hot day but thankfully the humidity is down, and the overnight temps have cooled off to the mid 60s, which makes for a very pleasant morning. I listened to Gospel quartets all morning and wrote and relaxed. Very nice start to the weekend! I hope you all have a wonderful day as well.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Chia seeds, PB2, and Sunday organizing for the week

During the Summer I had forgotten how busy Sundays have to be to get ready for the week. If I put off doing the cleaning and laundry on Saturday, which I usually do, then it HAS to get done on Sunday. After church I eat and then take my Sunday nap. The rest of the evening is filled with chores that have to get done if I am to have a smooth week.

Important to the frugal life is cooking ahead. Not just money, but TIME. Time IS money, and time is time , precious little enough of it to go around. So I usually make a dish like casserole or soup as the main meal, and salads, chop fruit and veggies for snacks, and oatmeal cookies, granola and stuff like that for extras. This week I made

--burnt corn/black bean/mango salad;
--fried some tofu;
--put together two jars of refrigerator oatmeal.
--boiled 5 eggs to have as a shot of protein during each weekday.
--tuna salad for sandwiches
--chopped mango for snacks
--chopped some tofu that I didn't fry to toss into the black bean salad.

The oatmeal is supposed to soak/cook in the milk or yogurt overnight and be soft in the morning. I'll see if I like this method of breakfast-on-the-go Monday and Tuesday and adjust from there. Additions to the oatmeal were raisins and mango.

I was going to make soup but it's so blessed hot! My lunch time got moved to 12:50-1:20 which will be 1:00 by the time I get to eat. I usually have breakfast at 6:00 so that would be 7 hours between meals. The 5 eggs are for one a day to get a shot of protein and keep my energy up. I'll bring a piece of fruit too, and I can eat them while I'm on standing at lunch duty with the kids in the cafeteria. So that is lunches, breakfasts, and snacks ready to go.

Always on the lookout for a low-fat protein that is easy to cook or prepare and is affordable, I found two kinds that I am trying this week. My go-to proteins are quinoa and eggs. Also peanut butter but there is a lot of fat in PB so I ration that one out.

Chia seeds.

Here is an excerpt from Authority Nutrition about chia seeds.
Chia seeds are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They are loaded with nutrients that can have important benefits for your body and brain. Here are 11 health benefits of chia seeds that are supported by human studies. Fiber: 11 grams.
Protein: 4 grams.
Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.
Like quinoa, which is used by the indigenous folk of the Andes, (I learned about quinoa while I was in Ecuador in the late 1990s, but it wasn't till the later 2010s when it was imported and available), chia also is from South America. Chia seeds have been a staple in Mayan and Aztec diets for centuries. Here is more dietary info:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds' lipid profile is composed of 60 percent omega-3s, making them one of the richest plant-based sources of these fatty acids -- specifically, of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. The omega-3s in chia seeds can help reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance and reduce high cholesterol.

Fiber is associated with reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol and regulating bowel function. Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, with a whopping 10 grams in only 2 tablespoons. That is one-third of the daily recommended intake of fiber per day.

Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants that help protect the body from free radicals, aging and cancer. The high antioxidant profile also helps them have a long shelf life. They last almost two years without refrigeration.

Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 18 percent of the DRI for calcium, 35 percent for phosphorus, 24 percent for magnesium and about 50 percent for manganese. These nutrients help you prevent hypertension and maintain a healthy weight, and are important for energy metabolism and a part of DNA synthesis.

Satiety is the feeling of being full and satisfied, which helps lower food cravings between meals. The combination of protein, fiber and the gelling action of chia seeds when mixed with liquids all contribute to their satiating effects.

Chia seeds contain no gluten or grains. Therefore, all of the nutritional benefits of chia seeds can be obtained on a gluten-free diet.

Egg Replacer
The outer layer of chia seeds swells when mixed with liquids to form a gel. This can used in place of eggs to lower cholesterol and increase the nutrient content of foods and baked goods. To make the egg replacement, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes.

Can Be Digested Whole
Unlike flaxseeds, which are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and minerals, chia seeds do not need to be ground in order to obtain their nutrient or egg-replacement benefits.
Pretty amazing food, eh? I ordered some from, and since I like to make granola and smoothies, I see Chia Seeds in my future.

The other amazing food I discovered was PB2. It is basically peanut butter without the oil. It's dried peanuts made into a powder, which can be either sprinkled into smoothies or other concoctions, or reconstituted with a bit of water. I know that sounds gross and like every other health food you heard about since Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook in the 70s. But all, and I mean ALL the reviews at Amazon were ga-ga over PB's flavor and ease of use. So I bought some of that too, knowing full well it is more expensive than the grocery store, but I figured I'd try it and then go to Kroger or Ingles, which my friends tell me, is available on the store shelves. Sprinkling a teaspoon or two will give me a good amount of protein and peanut butter flavor without the fat.

We have come such a long way since the health food/vegetarianism of the 1970s when we were relegated to finding limp organic lettuce rolling around the moth-eaten shelves at the back of the store. There is a wealth of good food you can find...if you can just afford it. I feel I got a good deal on
the chia, and I also found a good deal on Amazon for peanuts in bulk. I searched for a long time, but I am sorry to say that almonds are out of reach, as are most other nuts. I'm hanging on to sunflower seeds and peanuts as the last legume stronghold for my shelves.

So that is the food blog for now, I'll let you know how the eggs worked out, chia seeds, and PB2. I sure hope there will be food in heaven, and that it will taste so perfect and we will never get fat. ;)

Saturday, August 08, 2015

When Bookworms Party, and school

School started Monday without the kids, and Friday with the kids. It was a great day! They all looked so cute in their new dresses and haircuts, one 1st grade boy I saw came in wearing a tie.

No matter how old or young you are, the first day always hits us like a ton of bricks. I went to get my hair cut finally after school and then treated myself to a take-out dinner Chief Burger Club Sandwich and slice of homemade strawberry cake. The thought of more standing on my feet, cooking simply was out of the question.

Chief Burger is a little drive-in about a mile from me. It has been in that spot since the dinosaurs roamed, a little shack like Harmon's in Maine or Aunt Carrie's in RI or like any of the places Fieri promotes on his Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives show. It features a screened-in eating area with three picnic tables, and the ordering window and takeout window. That's it. Unpretentious, delicious, made to order real food. The cakes really are homemade, and a slice cost only $1. Here is their Facebook banner:

It was a delicious dinner and I was happy to be home and off my feet.

I like my schedule this year. I am working with first AND second graders in addition to kindergarten, for the first time. It's a busy day but it flies by and the bonus is that I get to work with kids in teacher-supervised groups in class a lot. This is what I love, working directly with kids (as opposed to being on hand in the classroom and not doing anything in particular until called upon by the teacher, or duties, or correcting/clerical.) Though I'm grateful for any employment. I need to sustain myself and that has not been easy as an autistic person. However, I'm proud to say that this is my 6th year as a regular employee and my 8th year including the years I subbed at the school. A personal best.

Today I wrote a while studied my bible, and read, but I'd thrown my back out this morning somehow and it hurts. I had wanted to vacuum, clean the tub, change the sheets, and dust, but I only managed to roast some cauliflower/potatoes/carrots, and do the dishes. And slowly, at that.

Nevertheless, I soldier on, reading and napping. Because, I know how to PARTY!

source: Grammarly