Wednesday, May 31, 2017

DESERT X: Art vs Being Artistic

Mirror House overlooking the Coachella Valley near sunset
One of the things you can count on here in the Coachella Valley is some event. I would be the first to admit that before I started coming here and now living here a year and a half, I am stunned by how much, how many events, some world class, that there are here. 
   Growing up in Oregon and then spending the past 50 years in the San Gabriel Valley, the desert has always been, well, desert! Dead!!!
   I have been so distracted first by moving here and digging myself out of the accumulation of "stuff" I collected over the years, then purchasing a condo and spending two months remodeling it and then moving a mountain of "stuff" from one condo to another, I don't hit these events ... or not many.
   This year the Coachella Valley was host to Desert X, a real world outdoor artistic event with artists from around the world transforming the desert and, at least for me, how we see it. Of the 15 sites, I only really spent time at one and that was just before a trip and after my divorce. I was distracted.
   Here are the goals of this event taken from their web site:


Alan in front of Mirror House, the valley behind
   Mirror House by Doug Aitken is unlike anything I have ever seen ... well, maybe the circus or county fair fun house hall of mirrors. Aitken took a house, one of those being built high up in the mountains from a new, in process development, (higher altitude + higher prices) and covered every inch of it with mirrors. It is both thrilling to see outside and inside, very disorienting, just like the funhouse, Hall of Mirrors were went through as kids. However, the views are stunning and you soon learn to like the outside of the house (above) as while the house is quite large, it's mirrors seem to make it disappear making the house less obtrusive.
   Is this art? Art is defined as "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."
   There is no doubt that Mirror House was being appreciated for its beauty and emotional power. I think its secret was how it magnified the beauty of the landscape around it. It certainly then could be considered art.

   Yet the artist didn't build the house, he merely added to it. Is that then merely artistic? Artistic is defined: "having or revealing natural creative skill; of, relating to, or characteristic of art, artistry, aesthetically pleasing." Yes, the house is aesthetically pleasing.

Where is inside ... where is out. Mirrors on the left and above reflect the world viewed from the right!
   It could be very disorienting at times just like a County Fair funhouse. Yet it made all of us look more carefully at each room, the floor, even the ceilings that were pieced with open sky that reflected brightly on those of us inside. In fact, there was no room that didn't let the outside in making you feel like you were floating in the landscape.
The house nearly dissolves
into the landscape.
   To me, this one example represented a challenge ... to what is art, is creating something like this artistic? When we put a brush to paper, canvas or some other object, are we then creating art? Is there a limit to art? It is often said that art, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and a visit to any museum is certainly a testament to that saying. How many of us tend to gravitate to the rooms, the collections that we favor, ignoring the rest? It is events like this, or the yearly La Quinta Art Festival or even Spectrum that brings things that we may not be familiar with yet exposes us, encourages us to stretch our artistic imaginations and see "new" art. 
   Gauging from the number of people I saw at the house on a nothing day in the late afternoon I would say it was a success. Maybe more people visited here then at a normal museum's hyped up special exhibition. And trust me, it was not easy to find ... actually to get to. You could see it up on the hill but, getting there was something else. I wandered for a good half hour and was about to go home when I found a road and arrowed sign pointing us in the right direction.
   I think there is a desire for art, and there always has been; from the painting in caves 40,000 + years ago to now. What is even more amazing is the number of younger people that were there considering that many of them didn't have much or any art in school, those programs were the first to be cut years ago. Even though studies have shown that art and music improve learning and cognitive skills, we are back to the litany of readin', writin' and 'rithmetic, so very 1820's German as they were gearing up for the Industrial Revolution inherited from England, almost 200 years ago.
   I don't know ... could it be that the appreciation of art, worldwide art would make us all begin, at long last, to appreciate each other? To see who we are, the differences of course but more the similarities? I think so. I never cared much for Chinese art until I started visiting China. Suddenly, being there, meeting people and seeing how they lived made it all, finally for me, accessible. It was this kind of revelation that makes me wonder, in this time of turmoil and change, something we can never stop, would learning to appreciate each others vision, finally help us to be able to accept and understand each other, a goal that so far has alluded us? It certainly is something to think about.

