Saturday, November 29, 2014

What People Around the World Eat in a Day

Breaking bread

Some of you may remember that splendid book from a few years back--Material WorldA Global Family Portrait--by photographer Peter Menzel that showed different families in various countries as they stood outside their houses with all their furnishings, coffee pots, harnesses, beds, etc. displayed with them.  It was, of course, a good illustration of the haves and have nots.

Now the same photographer (along with writer, Faith D'Alusio) has brought out a book showing what different people around the world eat in a day.  Whether a plate of burgers topped with multiple soft-drinks or a bowl of gruel.  What I Eat:  Around the World in 80 Diets.

Here are two sites which offer a series of illustrations from the book.  Since we're in our holiday eating mode, it seems a timely topic.

Link number one

Link number two

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hand-painted Furniture

(Note:  This posting somehow got lost in some sort of shuffle, so I'm re-posting it for another week.)

A few years back, I was on a whirl, hand-painting new pieces of unpainted furniture.  I'd sand them down, apply stain or paint (depending), sand again, then put on two or three coats of sealer.  These included a dish cupboard, chair, night stand, CD holder, bathroom bureau, kitchen stool, two benches, two bookcases, and a tall, narrow food cupboard on which I incorporated a distressed, Italian look.

The two pieces below, with their splotchy paint technique, were supposed to exemplify "the Santa Fe look."  (Or, my interpretation of it, color choice and all.)

Particularly successful were the two benches and nightstand (below) for which I meticulously reproduced copies of artwork that I found especially appealing.  A Persian mosaic, a Navajo blanket, and a Chinese lacquer dish.

A Persian mosaic pattern

I used a black walnut stain on the rest of  the bench.

Chief White Antelope Blanket pattern

A country-pine stain

A Ming Dynasty lobed dish with peony design

Working on one piece in particular (the bathroom bureau below), I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of using the wood-grain to dictate the design ... turning the three drawers into seascapes.  One drawer each for a morning, afternoon, and evening scene. 

Seascape bureau:  top is a morning sea; middle is mid-day sand and surf; bottom is soft evening light on the water.
In all of these, I only used water-based paint and/or wood stain.  Plus a variety of colors in hobby-size bottles of water-based acrylic paint.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Memory Palaces

Somewhere in all my years, the concept of memory palaces totally escaped me so that when I recently picked up a book I'd once given a family member--The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin*--and read the chapter, "The Lost Arts of Memory," I was totally intrigued by what I read.  By how people had maintained information before the printed word by using a particular mnemonic device to refresh their memory by associating whatever they wished to remember with location.  (Also called the mind-palace technique.) 

Here is how it worked:

Preferably, you were to pick a large building filled with rooms and furnishings.  Say, a palace, castle, cathedral.   If you didn't already know such a place, you could make one up.  But whether real or imagined, you had to be very precise about what lay where.  Then, matching one item-to-be-remembered to each window, door, room, candlestick, gallery, salon, alcove, each set of linens, you "attached" by association what you wanted to remember to what lay in that location so that from the time you entered the building until you left, you had matched--in proper order--whatever it was you wished to remember.  This technique of storing specific images in specific places was apparently used by both the Greeks and Romans among others.  (And "entering" the building of course did not mean you actually had to set foot in it.  You could remember the building and thus, by association, resurrect the memory of what you had left in each spot.)

Of course, people used other mnemonic devices, as well, to the extent, as Boorstin says, that such literature as the Iliad and the Odyssey "were performed by word of mouth without the use of writing."

We are so print-oriented, we've lost our old memory skills ... such as a great grandfather of mine once demonstrated when he took a prize for committing to memory during the short space of three weeks, 1,750 verses from the Bible.  Who would attempt that today?  And then one more question: are school children even asked to memorize poetry any longer?  My impression of education today is that instead of being taught the thing itself, we are taught where to look it up.

*Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers:  A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself, published by Random House, 1983.  Daniel J. Boorstin was the Librarian of Congress from 1975 to 1987.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

"When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang ..." *

A few moments to recall from the always-glorious month of October, now past.

The summer-green mountain has now turned ... raindrops on the lens.

*Sonnet LXXIII,  William Shakespeare