Monday, September 4, 2017

Getting Ready for Dia de los Muertos, or For Gringos, Halloween!

     Oh how I have learned to love color. Dia de Muertos 

     (Day of the Dead) celebrations was a colorful feast for the eyes!

   I became fascinated with all things Southwestern when my Mom moved to New Mexico when I was in college. Born in Ohio but coming to Oregon when I was 5, the influences of Northern Europe and northern United States tend to side on greens, more greens and lots of green. Winters are dark and gloomy, very black and white. There could be fall colors but I remember mostly gray skies and green trees everywhere. The Pacific Northwest isn't all that different from Germany and Scandinavia.
    When she moved to New Mexico during my sophomore year at Oklahoma State, my return to my New Mexican home that May was like she had moved from the verdant green Northwest to the Sahara Desert. It was a shock. Oklahoma was certainly warmer than Oregon but forests were replaced by amber waves of wheat ... and cattle of course. Lots of cattle and corn.
    New Mexico was an unknown. We could see the hills in tones of red, brown, tan and at certain times of the day pink, purple, rose. The Sandia Mountains at sunset turned watermelon pink with deep yet rich purple shadows. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. I was hooked. That summer, after a class at UNM, we traveled nearly every day. Sure, up high there were forests but it was but an accent to all the earth tones that surrounded us.
    Santa Fe and Taos were colorful but their Old Towns, like the one in Albuquerque, offered Native American, Hopi-Zuni-Navajo and many other tribal arts as well as a wide selection of Mexican arts in colors and color combinations like I had never seen before. I was hooked.
    As for most of us, life gets in the way. I worked for K-mart after two years in the Peace Corps. I came home to New Mexico and eight months later was transferred to California where I have lived ever since.
     Here was the Halloween wreath

      I decided to decorate.
    After a marriage and two kids later, starting my own business, I slowly rediscovered my passion for art. Some would say graphics design was artistic ... and it was but it was not art! I bought a cheap birdhouse at Michael's, got some paints and slowly developed a style based first on Pennsylvania Dutch motifs and learned a few more along the way. One of my favorite haunts was Olivera Street, the original site for Los Angeles, and its mostly Mexican crafts. The explosions of color slowly entered my palette as I continued to visit the shops and study the colors. They certainly were not color combinations I had been trained to use.
   Halloween may be popular to Northern Europeans but Latin cultures honor their dead November 1st and in Spanish is remembered as Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead with a unique and distinctive artistic style.
    I have a neighbor, whom I discovered moving into my new condo, who loves to decorate for Halloween. In fact I have noticed that craft stores have far more Halloween items for sale and that people are spending far more time decorating for Halloween than I ever remember. Wandering the aisle at Michaels I checked out their Halloween offerings. I wanted to decorate myself so checked out the "blanks" that I could decorate. This cutout wreath seemed like the perfect door hanger. I can't remember what I paid for it but probably with my 40% off coupon not more than five bucks. I probably put in $500 in time and effort even at minimum wage!
Laying in the colors.
    Since I didn't just want all white skulls and bones, I checked out a variety of images on Google, to get colors and possible motifs to decorate all the bones with. I decided that leg bones would remain off-white but each skull had to have a color. Ah, but what colors? Looking at many images there didn't seem to be one or two you had to use, there were many.
    This, I discovered was the easy part. However, I also didn't want to introduce too many colors so base colors were often used on detail and designs of the skulls keeping a sort of relationship within the entire wreath. 
Here are the skulls all sketched in!
   The next step after all the base colors were painted was to pencil sketch in the designs of each skull. This alone took an evening as I wanted to be sure each one was different. Back to Google to see what had been used. I then penciled in a different design on each and every skull. Sixteen in all.
    Then, after all this, began the hardest part ... painting in all the details of each and every skull. I used many of the same colors that were used on the skulls tying them all together but making sure that no design was repeated exactly. Mostly using a liner brush I would start with one skull, paint, then move on to the next. I didn't always use the same color on each one and of course had to avoid one with the same base color. 
     Applying the base colors to the 
     other skulls to tie them all together
Colors all in place!!!
   Once I went through the base colors I was free to add all the additional colors I wanted to complement the colors I had already used. I added greens, creams for flower petals, gold and silver highlights, Sharpie liners even red metallic hearts for a big of bling.
   I took hours doing this listening to audio books, watching movies on my iPad or listening to country & western music as I became lost with colors lovingly applied with a #2 liner brush and even smaller and thinner ones to get the detail right.
   Sometimes I smeared paint, the contact glue came out in blobs but finally, I got all the colors painted, Sharpie details in place and was ready for the final step ... creating depth with shadows.
    The final result (the first image in the blog) shows how using shadows gives depth to what would otherwise be a flat image. Not bad but still, flat without any depth.
    I think this shows that you can take a ho-hum something and with imagination and effort can create something that you might never have expected from racks of things hanging on hooks in the craft store. There's still time ... get with it!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Reflections On An Assisted Living Home