The time for smoke and mirrors must be replaced by compassion and vision ... something in short supply these days.
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

SHATTERED Voices of Florence Foster Jenkins & Hillary Clinton

Memorial Day for me this year was a quiet day. It was going to be hot and so I walked the dog early, read the paper, chatted on the phone, continued reading the book SHATTERED and napped ... a lot! Becoming more of a night owl as the days heat up, I searched around for something to watch last evening after swimming and fixing dinner. 
      I noticed that EPIX was showing FLORENCE FOSTER JERKINS (FFJ) several times last evening and since I wanted to watch "Antiques Roadshow" first, decided to watch FFJ afterwards. I figured I would fall asleep as it didn't start until 9:30 pm close to my bedtime. I needn't have worried. I haven't laughed that hard or that long in years, or maybe decades even!!!
  Florence Foster Jenkins was a real live person who is rather infamously remembered as having the worst singing voice that ever performed at Carnegie Hall. Meryl Streep, probably America's finest actress, played this role with such verve and dedication that it will be a long, a very long time before I forget her performance. It is that memorable. In fact I woke up laughing again this morning!
     I had read reviews of the movie and just never found the time to see it while I moved, set up a new home and life. When I noticed that it was available, I think first on Amazon Prime, I planned on watching it. To find it on EPIX, last night, made it even easier. Best of all, not a single commercial ... though a breather now and then would have helped. LOL
Florence Foster Jenkins
  Born in 1868 to a wealthy family she married at 18 to a man who gave her a disease she carried for 50 years. Of course you find this out later ...  after she sings. She was also a beloved socialite that sponsored the arts.
     What I was not prepared for was both the outrageous singing, so awful I could not stop laughing, and the pathos of her story. Happily chomping on pretzels filled with peanut butter the songs were hardly out of her mouth when I started to laugh and kept laughing nearly choking to death! I mean, could anyone sing that badly? Sadly, the answer was yes. Another scene, with a wealthy patron's latest floozy wife, has her laughing and finally crawling out on hands and knee to retain some decorum during the performance, made it even harder to stop laughing. Of course when you hear the rest of the story you feel ashamed to have laughed.
   Married to a second devoted husband admirably played by Hugh Grant he loved his wife and, despite having a mistress, catered to his "bunny" with a devotion rarely seen today. He did everything in his power to shield her from her critics and help her achieve her one goal in life, to perform at Carnegie Hall. Her pianist, Mr. McMoon played by Simon Helberg, better known as Leonard on "The Big Bang Theory," speaks volumes with his face as he becomes and remains her pianoist. That performance too is memorable. At the end of the film they note that the album she recorded is still available today and remains one of the Carnegie's best sellers. Imagine!
Florence's Album Cover
     However, it was also when I woke up that I realized the parallels of Florence and Hillary Clinton. You see, I am also reading SHATTERED: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. It recounts their covering of Hillary's campaign as privileged insiders promising not to publish anything until after the election. Given access to all people and events inside the campaign, like everyone else at the time, they too thought that she would be the first woman president.
Hillary Clinton
   It was not to be. As Florence could never "hear" her actual singing, it might be said that Hillary never understood what she represented to the American people. As the book relates, she knew something was wrong but she could never quite nail down what it was. Many, including her closest and trusted advisers, could never make her understand what she represented, how her actions played with the electorate and that while she could appeal to certain segments of the electorate, she neglected those that had supported her in the past. The campaign of 2016 was far different than the one her husband conducted in 1992.
    I can hear you say, she WON the popular vote. True. What she failed to do though was win the popular vote in each state, states that she clearly knew would have the electoral votes needed to win the presidency. She certainly knew the delegate votes to win the nomination, yet as she and others found out, she couldn't gauge the anger of the American people. Not hearing that, states she lost, even by small margins, ones that she took for granted, were enough to doom her campaign.
     Let me say here and now, I didn't like either candidate so there is no ax to grind. Discussion of that is best served in another blog. 
     Here though, I want to draw attention to two different but indomitable women who persevered and
fought the good fight. I find that is, in itself, admirable and should remind us all not to give up our dreams. At the same time though, as artists what are our dreams? FFJ said, "Every voice deserves to be heard." I agree. However, that doesn't always mean that voice will be understood in our own time or even, if ever. Music to Florence was life itself. I think of Bizet who killed himself after he was told "Carmen" was a failure, now often considered the perfect opera. Or possibly the suicide of Van Gogh whose vision was spurned during his short life while today his painting, "Starry Starry Night" is the second most popular and valued painting in the world after the "Mona Lisa." 
     I urge you to see the movie and remember Florence fondly for her indelible spirit. I also highly recommend the book as it is another kind of lesson, one that we can accept or reject but never forget.
     Hang on to your dreams!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The $125 Solution

