27 September 2006


I have the first of hopefully many public versions of my sketchbooks available as a pdf on the Internet Archive. Hip hip hooray! for an organization that sprinkles "petaboxes" around the world. The book is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license. So feel free to download it, tear it apart, draw on it, burn it, poke it full of holes, send it to your friends and family, and if you feel like making money off of it--well, just talk to me and we can work something out.

By the way, if anyone needs a decent/free FTP client for their Mac, Cyberduck is great. It was the only way I could get that sketchbook uploaded.

Please Don't Yawn While Reading Nabokov

The past several days I’ve been whittling little things out of mimosa branches from the vacant lot (somewhat vacant, there is actually a half-finished house there occupied by a mulberry-wine-brewing-bootlegger who happens to be in tight with the king) next door. The mimosa is soft, and has some pretty spalting, but unfortunately has a spongy pith in the center. This morning we took an epic journey from an organic farmers market, to a fancy super market, to a woodworking shop (specializing in doors and sashes), to a plywood warehouse, to a lumberyard, the last three places in search of some decent wood for carving. I’m not sure what we found exactly. It’s a blonde color, very dense, and the grain is nice and even. It cuts well, too--that being the most important part. Now I need a decent vice. The process of setting up a usable studio and finding material has been coming as a series of painful drips. Sometimes, just finding out if we can buy some wood requires a thirty-minute wait for someone who speaks English, since my Thai is limited to the phrases: I’m sorry, thank you, no thanks, hello/good-bye (same word), where, how much, and I don’t understand. Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

On Sunday we took a walk in the evening and discovered, quite by accident, a textile workshop called Studio Naenna. They specialize in hand woven silk and cotton, and make a lot of their own vegetable dyes. We came back first thing Monday morning, and they showed some of the textiles they make, the looms they use, and the plants for dyeing. It reminded us a great deal of Tierra Wools in New Mexico. While we were there the staff told us to keep on walking up the road to a Boy Scout camp. It was unoccupied, to our relief, as it is home to a beautiful waterfall, which cascades down a basalt hilside. I poked around and looked at plants (I made off with an Alpinia purpurata and a tiny little Elettaria) while J soaked her feet.

That same day was the Monday market in our neighborhood. We bought pants for me, a shirt for J (I have a feeling she will write very soon about clothes), and reading glasses. For me. I’d been getting head aches while reading. So I got some nifty 1.00 fold-ups. I look like a regular Asian scholar now.

Oh, and just to remind you that we are still under martial law, I finally got a picture of a tank. The tanks are quite popular. This one was decked out with roses, and I even read that a couple here in Chiang Mai took their wedding pictures in front of a tank with soldiers.

The roses are hard to see, but there are two
sticking out of the top of the front panel.

Alpinia purpurata, or Red Ginger,
and 50 cents worth of organic fruit.

Traditional Thai loom at Studio Naenna.

Cascades at the Boy Scout camp.

Not even thirty, my eyes failing, and all
I can do is yawn while reading Nabokov.

23 September 2006

¿Qué es exactamente el valiente nofolete?

Early in 2001 two friends and I made a journey through central Spain to the tiny town of Infante somewhere near Ciudad Real in Castilla-La Mancha. We were traveling in the van of my friend Capi, transporting a sculpture, my “Soup Box” (actually entitled un lugar donde comer sopa) to the family home of my friend Iñaki. On our way there we stopped somewhere to use a phone, and our search for one lead to some wordplay with the word “teléfono.” I turned it “telenofo” and Iñaki into “nofolete.” It was such a nice sounding word that it stuck, and began to have a life of its own. A nofolete is a telephone turned inside out and upside down, cut into morphemes, and shuffled--a metaphor of sorts for the web, growing from the guts of the telecommunications industry, trading text for voice for faster text for cheaper voice for image for touch for being in an upwardly spiraling dialectic. Maybe.

It is also, as I said, a delightful sounding word, and I very soon began to imagine what kind of animal it would be--something like an elephant, but also a rooster. The nofolete began to make appearances in my sketchbooks in that guise, an elephant-headed rooster, a gryphon with a trunk. You can imagine how pleased I was to find a nofolete just a few days ago at Wat Jedyod, right here in Chiang Mai, beautiful and golden. So, my life swallows its own tail, and as my brother boards a plane for Barcelona, I find Spain in Thailand.