   I have just finished an amazing book written by an 83 (now 87) year old senior who lives in a senior retirement home in Amsterdam, Holland. I casually picked up the book at Costco and wondered what kind of a secret diary he could have written. I laughed out loud at one of his comments and quickly glancing at other pages realized I could have written the very same things. Here was a secret inner rebel that tickled my secret rebel heart.
   He starts on January 1, 2013 and writes about his life, his friends, the home and even inserts local and world news of the day. It is quite engaging ... and sobering.
   I could relate because I too lived in such a home for 10 months. I found that many of his complaints were mine as well, however, I think his home was probably a lot cleaner. You know, the Dutch are just that way. Brookdale Alhambra at least, was a pretty dirty place. I wrote about this in an earlier blog so there's no need to tell the sordid tale again.
   One of his greatest complaints was how his government was always finding ways to cut the assistance such homes were given. It was better before and each year they trimmed and cut and moaned about the cost.
   It reminds me our Congress moaning about the cost of all the "entitlements" they have to pay for. These "entitlements" include Social Security, Medicare, SSI, and a host of other programs, things our withholding taxes paid for. I would like to remind these same government officials that if they had left Social Security in its Trust fund, as it was originally set up in, there would be no shortages. But Congress, which has never seen a tax they didn't like (except the Tea Party), saw that fat pot of trust money and found a loophole to tap into it and make it part of the yearly budget. What a windfall! Now they moan about the cost. I would like to tell my Congressmen and women that if the money I gave them for Social Security where I had been allowed to invest myself, and I would have, I would be a multi-millionaire today.
   And to listen to the debates about national healthcare, something Teddy Roosevelt proposed in 1904, if they had merely followed an already successful program, Medicare, then there would have been no debate. Here was something that worked. And finally, the government is rooting out the healthcare providers, insurance companies and doctors bilking the system. What they do is in reality no different than the common murderer. People are dying and often, it is their policies that are doing it. We are the only industrial nation in the world with no national healthcare and I believe rank about 17th in life expendency. The average Greek is expected to live 10 years longer than an American.
   Groen notes that Holland is one of the wealthiest countries on earth but, as every country, has become tight fisted as well. One can only hope that the politicians that guide us lose their sweet retirement and healthcare deals that they created for themselves and have to deal with the same system they created for the rest of us. If that were to happen you can bet everything would change faster than the law could be made!
   I urge you to read this book. It has been translated into 30 languages and is a best seller in Europe. All industrialized nations are grappling with this problem ... especially with the babies born after WWII reaching retirement age now. Born at the end of 1945 I am just the beginning of the 75 million onslaught that follows. 
   Retirement age or not, this is an important book as it shows, some might add, exposes what they should expect and how arbitrary many of the rules are. He tries in vain to find the actual regulations when they are so often told they can't do this or that. Why? They never find out. Sound Familiar?
   This is a opening shot in a debate that involves us all. If you are young you WILL get older. If you are already a senior then its time to step up and complain. Boomers shook up every institution they became involved with. Now its time to step up and shoulder what their quality of life will be before they die. Or as the good book asks, "For whom does the bell toll?" "The bell tolls for thee."

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Identity, Community and a Sense of Purpose

   I have struggled for years to understand the draw of such figures as Mao, Stalin, Hitler, and now Trump and Un. In a much smaller sense, I have pondered the draw of thugs like the Bloods, Crips, any white ala WEST SIDE STORY gangs, Yakuza, Tongs, ABZ (Asian Boyz), KKK, Italian, Russian, Mexican and Armenien Mafias ... you get the picture. What? How? Especially Why?
   Reading an article in my daily Internet Time Magazine yesterday there was an excellent piece titled THE ALT-RIGHT HAS CREATED ALT-CHRISTIANITY written by Pastor Brian D. McLaren. The piece was quite short but startling in both what he saw and what he felt as he was in Charlottesville for the now infamous demonstration that showed openly that after 50 years the hate this country has tried to hide under the aegis of Political Correctness (PC) is still alive and well. Today there are even more groups to protest about! I am sure many of you have heard both sides and from what I have seen and heard, even after a senseless death, all sides still feel their cause is right. After 152 years, where this nation sacrificed 700,000 of its citizens, about 15% of the population at the time, to end slavery, we have still to confront a problem created before and enshrined in the Constitution we hold so dear – race relations. Today, there are many more "bad" relations to protest ...straight and  Gay, Muslims, Catholics, Asians, illegal Hispanics, Native Americans, women ... even Jews, the same people we fought a war with Hitler over, among many other things, to end genocide.
   McLaren points out that for the first time in his 61 years he got to look into the faces of these people and was stunned and scared. "... they looked scarily normal." he says. "They're the guys arranging stock at the local big box store or the desk jockeys in a cubicle farm. Decent. Clean cut. Surprisingly young. And white. No doubt I looked into these faces before - on the street, in a restaurant, in church - but I didn't know it because they weren't carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, semi-automatic rifles and shields."
   He continues that after this he saw an interview with Christian Piccolini, a former white supremacist. He was recruited and radicalized by an extremist group, probably not different than what ISIS did to even younger children. It shows, if nothing else, that Muslim extremists have no corner on the market of extremist views! Look in our own backyard! He stated, "There are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, so they tend to search for very simple black-and-white answers. Savvy extremists ready to dispense those easy answers have no shortage of potential recruits, easily accessible through the Internet." As McLaren noted, are these issues any different in Afghanistan, Syria, Virginia, Ohio, Arizona and ... France or Spain?
   Recent elections in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain and even Canada have shown the deep divide between youth and their elders. Unemployment in France for those 29 and younger is 25%. If you're Muslim, 50%. While we hear about the salaries in Silicon Valley, we don't hear about the non-existent salaries in Appalachia, the deep South or the Rust Belt ... ten times the numbers.
   Closer to home, everyone of the 9 / 11 bombers was in this age group, had college and often advanced degrees, many from the United States, and returned home to find they couldn't get any work. Idle hands often make major trouble! You have to blame someone, why not the Western, especially, American Imperialists? And vice versa.
   Years ago CBS had a White Paper detailing three gangs, before they approached the numbers and sophistication of today. They were white, black and Latin. The surprise to the reporters was that each of these gangs was organized almost exactly alike but even more startling, just like the U.S. Army. Somehow these disenfranchised kids created their own armies and were given an identity, their gang; a community, again their gang; and a sense of purpose, defending their turf.
Are we in the "end of times?"
At times it sure feels like it!
    Piccolini's analysis aligns with the Nazi historian Richard J. Evans' description of young men in 1920's Germany. Examining the rise of Nazism, Evans' saw "desperate and resentful young men being attracted to extremism and violence 'irrespective of ideology.'" He notes they were looking for not ideas but meaning. A former Stormtrooper, reflecting after the war noted, "it (their bonding effort) was too wonderful and perhaps too hard to write about." Soldiers of any era often say the same thing. The military years were the best of their lives.
   One Christmas I visited my German Opa who immigrated to America in 1925. As we talked I asked about his life in Germany. He explained that we had no idea what it was like after WWI. People were paid at lunch and after work ... everyday. Inflation got so bad people used wheelbarrows to ferry their money around. At one point one U.S. Dollar was worth 1 trillion marks. Inflation was so high that the government printed new values on top of older printed money. I had one that said 100 Marks. On top, was printed 1 million. Frantic, the German Finance Minister met with the English, French, and American ministers and they created a new value of their currency against the German Mark in 1924. People had to bring in their old Marks for new Marks and many, though mostly speculators, lost millions. Who did they blame? The Jewish finance minister. Hitler's call, like Trump's, to get all Germans work again got him elected in 1932.
   McLaren goes on to note that the White Nationalist leader Richard Spencer understands this desire for meaning. I mean isn't this what the Boomer Generation started in the 1960's? Compared to their parents and grandparents, they lived in an golden age. They didn't suffer through a depression, didn't fight in a World War. If I heard any one comment over and over again growing up from parents, relatives and adults, was "I don't want my kids to suffer like I did." Yet, I'd bet Tom Brokaw, writer of THE GREATEST GENERATION, would agree that it was this hardship that made them what they were and challenged them to the achievements they achieved!
   "Piccolini, Evans and Spencer are telling us something we need to understand," McLaren writes. "White nationalism isn't simply an extremist political ideology. It is an alt-religious movement that provides its adherents with its own twisted version of what all religions supply to adherents: identity, a personal sense of who I am; community, a social sense of where I belong; and purpose, a spiritual sense of that my life matters. If faith communities don't provide these healthy, life-giving human needs, then death-dealing alt-religions will fill the gap. Aristotle was right. Nature indeed abhors a vacuum. If we don't provide emerging generations with genuine identity, community and purpose through robust and vibrant communities, somebody else will do so. If good religion slumbers and stagnates, bad religion is the alternative.
   After reading this, for me, at least, many of the social and political ills both here and abroad fell into place. Why is there an opioid epidemic? Pot, meth and cocaine addiction. Why do so many people steal and why do they join gangs? Could it just be these very same reasons? Can we separate an extremist of any view from the violence of crime and drug additions without considering these same factors? If we do, I believe we as a society need to address more than just hate but violence, addiction, a sense of entitlement when it is not deserved. Our courts have to be impartial yet fair to all not just a few with money. Policemen can't be arbitrary. Trump clearly saw the frustration and anger of the public,  the 99% and, I guess the word is pandered, to it. This is not an endorsement of Clinton because if there was any complaint about her was that she simply didn't see it. I compared him to Huey Long and her to Lady MacBeth. I still stand by that assessment.
   Discussing the political scene at dinner today, actually with far more action than a daily soap, we all agreed that if any author had written a book about what we see and hear daily, the publisher would kick that author out of the office commenting, what a stupid plot! What were you thinking ... or more likely, What were you smoking when you wrote this crap?
   There is much healing and talking and yes, ultimately understanding that needs to take place in our society today. To lose even one child or adult or immigrant to this sort of rhetoric is to deny that dream not only of the past but the promise we made as a nation in 1776. Our history is filled with immigrants that have changed the way we live because what they wanted to do would not be possible at home. Immigrants have enriched our lives beyond measure. Please remember, we are a nation of immigrants, every one of us had ancestors that arrived from somewhere else, even Native Americans. 
   The time has come for this nation, each and every one of us from the President, Congress, the courts ... every citizen needs to begin discourse and work to resolve fear and hate and despair. Talk is cheap. Yet, as we are finding out yet again, to not talk, to not discuss and yes, argue, to not listen, we, as a nation, will not heal. Don't you think that after nearly 400 years the time has come?
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Why Is Walking Though A Book Store Better Than Letting Your Fingers Do The Walking Through Amazon?