The current bedroom with new corner cabinet
Your mind begins to play tricks on you about the 7th hour of a 15 hour flight across the Pacific. Tired of movies, reading, music and unable to sleep, you just sit there letting your mind wander.
     One of the conclusions I came to was that I hated my white master bathroom, my ensuite if you will. I wrote about that earlier. However, the other thing that bothered me was how to finish decorating the master bedroom ... in a way that made it more comfortable. You see, my master bedroom is also my office. It has a full bed, an L-shaped desk, 5 drawer highboy dresser, gate leg table in a corner, a ladder bookcase stacked with printers, scanners and slides and negatives in binders, 4-drawer filing cabinet, recliner chair and free standing lamp. A lot of stuff in one room. It easily holds all these objects yet, I wasn't happy with it. Hating the rigidness of the bed, once perpendicular against a wall, I angled it from one corner beneath the window that opened. In a small 1,000 sq. ft. condo every inch counts and sadly, I just have way too much stuff that is slowly getting removed.
     Behind the bed I had placed an old antique chest that was barely higher than the bed with a desk lamp and a place to put books and a place to charge either my phone or tablet. It was OK but because the trunk was behind the bed, wedged against the corner, it created empty space that was open and empty behind it. So, what to do?
The original bedroom with bilious green on two walls, and "old" gold on the others. I hated the colors instantly!
Because it was east facing and got the morning sun, I painted it a darkish
grey that made the white trim pop and was a relaxing color to live with.
     Life, like art, is design ... sometimes intelligent and many times not so intelligent. Since I have been watching people creating small houses on HGTV I am very aware of how to make  space do more than one thing. In fact I have re-done my condo with that in mind. I could have purchased bigger but the guiding force in my purchase was "who was going to clean it?" It would be me with a hairy, shedding Lab!
      An hour or two later as we continued to fly, I hit upon the idea of finding or making a corner table, one that I could put behind the bed filling up that "dead" space, then bringing the old truck to the foot of the bed so I could store sheets, blankets and extra pillows. That would be the perfect solution. I was then determined to visit the plethora of consignment stores in the Coachella Valley and see what I could find when I returned home.
At $400 and more than a little, ugh, 
decorated, I decided to pass this one up. 
I didn't own anything that looked like this, 
left alone or painted!
     It took awhile to find free time (where do the hours go?) but finally I got serious about solving that problem now that the bathroom was taken care of and other pressing matters had come to a conclusion. 
     The first thing I found out in my search was that corner triangle tables or cabinets are about as rare as chicken teeth. Really. I found my first one (right) this week in about the 5th store I visited. It was $450 then reduced to $400 but not my style and wouldn't hold much. Not even using DecoArt's Chalk paint was going to make me like it any more.
     At my next stop, where there is a row of "antique" and decorating stores, I found another corner table for the same price but it had literally two shelves with one barely above the mattress ... and was a bit wobbly. They said they might help me with the price and I said I would keep it in mind (not).
     As I left I thought of my college days when you bought pieces of wood and used bricks to build bookcases. That certainly could become an option if I could get Home Depot or Lowe's to cut me the triangle pieces I needed.