21 September 2006

Jami: or What Kind of Girl Would Marry Dane?

To answer a few questions:

Jami Vaughn was born in the early eighties. Well, just barely the early ones, almost the mids. We tease each other about our six years difference in age all the time, or more often I tease, “Were you even born then?” or “Oh. Well, you weren’t even in middle school.” She was born in southeast Texas, so southeast that the hospital she was born in will definitely be under water in 50 years. When she was a girl she had a horse named Ricardo. He was Peruvian. We met at the LDS student institute in Austin, TX where we were both attending UT, working on BFAs. We met August 28th 2001. Jami doesn’t recall it, but says that we were reintroduced so many times afterwards (“Oh, you study art. Have you met Dane?”), that it hardly matters. We began dating the next year, once her high school boyfriend went on a mission, and quit coming on our dates. We got married in 2004. I tagged along when she studied in Italy that fall. She finished up at UT with a BFA in studio art and a BA in art history. And now we’re here, where she will teach English.

Right now she is brewing us delicious mugs of “cereal replaces coffee.” Yes, that's really what it's called. We got it at a vegetarian buffet hoping it would be like Postum. It smells like airports.

Jami keeps making faces, this is the best
picture I took of her all day.

Here she is looking lovely in Piazza della
Signoria in Florence in 2004.

20 September 2006

Coup d'etat

Yesterday there was a military coup d’etat against the current government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. I’ve been meaning to start this blog for a few days now, and today is certainly the most news worthy, the most auspicious. As newcomers and foreigners we have yet to get a real handle on the Thai people’s complaints against Thaksin (pronounced “toxin”), but we suspect that he and his cronies in parliament are responsible for the recent stupidity over visa status (now you not only have to leave the country every thirty days, but after you've done that twice, the next time you have to leave for ninety days--don’t worry, we’ll get it worked out). For the most part the coup doesn’t affect us, or most people, for that matter. As we all sat in the studio this morning, JR said it felt a bit like Christmas. I agreed. Nationwide strikes in the Dominican Republic felt the same way, like an unexpected day, or week, off.

Today is also the day that JR left for Barcelona. J and I were sad to see him go, he was our own personal tour guide, and a nifty fella for brother and brother in-law. But he should be back soon, we hope, we hope. I dropped him off at the Chiang Mai airport, and despite the coup he left with out a hitch. Then I drove around in search of tanks (AS saw some just out of town), stopping at Wat Jedyod (“temple with seven spires”) along the way. No tanks, but Jedyod was nice. It still has a lot of the original plaster on the Bothi Throne (representing the place where the Buddha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree), and white painted sticks, like crutches, leaning against the Bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa, a type of fig).

To catch up on us, J is plugging away on TOEFL certification; we’ve been reading lots of Murakami, just finished Kafka on the Shore; and I’ve been drawing. Monday we got our first Thai massage, and visited Wat Umong, which has nifty caves. We eat almost every day at a place we call the Kitchen. It has no sign, no walls, and a meal is about 50 cents. Our branch at church meets near the center of town, and the missionaries think it’s one of the best in the country. Last week we got settled in, rearranged our room, cleaned the kitchen (unfortunately the drain still backs up, and gets sewer water on part of the floor), and began coveting a kitten (from the Kitchen). I managed to learn how to operate a scooter and drive left handed last week (if only I could learn Thai that fast). JR actually complimented my driving this morning. The Thai driving style is much livelier, much more intuitive than in the states. I like it, though we did see a pretty bad accident involving two motorbikes on Saturday. A farang (foreigner) going way too fast hit a Thai kid who was pulling out in to traffic. The Thai was knocked off his bike while the farang slid about 20 feet.

It’s raining right now. The rainy season is slowly ending, and the weather has been cooler. We are learning our numbers

Recent drawing: I hope to make sculptures of these.

Chedi at Wat Jedyod, the larger one contains the ashes
of Phya Tilokaraja King of Lanna.

Plaster on the Bothi Throne.

Crutches on the Bodhi tree.

The Bothi Throne.