Small but mighty book on the

beginnings of the American Revolution

I just finished a book today, yes, a real book that I happened to stumble upon at the nearest Barnes & Noble. For those of you that don't remember, there used to be many, many bookstores where you could touch and pickup a book and thumb through the pages deciding before you bought it and took it home. I have haunted bookstores my whole life and probably own far too many books in fact. Moving them is a real pain in the @#$%!
   Recently after spending far too long at my local Barnes & Noble and after being unable to find a world map the size I wanted, I found about 10 books I really did want to buy and read, grabbed my will by the throat and almost made it out the door. 
    There really is nothing like going through the aisles of a bookstore ... something you will never find online. You check out the new books, then the new sale books then row after row of books by sections ... fiction, non-fiction, history, biographies and at Barnes & Noble racks of discounted books, often and sadly much reduced from the time I bought them, even on Amazon. There are the classics in fetching bindings, recommendations of books you should have read and those you neglected once and now might be ready to try. I was a good boy that day until ...
Nothing beats browsing for books!
   Just as I left I noticed a stand filled with books marked 80% off. I could not resist, I had to look. Thumbing through a bunch of books I would have never, ever read, I found THE CONSTITUTIONAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, a dry little tome that caught my eye. 
   I love American history and have read many books regarding the foundations of my country. I realize its faults, the faults of our founding fathers but still, despite all that is going on here today, I love my country. I am sure the arguing discourse of today would make our founding fathers feel right at home. They were a quarrelsome lot as well. In fact, its a wonder The United States of America was even created!
   I thumbed through it and quickly realized Mr. Green was talking about things I had never heard of before. There was as much about the English view of events as the American views. I bought it.
   There was no way I would have ever found this book on Amazon. It wasn't in any of my search criteria. They show you many similar books but unlike the old card catalogs at the library, digital search sadly is as boring and bereft of possibilities as finger marching through Amazon.
   Today, just as I write this, I looked the title up. I found the retail for this quite small book was $25.99. Amazon was selling it for $19.71. I bought it at an 80% markdown for about $5.50. Three reviewers give it about a 4.5 star rating. None were as enthusiastic as I was. Here, in a nutshell were the arguments of the House of Parliament, whatever king was in charge at the time, the views of many of the colonies and basically the conditions of the founding of 12 of the 13 colonies. You see, the argument was over the fact the colonies were creations, corporations if you will, granted by the king and not the Parliament. What became the British Empire was a fledgling creation and Parliament was more worried about Ireland for about 150 years than whatever was going on in the Americas land or sea. When they finally realized there was money to be had they tried to tax the colonies, violating their own constitution that said "no taxation without representation." We all know what that got them.
   More importantly, I would have never found this book letting my fingers doing the walking on my computer. And that, also in a nutshell, is why a book store, a tangible, brick and mortar bookstore is so important, so magical. The excitement of discovery, holding a book in your hand, browsing through it and letting it hook you into submission that is what discovery is all about.
    Several weeks ago I read an article in TIME magazine that the sales of digital books had stalled and in fact were starting to drop. It seems that the reading public, like me, was "rediscovering" a physical book. Yes, I have geeky friends that say they can hold a whole library on the Kindle or iPad. No more lugging a heavy tome around. Yet, when you are reading a screen, is it really a book?
   On a recent trip, a 15 hour flight, I could have read books stored on my iPad but what did I do? I picked through the magazines I brought and finally settled on a paperwork whodunit mystery instead. In one of my frequent get up and walk about trips, I noticed that yes, there were many iPads and such with people reading but this time there were as many holding a book ... a real book.
    Just like the sales of old fashioned 33 1/3 LP's are making a comeback (more were sold in 2016 than in the past 10 years) there is something tangible, something that remains yours when you hold, read and own the property in your hands.
    While I see people secretly photographing a book with their smart phones in a book store, and I must admit I look up a book I read about on Amazon, there is nothing like the real thing. Even better, being able to discover, browse, buy and immediately bring home and read the real thing. Even Amazon can't do that. Nothing beats the immediate satisfaction you get.
A Portland institution it seems forever.  There are even two stores
in the Portland Airport ... one on each end!
  I am planning a visit to Portland, OR this fall. I have told a friend there, a trip to Powell's downtown book store is a must. You can literally spend a day lost there. What's even better is that they encourage you return books after you read them for credit towards more purchases. New and slightly used books of the same titles sit next to each other. Even better, if you can't carry them home for a frightfully small fee they box and ship them to you! I got nearly a $1000 in cookbooks for $123 plus about $12 shipping. Sorry, but even Amazon can't do that!
    If you love books, I encourage, no beg you, to visit a bookstore. There are always discounts and you just, just like me, find a hidden gem you would have never discovered online! You might, just might save a venerable institution that began in the 1440's when Gutenberg printed his first book.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Friday, August 18, 2017