     Finally before calling it a day, I stopped at Cargo Consignments in Rancho Mirage and there, in the back of their store I found what I thought was the perfect piece priced at $145 (left) with a slash through the price. Inquiring, they said it was now $125. It was sturdy enough, had a middle drawer, three usable shelves and even doors below that if I wanted I could store things I rarely used behind the bed. The bed has wheels so .... I took all the measurements, I've learned to carry a measuring tape around with me, and said I would see if it would work at home and fit in my SUV. If I could save a$50 delivery charge, more money for me.

   Once home it seemed to be perfect, even the Mazda seemed big enough. A friend came with me the next day and I bought it and we loaded it up. It was a bit bigger than the cargo space but with some string we got the tailgate tied down, got it home and in the bedroom.
     Looking at it in the cold light of day ... all the lights in the bedroom on, it looked bedraggled. It did go with the gate leg table as the shelves are held in place with spindles that more or less match my Queen Anne gate leg. Like the gate leg, it needed some work, nothing serious but I had to decide, paint or give it first a coat of Liquid Gold.
     I love Liquid Gold because it has a wonderful affinity of bringing back the wood, or as the can says "restores and nourishes the finish." And again, as I poured it on the shelves and using a folded paper towel, the scuffs and scratches seemed in most cases to vanish! About 90 minutes later all the surfaces had been wiped and it actually looked beautiful. Its age and various dings and use made it look antique. I don't think I could have built anything that looked this nice for $125 either.
     The wood was very dry and sucked up its sauce in a few hours. I pulled the bed out, pulled out the trunk, pushed in the new cabinet and adding things once on the trunk and other items to give it some color, once the bed and trunk were in place it seemed that it had always been that way. 
     Us artist types, whether we are really artists or not, are a picky bunch. Color and the placement of things is important to me and many of the artists I know. It may look chaotic to some but it breathes home to us. While I preach to never be afraid to use color, never be afraid to use your space to show or highlight the things that are important to you. Now, within reach are the things I might use in bed and oddly it freed space making a place feel like a home!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Creating A "Manly" Bathroom

As I discovered years ago when we bought our house, you are never done ... ever! There is painting, one repair or another, planting, weeding, mowing ... some kind of improvement to your home. It hasn't been any different with my, in comparison, small condo.
     As I have related here, the condo needed a lot of work to make it livable, at least for me. We gutted and rebuilt the kitchen, every room was painted from a bilious green in the dining room to asylum green and an even worse gold in the bedrooms ... you get the picture.
The bathroom as I originally saw it. Cleaned up it was good enough 

... for now! See the off balance, dark to the left and pure white to the right.
     As a movie freak growing up, I have always remembered a Doris Day, Rock Hudson movie called "Pillow Talk." Some of you may remember it. Its a story of a womanizer played by Hudson  (an
irony, no?) who shares a party line with Day who is a decorator. Those of you who remember party lines, hands up! Anyway, every time Day tries to use her phone her party line partner is busily wooing one woman or another. She tries everything to get rid of him to no avail. Well, they meet through a mutual friend where he charms her until she finds out he is her party line partner. To ingratiate himself he hires her to re-decorate his apartment. For some reason his apartment always struck me as the way a man should live. Dark woods, dark walls, black leather furniture with chrome accents ... very masculine. Of course it had some other "wooing" features with buttons that turned the couch into a bed, "mood" lighting, soft music and champagne on ice.
Well, I had the dark wood only
it was only on one side of the bath!
     The shocking and I guess funny part is what she did to it. She turned it into a Middle Eastern bordello that was hysterical in just about every way. I vaguely remember the transformation but never forgot the original.
     After I got over the original girlie colors I had chosen for my condo, I picked a palette of two greys and a wine red with all trim pure white. I wanted the contrast of white trim with distinctly contrasting walls. A sense of drama. Only the living room is a light grey, an attempt to make it appear larger. The bathrooms were ignored other than scrubbing very dirty walls white again. I never liked them but there were other more pressing matters, I had literally two months to remodel, paint and move. It was nip and tuck, believe me.
Glidden's Stewart House Brown
did the trick!
     However, I have never given up on the bathrooms and finally hit upon painting them, small as they are, a dark color. I disliked that one side was dark ... floor to ceiling dark wood with a granite sink and boring and solid white on the other sides. It felt like the room was tipping to the side. Definitely not Feng shui! The problem was that I really didn't want to introduce another color into the palette, and didn't want red in another room nor a darker variation of red in say a maroon. Grey's really didn't go with the wood cabinets so ... what to do? 

