Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Staying Nimble!

The pieces for the BIRDHOUSE NEIGHBORS
Laying in the hospital, there are moments of clarity. I got clearer beginning to plan for three new projects. However, so far not one of them has been created as I can't find the pieces I know are here but put who knows where. That was disappointing but lately I've learned to roll with the punches.

I am fascinated with the crackle finishes, mostly the ones you create with a base color, the crackle medium and the covering paint that allows the cracks to show through when the medium dries. Each one is an adventure. It takes practice to know when you will get the optimum crackle and I didn't do toobad.

I started with a birdhouse painted black. I was going to create a winter scene with each layer of distance crackled and painted a lighter color. I soon realized birdhouses were not "winter" so tried to think up another idea.

I had three small birdhouse Christmas ornaments and after cutting the cord had planned on putting them on the birdhouse sides after getting crackled and decorated. I needed 4, not three and stopped. Then I painted them, putting on the crackle medium and used several greens. Obviously this had morphed from one project to two.

Creating a design over the crackle
I found some dowels, drilled holes in the ornaments and found a base to put them on with "feet" to elevate the wood slab.

My goodness, this became time consuming. Each birdhouse had different Pennsylvania Dutch designs on each side. That alone was time consuming but I knew I could never make both sides alike and figured they could be mixed and matched at a whim. Since they all shared a common theme, Pennsylvania Dutch and colors, it would be fun to display!

The base however, had to be painted twice after I decorated it, put the crackle on and nearly lost the entire design!

Slowly getting there!
Now, you have to realize that during all this I had about a 20-30 minute back! That was about how long I was allowed to be sitting upright before problems developed...especially back aches from the surgery. Oddly I could take all the walks I wanted but sitting upright put a great deal of pressure on your back, especially your lower back where my surgery was, and could get very testy! I took more than one muscle relaxant at bedtime. So in many ways it took a long time to create this. Not really a good sign because I found myself adding more and more ideas until I decided to just stop!

 By the end I was painting, resting and back to get it done. Then I napped two hours but when I woke up I was happy with this and learned many lessons both in design and using new, to me, materials.

Now, I have to go back to the black birdhouse and work on that. The instructions are not very good so I turned to YouTube to see how to use DecoArts Crackle Medium and discovered other alternatives notably (and much cheaper) white glue. I tried that white glue stunt and well, I need to watch that video again. It just made a mess I had to sand off and paint over.
The finished BIRDHOUSE NEIGHBORS project

Please visit my store, KrugsStudio.etsy.com for the details on this item and many other crafts and birdhouses.

Check out my end of the year Christmas sale where ALL Christmas items are 25% off from now to January 22, 2015.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Modernity Vs. Ancient Art

As I was rushing out the door on the day of my spinal surgery I cast about for a book that would fit in my bag. They called us in early with no shower and such threw some clothes on and headed for the hospital.

I have no idea where the FIVE FACES OF MODERNITY written by Matei Calinescu and first published in 1977 came from but I thought it would put me to sleep the day or two (it stretched to a week) I would be recovering. Once conscious and not in too much pain (they lie-I have never felt such pain) I started in. You can only focus a few minutes at a time at first but despite the author’s penchant for quoting French with no translation, I began to get his concepts. They were and are very different from mine. He states that modernity began in the Middle Ages. I can’t find much of a basis to agree with him. And he seems to ignore that fact the Renaissance did not grow new art forms, if anything the cities would have been a comfort (and cleaner too) for citizens of ancient Greece and Rome. They certainly would have felt comfortable in them.

When we visited Washington, D.C. this summer I couldn’t but help that same feeling. Our most impressive buildings…the Capital, White House, Supreme Court and many more buildings would have fit right in on Capitoline Hill in Ancient Rome.

It was the new structures like the ugly and poorly conceived Native American Museum that make you gasp. In what universe is that acceptable? With kivas and fantastic pueblo designs we get that? A trip to Taos, Santa Fe, the Anasazi ruins would have given the architects fantastic ideas! What we got is ugly inside and out.

Inside is worse. It cries for a curator who would work with the tribes and “help” them create a cohesive story. Show their achievements, histories. Now, we were not the only ones to give up? What tribe? Where? Echoed through the halls.

Once home from my second weeklong stint at the hospital, this a far more serious stay – lets put it this way, its good to be alive, I got my AMERICAN ARTS QUARTERLY. The first article, THE CULTURE WAR REDUX by James F. Cooper laid at the door of liberals and Communists the degration of art. It wasn’t modern, it was narcissistic, or kitsch. Only now are critics taking a look at that art again and trying to decide what is art and does any of that qualify.

The irony was that while the Soviet Union was very strict in what images could be painted (pure kitsch like their Nazi brothers) and shown, liberals in the west felt that anything goes. As Cooper notes in the 25-year since that collapse very little discussion has been devoted to communism and its liberal offshoots. It undermined the quality of the fine arts and deconstructed the last redoubt of American creativity, popular culture and quality of the fine arts. The twenty-foot puppy atop the Met, a plastic Christ submerged in a vial of the artist’s urine, inane poetry, the decline of education and the rejection of timeless standards of aesthetics and beauty, have opened a vast chasm in western civilization. I’m amazed anyone goes to a museum. Soon it will have to create a circus atmosphere just to get us to attend.