I'll Take My Chances: Dyin' To Cross the Street In Palm Springs


Gives new meaning to "In a hurry."
Two miles from where I live

I moved to Palm Springs in January of 2016. A friend had me visit several times before I made that decision. I came on MetroLink to San Bernardino and he would pick me up and drive back to Palm Springs. I didn't get my truck back until December of 2015 and I made several trips here, first to look at a condo rental and then, a month later to move here.
    Let me say, first off, I have enjoyed living here. I have new friends, can be involved as much or as little as I want, and heat aside, love the ambiance and activities that seem now to be non-stop year around. What I don't like is the terrible driving from the multitudes ... residents and tourists. Too many seem to be learning drivers.
    Of course I arrived at the height of the snowbird season and noticed that the driving was, how can I be politically correct here, "different." Those that came from the arctic would often be more numerous that the locals. Oregon, Washington, Ontario and British Columbia, Canada, New York, Maine, even Alaska ... the grey haired set driving often too big and too powerful cars. And their driving was atrocious. Maybe the worst I have ever seen and I have been in 28 countries.
   My dog likes to eat early, 4 am, and we often walk early right after breakfast that on a good day takes 60 seconds. So we walk usually in the dark. Even at that hour, more often than not, I see the tell tale lights of a police light bar somewhere on our walk. Driving during the day, I see more accidents in a month than I saw in years in the San Gabriel Valley.
    My truck was stolen in the complex where I live. It was the perfect gardeners truck. Even at 13 years old, it only had 113,000 miles on it, 5.3 liter V-8 and built in tow hitch. When the policeman came to take the report he asked if I had left my keys in it. No, they were clearly hanging by the front door. Was it unlocked? No, it was a reflex to lock the door as I left. When I described it he noted that I probably would never see it again ... and I haven't.
     This could have been me. Car pulling into you, losing