     One day in Walmart, I noticed they had a paint department. I looked at their Glidden paint chips and found a brown with a heavy charcoal tint, in fact it offered three variations. I brought it home, taped it on the bedroom wall for awhile, then put it in the bathroom on the wood trying to decide which of the three I liked. Finally deciding I went back to Walmart not once but three times and could never get any service in the paint department. This Monday when it was closed for yet another time I walked out, drove across the street to Home Depot and found that they too carried Glidden. I bought a gallon and figured both bathrooms could go dark!
Not the finish nor the color I was expecting!
     I really wanted a flat finish but the lady mixing the paint, startled that I would use such a dark color for a bath, said I needed to use a satin finish. Well ... okay. I really wanted flat but I guessed she knew best. However, when I started to paint the bathroom over shiny white walls I began to question her judgement. The paint went on and looked like a milk chocolate stain that from the bedroom looked like the inside of a Hersey's bar. I plowed on and since this is the desert with about 10% humidity, the wall I started on was already dry. The second coat added the depth and dark color I wanted from the beginning.
     All in all it didn't take all that long to paint and I let it dry as I took a nap. At 71 you never pass up an opportunity!
Almost finished and its exactly
what I wanted!
     When I woke up I noticed that without the lights on, it appeared to be a dark charcoal and since the walls in the bedroom were a dark grey the effect was perfect. I think though, that what spurred me on was the new, much quieter bathroom fan with an LED light and moisture sensor. It was a Delta fixture that made sitting on the pot feeling like an interrogation room! "What are you doing there? Where were you the night of the 15th?" 
     Now painted, it calmed that light down and felt, well, like a very masculine place to sit!
     The other thing I noticed last night as I looked into the bathroom, in the dark of night, as I headed for one of several potty stops was that everything was easier to see. The lighter or white towels, the towel racks, the sink and even the toilet were easy to see in the glow of the LED nightlight. So, there really was a bonus to making the walls dark.
   Oddly, using such dark paint doesn't make it feel so cramped. The shower over the tub with white tile up the three walls and on the ceiling over the tub, the doors for towels and the water heater on the back left are white and I left the area around the lights white so it doesn't feel so dark. The best thing, at least to me is that the room finally feels balanced. There is dark on the left and the right. 
     Would I do it again? You bet. The color is a nice contract to the grey bedroom and goes well with the cabinets and counter that I inherited. Once I decide what to do with the guest bathroom, that has the same style of cabinets and counter but a yucky fiberglass shower, it too will go dark!
     I love color and the use of contrasts for a sense of drama. I notice that what I have been doing and using is now all the rage in the decorator magazines. I guess I may just be a trendsetter!

The completed bath!
Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is There A Place For Great Art in Science Fiction?

