28 November 2006

Rêves Modernistes

Behind our house is a road that goes up the hill (actually the base of Doi Suthep Mountain) toward a Boy Scout camp. About halfway up the hill to the camp is a living fence of enormous (I'm talking eight feet tall) variegated Agave americana. We'd stopped before to take pictures of the of the agaves, and we also like the cottage just up the road from them which is done up to look like a Swiss or German timber frame house with plaster walls. On Monday we took an afternoon walk up to the falls at the Boyscout camp (one of the Boy Scouts let us climb the tower, which gave us a great view of the university behind our house), and on our way back down, while taking pictures of the goofy Swiss chalet, a gate that looked like it was made of old window sashes caught our eye. We stopped to take a picture, but never even got the camera out when we noticed the house behind it.

(I did go back for a picture of the gate).

It is a tiny little modernist cabin, with a half-basement and a huge (nearly a third of the floor space on the main floor) cantilevered balcony. The kitchen is in the half-basement, with a bank of clerestory windows on the east side which tilts inward above the counter. The upper floor is a large open space with sliding doors on both sides, one opens onto the balcony, the other into the open air above the east wall of the kitchen. It's the only access to the main floor from the outside, and it's about a meter above ground, so there must be some missing stairs. The west side, with the balcony, overlooks the ravine carved by the creek that comes down out of the hills from the Boy Scout camp.

The roof is done in blue glazed ceramic tiles. Unfortunately about a quarter of them appear to be in the yard. There doesn't seem to be any water damage inside, however--at least as far as we could see.

Covering nearly half of the floor space up top is a loft, ideally situated for a bedroom. It has a regular staircase leading up to it, so no falling off a ladder late at night when you're making a dash for the bathroom. Whoever designed the staircase, by the way, was brilliant. All its little nooks and crannies have been reclaimed for storage, with built-in shelves and little cupboards.

Suffice it to say, every night since we saw it we've been falling asleep to modernist reveries. I even went and put a note on the gate begging to rent it.

24 November 2006

A Gar-Man

No, the title of this post does not refer to the man-fishy form of the image at top. Yesterday morning, while Jami was at work, a friend and I went to a lecture given by the German artist Reinhold Engberding, UNESCO artist in residence at Chiang Mai University. We'd met him during the CDSC design workshop, and happened to run into him again at the opening for the prototype exhibit last Friday, when he invited us to attend his lecture. He presented his own work, and also that of his two collaborators Holger B. Nidden-Grien and Bartole St. Strip. For those of you whose German might be a little rusty both names are anagrams (the title of this post is an anagram of "anagram" in fact--hope I'm not blowin' yer mind, man), Holger B. Nidden-Grien being an anagram of Reinhold's own name, and Bartole St. Strip being an anagram of Selbstportrait (self-portrait). His work could be characterized by the anagram, and other almost math-like or geometric operations performed on different objects or materials.

The first works he showed us were about the creation of a fictional (and incestuous) ancestry for Nidden-Grien, including photos of his parents (old photopraphs of civil servants found in second hand shops) and a pleasantly abstract family tree made of circles, with Nidden-Grien in the center. The next sculptures were large pieces crocheted from black cotton, like the ones at top, and filled with either inflated condoms (which are stronger than balloons, he says) or ping-pong balls. The shapes of the crocheted works are often dictated by the number of balls of yarn used, with either a hole, or a point, or some other change in the shape occurring where a ball ends. When I asked how long the crochet pieces take, he said about one ball a day. Many of the pieces contain 50 balls or more, so well over a month each. It's the perfect medium for a TV junkie, he says.

Other bodies of work, not shown here due to their absence on the web (these images, by the way, are all scrounged from various German language websites which you can reach by clicking on the photos), are three groups of self-portraits, collaborations with Bartole St. Strip. The first involved taking pictures of different parts his own head and reassembling them in a grid, but with the parts rearranged, or taking pictures of parts from slightly different angles so that the reassembled image comes out distorted. A second group combined his own childhood photos with pictures of children taken in a sanitarium. The third was a group done in collaboration with a village in which the work was exhibited. Villagers all roughly his age loaned childhood photos over which he placed (in Photoshop) a semitransparent layer of solid color, and then drew through that layer of color (using the erase tool) an image of himself at that age, revealing parts of the appropriated photograph beneath.

This large and rather forlorn, felt teddy bear is related thematically to the sanitarium self-portraits, and I believe done around the same time.

Reinhold's most recent work, done during a residency in Bern, Switzerland, uses second-hand jackets. He finds two of roughly the same size and turns one sleeve inside out on each jacket, then inserts the inside out sleeves into the right side out sleeves, and sews the jackets together. The effect is rather like that of a gossip's seat (pictured below) made of jackets. Two men standing back to back can wear half a jacket each.

Another piece, related to the jackets, is this group of vests, turned inside out and sewn together sleeve to sleeve. During his stay in Switzerland, Reinhold was able to visit the widow of one of his old professors. When she learned he was working with jackets she offered him several of her husband's old ones. Not sure he wanted to use material that was so personal, and so emotionally charged, he refused them at first. But upon her insistence he decided to use just the vests, and created what I think is a tactful and appropriate memorial.

22 November 2006

I Caught You a Delicious Cat


18 November 2006

I'm Ready When You're Ready When I'm Ready: A Comedy in One Act

X- I'm ready when you're ready.

N- Umm. . .
Okay, ready.

X- . . . Just a second.