     control and spinning off the freeway!
    I searched far and wide to find a replacement. I ended up buying my Mazda CX-5 in Temecula as in the Coachella Valley, dealers seem to think MSRP is the discounted price. It isn't. It is so red it nearly blinds you in the parking lot. Coming home after picking it up, just as I pulled astride the Morongo Casino on the freeway, a little old lady in the fast lane pulled in front of me. I found out the brakes were excellent and slamming on them and the horn missed her by inches. She never looked back and drove sedately on. I was stunned. I moved over to the slowest lane and passed her from there and got away from her as fast as I could. She couldn't see a red car ... really? She did have to look of course. She didn't.
    A few days later as I was heading to Ramon Road I passed the strip mall with a grocery store, pharmacy and assorted shops. As I was passing the driveway an old man in a huge old Cadillac pulled out of the driveway (he had a red light) missing me again by inches. Again ... you can't see a RED car? He never looked and never slowed down. He was peering between the dashboard and the steering wheel. I admired his Alberta, Canada plates.
    Yesterday, coming back from a meeting, as I was starting to cross the intersection in front of the airport on a green light, a car that started to turn right, suddenly swung left across 4 lanes of traffic right in front of me. We all sat still, he was gone before we could even honk or move! What made it worse was there was a cop there and he didn't do a thing. So much for traffic enforcement.
Need a push? 
    This Coachella Valley has accidents, serious accidents daily. Every night on the news you see one, two, three, some days the ones I have seen driving about. Why? I don't know. We have a large number of tourists. Maybe they get lost. But cutting across a missed turn is not a solution. This isn't Los Angeles where it is impossible to turn around. Use your cars GPS, your cell phone. I do. My cars navigation is impossible so Siri guides me to new places amazingly well.
    There are also daily accidents along the I-10 freeway that crosses our valley. Many are spectacular in fact. A commission to study this last year so far hasn't seemed to come up with any explanation except the wind. However, just as many accidents occur on normal days. Why? No one seems to know. Going too fast, highway hypnosis or?
You win some, you lose some.
   Motorcycle accidents are also a common sight. You really don't see them until they are alongside or whoosh by you! Don't get me started on the State of California allowing motorcycles to ride the white line on streets and freeways. You see them weaving around cars trying to avoid rearview mirrors going at speeds a car would be ticketed for. I don't know what the statistics here are but I remember seeing a freeway sign in Memphis years ago that in April already had 39 motorcycle fatalities. They urged drivers to be careful. What about the motorcyclists?
    Many of these valley street accidents are caused, I'm convinced, by the impossibly long signal lights. I have waited 4 minutes, once 5 minutes to cross a major street. Everyone knows this and so, they literally take their chances. I have seen cars a mile away make a turn signal while all four lanes wait and the traffic builds up blocks long. They are so long in fact I have seen drivers fall asleep at the wheel. Getting honked at get's them out of their reverie. More often they are looking at their phones texting or ? and the light is green and they are distracted lost in the cellar world ... maybe placing that last order on Amazon. It's that bad.
    Years ago, as the digital age was happening, there was a fear telephone lines couldn't handle this increasingly volume. An article in the paper pointed out that AT&T and then GTE had learned to send everything in packets. We don't realize it but all signals were packaged in blocks of signals and that allowed much more information to be sent without adding new ones. Of course there came a time when they reached their limits. Fiber optics arrived allowing for thousands of times more volume but the same kind of packet made it easy to send ... just more at a time.
Making, or in this case, NOT making the light. This happens too often.
    What definitely needs to happen is a study of signal lights in the valley. Too many times you wait for the signal to change and there is no opposing traffic. Many other cities in the nation, led by Milan, Italy back I believe in the 1970's, have replaced their standard signals with "smart" signals that measure the traffic flow, changing lights according to what is actually driving on the streets. In the first year, in I'm sure in the analog age, traffic flow improved 20%!
    Side streets here they seem to have mastered, except downtown for the walkers. A car pulls up and instantly the light changes ... no accounting for the rhythm of the main thoroughfare. For a small town, it seems there is always someone wanting to cross on these side streets. So traffic bunches up. So while it says you can go 45 or 50 m.p.h. you really can't. There is always a car waiting on an instant signal side street.
    Again, it is design. We can design streets to flow traffic better or we cannot. Maybe, just maybe self-driving cars will finally do what traffic engineers today can't. Make the traffic flow. Hopefully they will also make driving safer no matter how old you are or what you are doing on your phone. It's going to happen and if what I read is any indication, sooner, far sooner, than any of us realize. In fact you may not even own a car at all!

P. S. August 23, 2017

In the space of three minutes this morning I witnessed 3 near misses going to the clinic:
  •  The first near accident was a car turning right into the airport, stops and suddenly veers left across 6 lanes of the traffic in the intersection crossing green light traffic. California driver.
  • Next, one block further, a pickup trucks turns left in front of a fire truck sirens blaring and lights flashing. Again, California driver
  • Last, a car coming out of the airport pulls in front of a car crossing the intersection who had a green light. Could have been a rental car. Still, no excuse to run a red light into incoming traffic.
P.S. August 25, 2017
  • On Baristo Road, at the corner of Compadre Road, at 7:30 this morning, a woman driving a Tahoe SUV, did a California stop and then pulled in front of an oncoming car barely making her turn. My dog and I were a second away from being collateral damage from that crash.

My advice to visitors? Be careful, VERY careful when you visit and drive in Palm Springs. They are out there and care nothing for you. The pictures I've shown are a daily occurrence on the local news.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

My TV Doctor Says I'm Sick, Are You?

Gone today but one of earliest memories
of a TV ad was Bucky Beaver and Ipana 
toothpaste! I never got to use it asmy Mom 
used some nasty stuff with baking soda in it!