Author Cixin Liu
I recently finished Cixin Liu's trilogy of THE THREE BODY PROBLEM.  A sci-fi fan since I was in grade school (my mother had to intervene and write a note to the local librarian stating that I could read any book I wanted figuring I wouldn't get the racy parts anyway) beginning with first Ray Bradbury and on to Issac Asimov's FOUNDATION trilogy. Ray's MARTIAN CHRONICLES was scary to me in the 6th grade and it took several tries to get past the Martian's killing the astronauts.
     I've read many many sic-fi books and seen just about every sic-fi movie since about the age of 6! One of my favorites, seen over 50 times is Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY with a close second being Ridley Scott's BLADERUNNER. Both these movies and many others talk about man and space and what may lay ahead.
Cixin Liu's Trilogy of THE THREE BODY PROBLEM.
     After reading a review of THE THREE BODY PROBLEM, I found it interesting that an unknown Chinese author, to Americans at least, could win every Sci-Fi award both in China and the west. It piqued my interest. While the books are long and Westerners have no familiarity with the names, the trilogy is stunning in its reach and scope. His unease with Communist China is there for all to see. I was amazed that he was allowed to publish.
     What is especially interesting to me is to see the science fiction world, actually the race to space that I stayed up for while growing up only to watch yet another Vanguard Rocket launch go up in flames. I wondered how China, an arch enemy to Americans growing up, would look at this same search. Can you really tell a tale that has any real validity? The answer is a resounding yes.
     We start with the THREE BODY PROBLEM set right during the Cultural Revolution at its very worst. For me, reading or watching any kind of violence is nauseating but I stuck to it as young teenage Red Guards humiliate a famous Chinese physicist for his "wrong thinking" and bourgeoisie attitudes. He is roundly denounced in front of his recently closed university and finally killed in front of his family. 
ISIS and Al Queda were not the only ones
favoring beheading. This was for sale at a
antique store in Hong Kong
I don't think Americans can begin, in anyway, to understand today, the cost this inflicted on China as it tore itself apart. Our Civil War would be an the closest comparison. 
   However, while we lost 700,000 in our conflict, 15% of our population, China lost an estimated 25-30,000,000 souls. This on top of the recent end of The Great Leap Forward where millions more died.
   Finally our heroine grows up. Unbeknownst to the Red Guards, the military had built a secret "Red Coast" base to explore the heavens in a search for extraterrestrial life. The daughter of the murdered scientist becomes a physicist herself and is approached to carry on the work of her murdered father. She can never leave but faced with a bleak China she agrees and in that agreement sets off a chain of events that will doom the world.
     THE DARK FOREST sets the stage of how the earth will defend itself from an invading alien force that will take 400 years to reach our solar system. Liu explores the human psyche and manages to cover just about all the possibilities of how we, as a world, might react. He leads us through a variety of stratagems that finally at the end makes the aliens, who have crippled all scientific development, agree to a kind of draw. A human, the one they feared most, came up with a deterrent, "the black forest defense" that wouldn't save the earth but would destroy both species revealing their locations to others in the universe.
     For me, what is revealed about not only world thought, and conclusions but especially Chinese thought is how different we might see the world. While Americans, especially, sacrifice to save one person, Chinese thought is more for the entire society. The aliens who wrestle with three suns and its devastating effects on their civilization provide an even deeper search for preservation and seize on the thought of colonizing a stable planet in a stable solar system.
   However, in preparation for their arrival, the draconian way they will treat the human population brings to mind the movie SOYLENT GREEN. What can he learn here? The Trisolaris solution is terrifyingly similar. Not only similar but even probable given our history.
   DEATH'S END literally talks about the end of the earth. When a handover of power that controls the "dark forest deterrent" fails, it becomes a rogue starship that takes the initiative to use it and Trisolaris is destroyed. The invading force flees into the universe but the location of earth is revealed. An unknown force launches an attack on us and as the solar system begins to change killing all that live in it. Our heroine and her best friend find that they will be able to flee, one of the few, of billions, that will. 
     Visiting a museum created on Neptune, before it too will be destroyed, they begin to take what treasures of human civilization with them that they can. One scene, their removing canvases from frames to save space and enabling them to take more in a light speed ship, is one man's asking to keep the Mona Lisa. The women opt to take Van Gogh's "Starry Night" because it so well captures the wonders of space in ways man would never have known until he went to space.
     I was especially moved at this part as I had seen Van Gogh's masterpiece at MOMA in New York city and was stunned by the majesty and force of his painting. Oddly, it is ranked as the second most popular and known work of art in the world ... behind the "Mona Lisa." Western culture is clearly known in China as well.
     What I especially liked about Liu's writing was how he used art and culture even in the depth of chaos. Traditions and culture both from the west and east are honored. And his speculations may not be that far off. How can we be the only race of people in the universe? As we are discovering on Mars, it had a viable atmosphere with water and possibly early life. How far it got we have yet to discover. Was there life? Just last night a scientist noted that we could have drank the water. They also have discovered Martian rocks on earth. Did they bring the seeds of life here? 
     Liu writes a thoughtful, artful tale. one that should give humans pause.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Secrets of iPhone Photos Revealed