I remember taking my kids to MOCA here in Los Angeles to a highly touted show of “modern” art. It was disgusting. One room had bags of the artist’s urine hanging in balloons all over the room. The 10 year old and 6 year old were grossed out. It got even stranger and shortly after we left going to the Central Market instead. THAT they could relate too.

My kids are museum goers, even to this day. My favorite image was taken when my son was about 4 and when told he could touch a stature at the Getty Villa to his hearts content. I got a photo of him, a huge smile on his face rubbing the bottom of the nude Sybil.

There is hope. Art seems to be correcting its own course. Education, after decades of dumbing down is trying, through the Common Core to bring standards back to where they were in the 50’s. Its not a smooth transition anywhere but at least recognition of errors made and the need for change. We as a nation, if we are to survive, cannot afford students and adults unable to handle the complexities of the 21st century.

How do music and the arts fit into this future? Studies have shown for years they affect our critical thinking as much as math or science. They offer a critical problem-solving element that is missing in rigid students. Keep in mind our children will have a least 5-8 careers in their lifetimes, careers not even invented yet.

The arts DO matter and many of man’s greatest achievements are from his ability to dream. Like democracy, the arts too can be messy!

However, I question the need for critics. If anything this book clearly showed the critics were what was left after the animals left the barn! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Charter Cable: Is it a Scam? You Decide.

Since this summer, we have been having a discussion with Charter Cable regarding a monthly payment that they, and only they, had a problem with on automatic payment. I mean, if you are on automatic payment, how can you be late, right? When we got home from our vacation we called and “thought” the matter was taken care of. We got a date, name and reference number. It didn’t seem to matter. No matter what we did, they refused to take the balance owed off their books.

Sunday, the day after I got home from the hospital after my second week long stay, we discovered that Charter had disconnected our phone, WI-FI and cable service. My wife took up the mantle and giving her all the paperwork after 2 ½ hours, on the phone with Charter, I heard her say, “You could but you won’t do anything for me?” OK, we are leaving Charter. Come get your equipment. No, YOU come here and pick it up. There are Charter trucks here all the time. We paid for the month. It appears you pay a month ahead for services so we paid that. They owe us 28 days service.

We went to AT&T that afternoon and found out that we would save $60-80 a month over Charter. It may not be the same but hopefully steadier and work. I had to reboot the Charter router weekly and sometime more to get it to work. NO matter how fast no signal is still no signal.

A few days before my back surgery I sent this letter to the CEO of Charter. Today is Dec. 22, 2014 and I have not received any form of reply. I doubt I will.  Lap it up now cable as your days are numbered. With CBS, HBO, ESPN jumping to the Internet, that’s two of the three channels I watch. Cable has refused to untether shows…I personally don’t need 30 Spanish stations and in Los Angeles as many dialects of Asian languages. I never buy from Infomercials…and when all is said and done, of 200 channels I would watch at most 20 channels.

Here is my letter:

October 28, 2014

Mr. Thomas M. Rutledge, CEO
8413 Excelsior Dr., 120
Madison, WI 53717-1970

Dear Mr. Rutledge,

Something happened to my billing this summer, somewhere in either August and September of 2014. But before I discuss this, let me include my payment statements from Bank of America and the statements I have received from you.

Bank of America Statements:
5/13/14, 206.47
6/12/14, 206.47
8/12/14, 206.47
9/23/14, 206.47
10/27/14, 202.78
*Of course this happened when we were on vacation.

Charter Statements under auto pay:

8/21/14, 206.47
9/15/14 notice regarding a problem with my credit card
9/22/14, I called to pay it. The payment reference number was #035058. I was told that I had a “0” balance.
9/21/14, the statement shows that there was no payment and is now $414.53. See 9/22/14
9/21/14 received another dun notice.
9/28/14 talked to Donna and James her superintendent. They said I had a “0” balance
10/11/14 a payment of 207.78 made on the phone.
9/23/14, another statement showing a balance of $414.53. Talked to Lalnie and again got the balance to “0”.
10/21/14 a statement from you that I have a balance of $415.84
10/27/14 payment made in person to the Charter office in Alhambra, CA for 202.78, the amount owed at that time. I was told everything as balanced.

You can imagine my shock and anger when I looked at my receipt this morning and it shows a balance due, still. This balance no matter what will not go away. I am tired of being told over and over that I am current and getting statements from you for past due amounts.

Which is it? Before I go to with my lawyer and go up with the food chain with my complaint I would like some answers and resolution regarding this matter. Would it be easier to simply cancel my account, live without the Internet a few days and sign up again? I certainly might get newer equipment including a Wi-Fi box that can’t hold a signal more than a few minutes at a time.

I would appreciate a call from your office so we can get this resolved once and for all. I am scheduled for spinal surgery Nov. 4th and am trying to get all my chores done before then.

BTW, Calling your billing department is seriously a trip to hell. If I ever meet “Richard” the first thing I would do would ….well, hopefully we will never meet. He is the worst, most obnoxious employee I have ever encountered in 69 years of life.

I look forward towards getting this problem resolved at last.


Alan Krug
9142 De Adalena St.
Rosemead, CA 91770


P.S. Because they still say we owe them $214.00 they are holding the phone number I have since 1970 hostage. Screw them. Time for a change.