I don't know about you but maybe the 50's were the golden age of TV, not only the shows but the ads. It was an exuberant time where the worries of WW II were over, the Depression was gone and despite the "conflict" in Korea, America was safe, or relatively, and at work again. People had money in their pockets and they wanted the life they had seen in movies during the 30's and 40's.
In a smoke free obsessed society, can you
imagine seeing ads like this ... anywhere today?
Junk food was one of
the many such ads we saw
   AND, while TV was in its infancy items for sale did not include a variety of items that we see forever on TV now. Depending on the show you are watching today, the older you are, the stream of medical ads increases exponentially. Watch JEOPARDY sometime.
   Ads fueled the explosion of TV. If you watched MAD MEN, advertising in its way chronicled the rise of network TV, so you have an idea of what happened. They pretty much got it right too. As the years went by though so did the style and type of advertising.
   There wasn't much hard liquor allowed and no one could be seen drinking a bottle of beer. I'm not sure they can today. I don't drink the swill advertised on TV so I really don't know. So many other sabbeliths have been broken, too. Remember when the Smothers Brothers got kicked off for saying "damn?" There are few blue words not heard on any TV show today. I know of one or two and wait for them to be uttered soon as well.
When was the last time you called a car "SASSY?"
Compared to the dull black, silver and white cars
of today, automakers weren't afraid of color or tail fins.
 The other big prohibition in the 50's to 70's was prescription drugs of any kind. Oh sure there was aspirin, Alka Seltzer with Speedy but nothing else. Nothing! The other big taboo was allowing lawyers to advertise. Sensing a gold mine in them thar hills in medical land and shady law offices around the country (watch daytime TV someday - its a goldmine for lawyers) they begged and whined, spent money on lobbyists to convince the FCC the people wanted this. I don't know what people ... do you? In fact today, at least 50% of all TV ads are for some kind of medicine with diabetes meds at the head of the list. After they list all of the complications you can expect if you take them, it gives you pause ... or it does me anyway. I  don't think I want to take any of them.
The blue pill of happiness?
   Along with the addition of ads for say Viagra, topics never, ever, talked about in polite society, the icons of commerce were replaced by Amazon. Catalogs from Sears, Montgomery Wards, J.C.Penney's disappeared from our homes both printed and are rarely seen on TV. I can remember poring over the Sears Christmas catalog as a child. Today grandchildren let their fingers do the walking on their keyboards while cruising through Amazon. Brick and mortar stores are feeling the pinch.
A newer form of blood thinner, its supposed to be "better"
but maybe not in my case.
   In fact I long for those ads, those catalogs and going to the doctor and discussing my medical needs. Now, many of us go to our doctors armed with notes or "free" brochures explaining medical conditions we think we have or needs we just have to have the doctor proscribe for us. I ask, are the TV ads we are pummeled with to our advantage? Is this one of the reasons we have the highest prescription costs in the world?
   My father died at 40 from a pulmonary embolism (PE). This is a condition that causes your blood to clot, the exact opposite of hemophilia where you bleed at the drop of a hat. In 1962 there was no medicine he could take. When I had my first PE at 55, I was 2,000 miles from home. I had inherited this from my father. After several tries to use aspirin as a blood thinner, a second major PE put me on generic Warfarin for life. I learned to test myself, watch carefully for foods with Vitamin K, a blood thickening factor and avoiding other foods that reacted violently with this medicine. I tested myself every week, sometimes more if my blood got to thick or too thin. When the first new replacement  treatments were available I went in armed with the TV "facts." My doctor was Asian and rarely smiled. Armed with my new TV facts, he sat down and looked at me, never a good sign. "Well," he began, "we can change you if you like. You don't have to test often and can pretty much eat anything you want. However, if something happens to you, there is no antidote and unless they can hook you up to a dialysis machine you will bleed out. It takes about 15 hours for the medicine to work its way out of your system. What would you like to do?" Goggly eyed I told him the Warfarin was fine. He gave me a faint smile, patted me, asked if I had enough medicine, I did, and made an appointment for a 6 months checkup.
With stenosis of the back and having had
spinal surgery myself, I can easily see
the allure of ads such as this. But
should we use them?
Amazing how the styles from the
50's are making a comeback in the
21st Century.
    I can't help but wonder if all these ads on TV are good for us. Is there such a thing as too much incorrect information? While I do believe that often we need to be our own advocates, I also wonder if we should let the doctor do their job and if necessary get a second opinion. I don't believe getting that second opinion should be taken from TV. I long for the days where the kinds of wares we were sold included some new furniture, appliances, interesting trips, hair products, floor wax, cleaners and laundry detergent and the like. Really, weren't those the days? Where did the soaps go?
   I do know that what we are being exposed to is a dangerous trend and in many ways, I can't believe the FCC and FDA allow such advertising being made to a public that is not a doctor or nurse, people that have no experience with many of these drugs and dealing with their illnesses think these ads are the answer to a better life. As it is we can get probably too much dangerous information on the web ... now compounded by ads that appear everywhere ... TV, pre-movie showings, billboards, and just about everywhere on the internet. I even see them on my iPhone! While I never, ever look at them, you can't help but be exposed to them.
   So I ask, my TV doctor says I'm sick and this new, better, improved medicine will make me better unless of course the 30 seconds of bad reactions don't lay me even lower than I already am. So, are you sick too?

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there! I promise there are no medicinal items for sale there. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Love At First Sweep!

One of the things that's wonderful about being single is, well, being single! Much of the time, if you're retired anyway, life is on your very own schedule except for the inevitable and sadly the increasingly frequent doctor visits! You eat when you want; you sleep when you want, even nap when you want. You can even be a slob if you want. 
Black & Decker Dust Buster ... man's other best friend!
   Unfortunately for me, being a slob is not an option especially if you have a large black Labrador Retriever who could best be described as a big, black, hairy, fur ball. It doesn't seem to make much of a difference. You can brush her once, twice a day for 10 minutes or 60, yet when she comes back in ... within minutes the first tuft of black hair appears. People talk about carrying a cup of coffee around all day? I carry around my dust buster ... a dog owners best friend!
   However, its hard to tell which is worse ... tufts of hair that seem to multiply like mice or surfaces freshly clean suddenly covered with dust. Its a race around here, believe me.
   One of the first things I bought when I moved to Palm Springs last year was a vacuum. I knew hair would appear and I needed to keep it under control since it was just me and my dog Maggie. After a careful search on Amazon, reading Consumer Reports ... all the usual stuff for comparisons, I settled on a Shark vacuum.
   As a kid growing up, I can remember a canister vacuum that you had to drag as you sucked up the dust. It lasted forever and weighed a ton. Even as a first grader, if not before, vacuuming was one of my chores. Kids today, even my kids never had to vacuum. One of the agreements my wife and I made after she went back to work after our second child was born was that we would have a housekeeper. And while we had "hell night," the ruckus the night before the housekeeper came when I could hear my wife yelling and the kids whining and crying about cleaning up when I came home at night, other than putting things away so the housekeeper could actually clean, a vacuum was a mystery to them. Oddly my son, whose room was so bad you shuffled when entering as you didn't know what was under "things" on the floor, as an adult he was a neatnik. Who would have guessed?
You see the lady and the dog? ... it IS love at first sight!

   Since I couldn't afford a Dyson being single, and I never liked the one we had anyway, I  settled on a Shark. We had a hatred affair from the very beginning. Whoever designed the placement of that cord should be shot at midnight. I bent over to retrieve, vacuumed over, tripped and stumbled over the cord constantly. It has a long cord you were forever avoiding, but then ... not long enough. Because it was so awkward to use, I got a Dust Buster. It sits under a chair in the living room charging all the time. It's ready to use in the blink of an eye and during the day, often is.