     I don't know about you, but as our smartphones become better and better cameras, I have decided that I don't want to lug a backpack with one of two DSLR's and a plethora of lenses. I have done enough of that. Call it rebellion at a cranky old age.
     My first realization of this truth was after I spent hours honing my sale item photos to look like what I saw when I photographed them against a black backdrop. My Nikons would try to make that black background 18% grey much to my chagrin. Even when I got that grey back to black, the colors of my birdhouses never had that same pop. I use a lot of color and I quickly discovered a black background made those colors pop. It was only after a friend asked me to snap a photo with my iPhone 5 that I realized, for some reason, the phone saw the colors exactly as I saw them. I never used a digital camera for my store photos again.
The original photo. Dark
and gloomy.
Clicking the image gives you a 
variety of options including editing
the photo, third option from the left.

     While I was on a recent trip to Hong Kong, I was having trouble with the lighting at the Great Buddha monastery complex and while trying to get the colors not quite so gloomy, went to my tried and true method of  hitting the color correction layout at the bottom of the photo, next to the trash can. As I lightened it, shown here with a photo of the lines at the Hong Kong airport, you can see that the windows light has more or less cast those wanting inside as dark shadows.
     So I clicked the third item from the left to see if I could get some definition of the people there. Here is what the screen looked like:

   If you look carefully you will see a white dot surrounded by smaller dots. Touch that and another screen shows up.
The bottom of the photo gives
you several options to correct 
things in your image. The white
dot is for making light or darker
corrections of your image.
     You suddenly have a great deal more power to adjust your image!  Since I have come to rely so much on my phone not only for images for my ETSY store, but as my one and only camera I was very surprised!
Clicking the white dot gives you 
this new menu that allows even
more adjustments.
     The new wrinkle, for me at least, was the three horizontal lines at the right edge, just above the lighter adjustments you can make. I had never paid much attention to them before. I was amazed when I clicked that and a whole new menu appeared, one that I had never seen before! In many ways it was like I suddenly had the power of PhotoShop right there on my phone only it was part of the image adjustments that Apple included on the iPhone 10.3.1 iOS. It was part of the operating system. When I thought of all the Apps I had on my phone to accomplish what I discovered was part of the iOS, was I surprised. Here I had the power of powerful editing on my phone and I never realized it. So, I started playing with it and as you can see in the photos, while they are not ideal the finished photo looks far better than the original.
     There is no right or wrong here. 
Here are the additional options
that are built in to the iOS to
help improve your images before
posting them to Facebook, or 
sending to relatives and friends.
Here, you can see when adjusting
for brilliance the people are
beginning to show up.
     You can play with as many or as few of the options shown here (left)... anything that might help the quality of your photos. In fact,  on a photo like this, I tried each and every one of the options trying to get an acceptable photo. It is not easy and in this case, running the image through PhotoShop after downloading the image from your phone to your computer might be a better option. However, don't discount the power built right into the software of your phone.
     As I have already learned, the images of newer smartphones are good, darn good and when printed to say a photobook, look quite nice. No one, unless you were or asked a professional photographer, would ever know these images were not from a DSLR.
     What amazed me though was a sort of return, in Hong Kong at least, of cameras being used that used ... gulp, gulp, real film! It is easy to buy there and have processed. I wonder. Vinyl records are coming back, is film coming back as well?
     As you can see here in the final image that while not award winning, you can see the people, the gate and even the clouds in the sky quite clearly. It is a definite improvement over the original image.
Here is the adjusted photo all
done in the editing software of
the iPhones 10.3.1 iOS.
     If you have a smartphone, you might want to start poking around like I finally did. I became quite adept at lightening or darkening images but had ignored the three small lines that appeared on the right of every edited image. 
     Of course, you don't have to stop there. You have a variety of color options that mimic styles of photography from the past ... you know like chrome (Kodachrome), Sepia tone, and other kinds of, to me, weird color. There is also a B&W option that will turn any of your photos into amazing black and white images. 
     I hope this helps you and encourages you to, like me, not settle for just the image you snapped but so see if you can improve it. I have been amazed at how ho-hum images can become really something to be proud of to post and show your friends and family.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here 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 ...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A Modest Proposal

