Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Greetings

Urban gift wrap courtesy of the music community on Broadway.

Wishing you a merry pedestrian holiday. See you Monday.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Photo courtesy Flickr

Color can be maddening during a crunch. The community that wears nothing but black takes the easy way out. The international design body that co-ordinates fashion’s color shifts from year to year makes it possible to shop for new clothes without going crazy. This is good for the planet, because textiles are hard on the environment.

A friend grew up to be a dyer and told me recently about a non-color. It’s hard to obtain, because it involves bleaching already-dyed fabric. The process is toxic, and is called “discharging”. It results in a pale tan with nothing going for it at all.

As far as I know, this color does not have a name, and it seems right that a non-color should have a non-name. I suppose it’s like anti-matter, anti-color. And thinking about it, the correct term is probably “fade”, the great design of time that pulls all visual elements into one harmonious composition.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Looking Over the Boooks

Trajan's column in Rome, point of origin of all Western letterforms. Edward Catich photo courtesy Flickr

During Christmas decorating, I recklessly moved a bookcase in an attempt to gain a few square feet. The ploy’s gonna work, but there are ten years of dust in the corners. I’m grateful to have a HEPA filter on hand when I gently clap opened volumes to blow the dust out of their heads. (Books have heads, feet, foredges, spines, and gutters.) Old books printed on sulfite paper are brittle, so go easy if you try this move that drives dust out of the pages rather than into them. A good librarian dusts once a year, but since the air in the room is frequently filtered, it’s seldom necessary to get into a serious thrash with the contents.

Damp, fire, and insects are serious challenges to the future of a book. Sniff one you haven’t opened in a while. Mr. Peet the coffee man taught me to sniff like a hound: exhale onto the surface first to dampen and warm it. An off scent is a sign that storage conditions are wrong or that age is taking its toll. If you have a collection you treasure, do a little homework about conservation and maintenance.

I’ll reshelve the best titles out of direct sun. I’m down one small case, so this is a chance to highgrade the collection. An ordinary household is not likely to have even one real book on the shelf, since a handwritten or carefully printed and bound volume does not make its way to the average bookstore. My collection does not boast such things either, but I’ll be evaluating the stacks with an eye to children’s books, reasonably engineered and illustrated volumes of literature, references, and then whatever serves current needs. Glued paperbacks become naught but hungry ghosts: with age, the collector is advised not even to open the cover.

Electronic books are beguiling but even more ephemeral than cheap print. The in-house archaeologist tells me that most storage discs are good for five years, the fancy stuff for a few years more, so conserving our vast digital archive is a never-ending race against deterioration.

I once had the opportunity to write out a memorial message to be cast in marine bronze for the ages, barring a metal thief. That was one different job from knocking out a copy shop flyer for a yardage sale. As I look around the dusty piles of books that surround this laptop, I wonder if graving on jade might be a good idea or whether I should borrow a stone chisel and leave a mark or two on one of the rocks in the back yard.

What really counts are the messages that are learned by heart and shared with others.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have Yourself a Raku Little Christmas

Photo courtesy Flickr

Traditional Japanese ceramicists make a special kind of ceramic called “raku”. Sometimes, raku cups are built, fired, and used to drink tea all in one session.

PBS Sunday mornings hide a treasure at dawn: the series “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly”. It’s hosted by Bob Abernathy, a pillar of broadcast news when the networks were powerhouses. Yesterday’s segment on church theater made me realize that every midnight feeding, every diaper, every weary trek to child care was the price of admission to the rarest ticket in town: the homegrown Christmas pageant.

This neck of theater is like the paper chains and gnarly strings of popcorn on a low-tech tree: the margins of error are wide and forgiving, the result surprisingly graceful. Like a raku bowl, the lumps and glitches enliven and beguile. A local musician and painter told me once that the accidentals are where the spirit enters. I wasn’t quite able to comprehend when I heard that, but time has brought understanding.

No hand is gentler than a child’s.

-30- More after the jump.