   Now while I try to be a good housekeeper, because I hated the vacuum I decided maybe I needed a robotic vacuum. However, a Roomba was way, WAY out of my price range starting at what, about $400 and up! In  my investigations to see if maybe it was cheaper on Amazon than at Target, after reading less than stellar reviews of the Roomba I came across an O Cedar Robotic Vacuum ... for the unbelievable price of $25. What was better yet was that it was highly reviewed though one comment noted they only seemed to work for about 6 months before biting the dust ... I guess in this case, literally! For $25 I could buy even 7 and still be ahead of the game. (Oh, mine is about a year old now and works just fine.) It was not recommended for carpets but since I had tile and fake wood floors it does work just fine.
My floors were far worse!
   The real shock was what it turned up with! Even after vacuuming once and swabbing the floors, just after I got it, I gave it a spin to see what it could pick up. I WAS SHOCKED! It was covered with black dog hair. I realized that it could and did go under the bed, the chest of drawers, TV stand and there the dust bunnies were alive and well, up till then out of reach. 
   Deserts are dusty places and dogs are hairy ... it did its job very well. However, you still need to vacuum things you don't see or get with a dust buster or a red robot so, what to do? 
   Talking to my friend in China after he moved back from Hong Kong hearing his complaints of a new vacuum back when he bought his condo but hardly used ... it would work about 20 minutes, heat up and then shut down. An hour or two later, it was another 20 or so minutes. Tianjin, like Palm Springs is very dusty I hear so he was frustrated to say the least. He hunted around, found and bought a Dyson cordless vacuum. He couldn't stop talking about how great it was. Why a Dyson is cheaper in China than here, when everything else there is more expensive than here and made there, was a mystery but he convinced me to look for one to try myself.
Hammacher Schlemmer 89838 GRN Best Hand Vac
  I saw one for $180 in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. Not known for bargain prices I ordered one and was immediately notified it was on backorder. I would hazard a guess and note that I was not alone! It arrived this week and since I was expecting a visit from my daughter, decided I better clean my condo from top to bottom. I needed to start re-organizing and eliminating anyway so this was the perfect time to start.
   The first step? Vacuuming! They say it has a run time per charge of around 30 minutes. It lasted long enough for me. I'm in love ... with my vacuum. It could be a dust buster too I guess but I will use the long pole with the head, spinning bristles and light as a vacuum. I could both see those dust bunnies and it sucked them up ... every little bit. The head twists and turns into those tight spaces and it got every single thing on the floor... and, I didn't trip once! Good bye ... Shark!
   One more house cleaning hurdle solved now ... if I could just find something to replace my Swiffer. They may work well in the ads on TV, but the reality here is that it cleans the first tile well, the next one a bit less and after a few more tiles, not so well if at all. 
   The greater lesson though is that nothing, and I mean nothing cleans floors better than a bucket of soapy water, a strong sponge and you on your hands and knees!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kill A Word

Country Singer Eric Church

In this time of increasing vitriol, snide texts and embarrassing revelations, one is left wishing that some of this posturing would simply go away ... and yes, leave us alone.
 One of the things that I have learned to appreciate, after a lifetime of belittling it, is Country Music. I guess it was after reading that Country Music outsold Rock 'N Roll by a margin of about 3 to 1 that I began to notice and well, wonder why. Family members had met some stars in Nashville and were amazed at how friendly and chatty they were. Try that with a rock star!
  When the classical music station, 105.3, in Los Angeles, was sold and became a country station I hadn't realized it until one day wanting something soothing to listen too, I punched my pre-sets and there it was ... twangy guitars, sad, SAD songs or as one friend said, "Play it backward and your wife leaves, you're fired, the dog dies and there's no more beer!" I laughed then and even now but its both cynical and true! After I heard the song "I'm Gonna Miss Her" that relates the tale of a guy hooked on fishing and his wife's threat to leave him if he went one more time, I nearly wrecked my truck laughing when the chorus begins, "I'm gonna miss her ..."
   After actually listening I began to realize that yes, there are sad songs but they are sad and some are happy songs that truly reflect our common situations, not the endless banality of love songs. Sure there are love songs but there are songs about losing a mate, a wife, a child, losing your job, how will you make ends meet. These are the facts of life and they resonate with many of the disenchanted in this country today that are living daily with this reality.
   So my iPhone has a dedicated Country music list and playing it today it happened to play Eric Church's KILL A WORD. I hope that he won't mind but here are the lyrics:

Kill A Word
If I could kill a word and watch it die
I'd poison never, shoot goodbye
Beat regret when I felt I had the nerve
Yeah, I'd pound fear to a pile of sand
Choke lonely out with my bare hands
I'd hang hate so that it can't be heard
If I could only kill a word
I'd take brokenness out back
And break heartbreak, stand there and laugh
Right in its face while shootin' it the bird
I'd put upset down in its place
I'd squeeze the life out of disgrace
Lay over under six cold feet of dirt
If I could only kill a word
Give me sticks, give stones
Bend my body, break my bones
Use staff and rod to turn me black and blue
'Cause you can't unhear, you can't unsay
But if were up to me to change
I'd turn lies and hate to love and truth
If I could only kill a word
I'd knock out temptation's teeth
I'd sever evil, let it bleed
Then light up wicked, stand and watch it burn
I'd take vice and I'd take vile
And tie 'em up there with hostile
Hang 'em high and leave 'em for the birds
If I could only kill a word
So give me sticks, give stones
Bend my body, break my bones
Use staff and rod to turn me black and blue
'Cause you can't unhear, you can't unsay
But if were up to me to change
I'd turn lies and hate to love and truth
If I could only kill a word
If I could only kill a word
Songwriters: Eric Church / Jeff Hyde / Luke Dick
Kill A Word lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

   I stopped what I was doing and considered. Isn't this what we want in our lives? I've written about turning out the noise. Watching the evening news I find that it is both beyond what any fiction writer might ever write (unless you're a lawyer, of course where fiction is a daily reality) and submitting a manuscript with this garbage would get you laughed out the door ... well, until maybe today!
   The Trump show is unlike anything we have ever experienced though a recent TED TALK made me even question that. Any student of history, especially American history, realizes that this discord, mudslinging and histrionics is anything but new. While we treasure our Constitution its creation was anything but measured and gracious. We had garrulous, opinionated souls that had strong opinions, not unlike the same ideologies that clashed during our Civil War that on reflection was anything but civil. Many a historian would say the 1790 Constitution set the seeds of 1861 war, and maybe, just maybe what we see and hear on the news today ... each AND every day.
   His lyrics echo the sentiments of many. Don't we all wish some of the words we use would, well, be killed? Life is just too precious and short for us to live with our tensions, fears, hates, vitriol.
   Now I am not suggesting that we shouldn't disagree but once and at various times this country and the world as well, could bring their beliefs to the table and work out a compromise that could work. We are literally a country that grew to greatness by being able to work things out. The musical HAMILTON recounts a man who clashed with James Madison, who pretty much wrote the Constitution and was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. This isn't the only time in our history with personages of titanic egos. Hopefully, today, there won't be early morning duels on the D.C. Mall!
However, the recent shooting of Congressmen practicing baseball shows just how dark the rhetoric has become.
   The time has come for both sides to bury the hatchet and listen, really listen to each other, find common ground and then begin listening to their constituents, make reasonable decisions realizing that no one will get all they want but work towards bettering the lives of all ... not some privileged minority.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Creating A Gift

It didn't look this in the store, trust me!