Welcome to the friendly skies of United Airlines
 Reading about the Senate airline hearings in the online news and watching it here on the TV news in Hong Kong, which I might add has high interest since United dragged off an Asian customer and they have a huge presence in Asia, it seems that what most passengers deal with daily had to be violently confrontational before Congress would act. The diatribe of one hearing member resonates with all of us. Why did he and others on the panel wait so long! I guess we need to drag a member of Congress off now and then to get some action!
     Biometrics have existed for years regarding airline customer satisfaction and each year is worse than the year before. That didn't stop the Airlines from overbooking, creating ever smaller seating ... I should know.  My first pulmonary embolism was after a 4-hour flight from LAX to New Orleans.  I literally went to the ER 24 hours after landing. The flight didn't create that PE but the cramped seating, my doctors told me, acerbated it.
     Some airlines are obviously better. And to the President of United, SORRY doesn't cut it anymore. It's time for a realistic AND fair airline bill of rights for consumers, one the airlines may not like.
  feel the pain.  To be sure we know who they are, each seat pocket must include a folder with photos and management position of each and every individual that runs the company, INCLUDING the Board of Directors, to make sure they are flying Coach. No exceptions. If caught, $100,000 fines for first offense, escalating greatly if caught again.  NO PRIVATE jets either. Maybe it might even be better to hand out the flyers as we board. As we struggle to get to our seats we can check out those in first or business class. Violations can be posted online, fines assessed later.
CEO Munoz and President Curry of United. No perks for you
   NUMBER 1: No CEO, President or executive from about mid- level management on any airline would be permitted to fly any class but Coach. Let them
     NUMBER 2: Stiff fines for overbooking. Then if they still want your seat Bidding starts at 5 times the ticket price. For most of the flying public, we have a reason to be on a plane. Let's make it worthwhile to wait.  With computers today there is no reason to overbook.
     NUMBER 3: Standby flights. Why charge to change your flight? If you find yourself suddenly available or events conspired against you, airlines usually have several seats of no shows for standby passengers. You have to pay for the flight anyway. Does it matter how or when it was paid?
     NUMBER 4: I waited 8 hours last year at SFO for a flight crew. Same flight every day, same flight number. They didn't know they needed a flight crew? Really?  Our plane and about 300 passengers were there. Fines! BIG fines and reimbursement for food , the waiting, missed connections and how we were to get where we needed to be. I arrived so late, train service from the airport to town had shut down.
     NUMBER 5: no one should board a plane then wait more than an hour to be airborne. NO ONE. If you know there's a delay, let passengers stay in the terminal. Horror stories abound of trapped passengers on flights stalled by snow, rain, storms, whatever. They know we can't take off, keep us off the plane until it can depart.
     This might seem draconian but, CEO's unfortunately don't understand much unless it affects their bottom line. Maybe their salary too should be based on consumer satisfaction. United's Munoz would be paying stock holders back rather than getting millions of dollars for actions, maybe not this serious, we have all known for years. Rudeness is definitely there.
   There might be some more consumers satisfaction training for flight attendants as well. Some are a delight ... others, well, you know them as well. I realize there are unruly passengers. However, how many got started with a rude flight attendant? My recent flight on United was good enough but would it hurt the attendants to smile now and then? The passengers don't like the 15 hour flight either.
     These are suggestions from where I sit. Let's hope Congress interviews a few members of the flying public too. Their ears would surely burn. 
     I'm just sayin'.