Friday, August 22, 2014

Cultivation


Photo courtesy Flickr

Thirty years ago I learned the hard way that weeding was garden task number one. Several seasons of meticulous hands and knees grooming of the lot produced a low-maintenance site that remains easy to manage. Invading buttercup led to the semi-desperate decision to use benign herbicide one time in areas that were out of control. The product I chose breaks down into fertilizer and leaves soil in good tilth.

Nearby construction radically altered the micro-climates on this lot, much for the better it would seem. Although the heat bill will never recover from losing the bountiful solar gain the house’s orientation afforded, the landscape is nobler. Native plants are thriving, the little vegetable patch surprisingly productive, and maintenance is half the already small previous total.

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More after the jump.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Renoir's Cafe'


Photo courtesy Flickr

Virtue is efficient. In his autobiography, film maker Jean Renoir, son of the painter, remembers Parisian sidewalk cafes before and after the First World War. Before the war, a waiter would bring a bottle directly to a table. Drinks were counted on the honor system. When the war broke out, foreign troops tore the fabric of trust. Waiters had to dole out and account for drinks one at a time.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Mighty Hunter


Photo courtesy Flickr

During the Fifties’ heyday of trophy hunting, a local man stalked North American big game. A disrespectful acquaintance who knew her way around the woods tagged him with the title’s nickname. I chanced to visit one of his granddaughters shortly after she had helped empty her childhood home, and Lydia mentioned that she had found five bearskin rugs in the attic.

Bearskin rugs present unfamiliar housekeeping challenges. A quick surf of “Jonas Brothers care of bearskin rug” turned up technical comments from a North Seattle trophy caretaker. Jonas Brothers, whom I grew up believing to be one of the few Seattle businesses that was known internationally, wrote the book on taxidermy. I’d look to them for notes on managing a skin. Short version-hang on the wall suspended by a careful assembly of metal rings.

I have trouble dispatching a moth, so the notion of confronting a large, intelligent carnivore even with a good rifle and back-up is more than I am able to grasp. It seems as if my friend has come into her grandfather’s legacy-a proud reminder of courage and prosperity, one for each descendant. The skins are worth taking some trouble to appreciate and use. One freezing night with no heat is all it will take learn that a bearskin is just as useful to a human being as it was to the bear.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The End Of Patriarchy As We Have Known It


Some people say the eye is a cold master. Photo courtesy Flickr.

The in-house scavenger has a knack for putting together first-rate sound systems from thrift stores. I didn’t have the heart to ask him yet again to assemble one particular speaker/tuner combination, so I set out with a reel of wire, cutters, and shop knife to connect some prime vintage gear.

Fiddling with bare speaker wire and obsolete screw terminals, I remembered the gallant neighbor who showed up one Seventies day to add a little FM tuner to my KLH Model 11. He set things up and left with a cheerful apology about the absence of a protective case.

It’s safe to say that all twentieth century American females were rightly raised to be terrified of electricity, a hard-earned cornerstone of righteous housekeeping. Bare copper wire is still as daunting to me as an aggravated  rattlesnake.

Standardized coaxial connectors took the fear out of assembly, although they added a considerable amount of confusion to electronic inventory. They enabled those like me who suffer from furniture-arranging disease. I waffled for months about the shoulder-high pair of speakers that now stand in their original corners in the dining room, shifting them here and then in search of a sweet spot. The other gear head in the house pointed out a truism: good audio takes up space. S’okay.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Brave New World


Photo courtesy Flickr

A local story about Action Comic Number One resonates on many levels. In an offer made possible only by digital communications, a Federal Way man who owns one of two pristine copies of the first Superman issue is putting it up for auction on E-Bay. A percentage of the sale will go to the foundation Robin Williams supported to help his friend Christopher Reeve. He and Williams were in the same class in acting school and had a pact that the first of the two to make it would look after the other.

The details of the valuation of Action Number One are on line. I happened across the story on a day I was rooting through an archive of works of art on paper. Paper is unquestionably the number two bother to conserve, right after textiles. Now I know why jade is so convenient. 

When I asked a special collections librarian if she wanted a modest donation, she assured me that things under her care would remain in the same condition as they were received. The DC story details the history of the comic title and makes immediate sense of the usually dry and technical language of paper conservation. It can be summarized as “don’t mess around”. 

Significant technologies often start as playthings. Firecrackers became artillery. A solar thingamajig from the science catalogues became electricity from the sky. The comic book generated the graphic novel, a powerful field of literature too new for me to have acquired informed appreciation.

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More after the jump.