As many artists know, the idea of a gift for a special occasion can be a traumatic time. What to give? What to CREATE? Will it be appreciated? As confident as we might be outwardly, I think inwardly there can be tension and even doubt. I do know that non-creative types really have no idea of the time it takes to make something. Our lives are divided up into segments, we do this, you do that. It is a rare individual today that creates something from scratch to finish.
   This year, for me, I've two times that I had to consider what to create, one with a clear request, the other what I wanted to create and give as a gift.
The original ugly duckling
   The first request was for an "awesome" birdhouse but as I started working with it, it became a decor piece not something that would hang outside. Why ... I can't really say. Why it turned out the way it did, it seemed to take on a life of its own. 
   I've had this experience before, when I started my oil painting classes. Despite my best, and the teachers intentions, my art style became something very different and I seemed to have no control over it. This led to arguments, hurt feelings and finally, after much thought, I left the class.
   I bought this birdhouse several years ago and after getting it realized it wasn't my usual type of birdhouse. In fact I had always avoided bird feeders, there just wasn't anything to paint. As I was to find out, I was very, very wrong. I was used to painting all the sides, the roof and even the bottom. This had very large open sides and I put it away. In short, I didn't know what to do with it.
     Sketches are perfect for getting the arrangement of
     the elements you want to use. Its much easier to make
     corrections here than on the actual item. I know. 
     Been there, done that!
   When I moved into my condo last winter, I again opened the boxes of things I had collected but had not gotten around to painting yet and decided to put it on the studio shelf putting the rest of the items in the box in the storeroom. There were several outdoor hooks that I could hang things on, so it stayed.
   With the imminent arrival of the person I wanted to give a birthday gift too, and urging from a close friend to get busy, I sat down and made a sketch (left). 
   I really urge you to sketch out your projects first. The amount of time they save, and disasters reduced, helps to give you time to reflect and thoughtfully plan your design. As you can see here, the final sketch was pretty much faithfully followed reducing the time I would have needed to figure out all the elements while painting it.
Red, red, red! Yes on the bottom too!
Remember it hangs so you can see it!!!
   This is NOT to say it all went smoothly nor that mistakes weren't made. They were. The biggest was that in my eagerness to create I would paint this side and that and realize that where I had started might get smeared so ... that led me to have several other projects I could work on while this one dried. Desert or acrylic, paint still needs time to dry!
The two basic colors were applied.
  After a quick sanding of rough spots, the first coat of red was put on and then allowed to dry.
   Next came the butter color that defined the edges of both sides. Once that was done I used a raw sienna color to create what I thought would represent the roof cross-hatched trellis. I had to use several coats and then outlined it with a black micro pointed Sharpie. I didn't have to wait too  long for this to dry as we were experiencing 122ยบ days and about 6% humidity. The biggest problem was getting it on before the paint dried!
   After the trellis dried I used a clipped stick sponge to
   dab two tones of green paint randomly over the trellis.
   The using the trusty Sharpie I added leaves including
   veins on some. The white dots represent flowers.
   Next came the roof ... something that for many years was the bain of my existence until I realized that it too should be included in the design. Once I realized that I learned to decide just what I wanted to add to enhance the design of the sides, and sometimes the bottoms. Roofs are easy to ignore. A drive down just about any street worldwide shows a lack of imagination. Shingles, shakes, tiles ply across vast expanses and no one thinks about them ... unless you're a crafter!
   One of the greatest challenges is to know when to stop. Coco Chanel pontificated that "less is more" but we seem to live in a time of excess where the belief is "more is more." It is around us everywhere, to me, most notably in the newest Prius. It looks like it was designed by the same crew that designed the 1958 Edsel. As some wag said at the time, it looks like a camel ... a creature designed by a committee. The Prius may be many things, but beautiful, it is not! They just didn't know when to stop!
Leaves on the sides and ends use the same greens
as those used on the roof.
    I usually try to use the same colors over and over again to give each piece a kind of cohesion. They may not be used the same way, but the colors stay the same. After the roof, the leaves were added to the flowers and hearts on the ends and sidebar. 
How to hang?
   The band of cream on the sides and painted on the ends had added hearts that I outlined with a red Sharpie micro point pen. They mirror the large hearts used on the ends keeping the color palette simple but not boring.
   The next and last challenge was how to hang it. It had holes at each end evidently to remind you it was meant to hang and be used as a bird feeder. Friends suggested several possibilities ... knotting a rope on each end or a contractor friend suggested using a dowel all the way through it and then using a rope on each end. So ... off to the hardware / craft store.
The finished bird feeder ready for seed
and especially ready to hang!
    I felt that if I used a dowel instead of a knot at each end, I would need some kind of a dowel cap. At Michaels I found a dowel that just fit through the side holes and small wooden pots that were on sale. So got them both, brought them home and painted the dowel with the antiquing paint I was using and the pots for each end red!
   Rather than just using jute (which was what I would have done), the clerk at Michael's suggested that I use a florists wire ... jute with wire inside. Turned out to be the best of both worlds. It looks like jute but with the wire it is much stronger and will still be there when the jute is long gone.
   The final step was to use an oil based Varathane for outdoor use. This too was a recommendation after a rather catastrophic failure of my acrylic varnish a few years ago. Even though it had three coats before going outdoors, as the salesman at Home Depot explained, acrylic gives a firm solid finish that doesn't like to get hot and cold. After awhile it will crack and let moisture inside ... exactly what happened. Oil based outdoor finishes will expand and contract far longer as they remain somewhat more fluid. My experience with my bird feeder here seems to confirm this. Plus oil can always go over acrylic, NOT the other way around.
   So, this was my creative journey. Was it a success? Well, I will find out in a few days. I do know the "awesome" birdhouse was a success.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ... Many of the items talked about here are for sale there!