15 November 2006


I finally fixed our scanner. The AC adapter blew a fuse when I plugged it into a broken transformer. One of the great things about Thailand, it's cheaper to fix something than to buy a new one. 300 baht, about $8.50. Not bad.

So in celebration I've scanned all the silverpoint drawings I've done in the past few weeks.

I still need to go to the dentist.

Second version of this drawing.

I really liked this photo of an albino deer in Germany.

Right now the teak trees are dropping their leaves.

There is a restaurant near our house called Boat. They have a nifty wooden bear head up on one of the walls.

Just a log

This is from an old drawing in one of my sketchbooks. While I drew it I was listening to an episode of This American Life about Iraqi deaths since the war.

Another log. I kinda like logs. SOLD to mysterious benefactors in Zembla.

The original sketch for this one had text reading "demijohn full of guzzaleen," a reference to Tatyana Tolstaya's The Slynx. These are all for sale, by the way. If anyone's interested.

14 November 2006


Definite article, Spanish:
Lone Oe felt.
Feel not, Leo.
Elton of Eel.
Let Ono feel.
Leo Elf Note.
El feo Nolte.

Indefinite article, Spanish:
Fun one, Leto.
Tunnel, o' foe.
Note, Leo, fun.
No, fuñetelo.

Definite article, Italian.
Life, one lot.
Fill one toe
(previously undiscovered sculpture by Joseph Beuys), i.e. felt loon.
Life to Noel.

Thai (thorasab):
to a brash
trash boa
boat rash
boar's hat
abash rot
or has tab
soar bath
rosa bath
or has bat
or as baht

One he-pelt.
(My entire musical production), the lone EP.
Ole pet hen.
Help net Oe.

Definite article, English:
Then heel, Poet.

12 November 2006

Please Do It Differently

I just finished another drawing on saa paper. This one features our new nofolete from a few posts back. You know, the anti-smoking one. This particular drawing was a long time in the making, with revision after revision. I finished it while listening to this particular podcast about the current state of our educational system. Mom, you might like to listen to it.

DISCLAIMER: The crutches, I insist, are animist, and have nothing to do with Dr. Seuss or Salvador Dalí. OK, maybe Dr. Seuss.

09 November 2006

07 November 2006

Vote Here/Aquí

Picture of me giving a presentation of my work
three days after the 2004 election.

Back in Texas I am always amused by the serendipitous correspondence of the third person singular imperative form of the verb "votar" in Spanish to the imperative of the second person singular of the verb "vote" in English. This makes it possible for frugal election officials to write, "Vote Here," and, "Vote Aquí" with only three words. Think of how much ink and paper they must save.

As I write this it is just after 11 AM UCT/GMT+7, 8 November, so 11 PM EST, 7 November. Polls should be closed or closing across the US, and those of you who exercised your republican virtue today should be able to sit back with a cup of hot chocolate, or slip into bed feeling proud of yourselves. At least until the election results begin to roll in. For the past two presidential elections I have succesfully managed to disenfranchise myself, or been disenfranchised by a third party. The last one I voted in was in 1996, while I was in the MTC in Provo. In 2000 I was in Spain, and didn't bother trying to obtain an absentee ballot. I wasn't sure who I'd have voted for anyhow. I didn't like the idea of a legacy presidency --Clinton passing the stick to Gore, like Regan to Bush I. Nor did I like the idea of a dynasty--Bush I, Bush II, Bush III (just waiting for Jed). That year I probably would have voted for Nader, safe for a Texan with misgivings since Dubya carried the state anyhow, and our electoral college system cares naught for the individual vote.

In 2004 J and I were in Italy, and despite the fact that we had requested our absentee ballots as early as was legal, they still arrived, as though to mock us, the day after the elections. We were living, at the time, with people from all over Texas as well as some from California. Those registered in Houston all received their ballots, the Aggies likewise. It seems like a little too much of a coincidence, however, that those of us registered in Travis County, the county most effected by republican gerrymandering (please explain to me how south Austin and the Rio Grande Valley are a community of common concern), received our ballots the day after. But it's OK really. Our votes probably would have been thrown out with the half million other absentee ballots that were discarded in 2004 (that is as though one in every 240 people were arbitrarily turned away from the polls).

My cynical and misanthropic strategy when it comes to voting is to vote for any and every third party canditate, be they Green, Libertarian, or Communist (I wouldn't vote for a fascist, though, were one to ever appear in any official guise). I then divide my remaining votes between Dems and Reps, with attention paid to whomever happens to be in power and where at the time. The idea being that I dislike both parties enough (though one more than the other at the moment) to try to prevent either from having a majority. I'd rather they work toward compromise, and engage in actual discourse, than be able to run any bill they like straight through. Though, lacking derridian play, I'll take demanian aporia, in the hopes that no harm will be done, if no good either.

I'm proud of those of you that voted, and especially of my SE Texas family for volunteering at the polls. Under a system run mostly by money, voting is one of the most idealistic and romantic things we can do. Hooray for ideals and romance.

CDSC Update

Since I originally posted about the Craft and Design Service Center workshop J and I participated in, various bits of it have begun to appear on the web, including this picture of me looking like a total spaz. I'm actually sanding that nearly invisible black object in my lap.

I'll continue to update this post as more things appear:
Photos on the CMU website.
Video on the CMU website. This will only play on Windows machines, so I still haven't seen it.
Post on Dave Besseling's blog about the workshop.

22 November 2006
On 17 November the CDSC had an opening for the Lanna Design Style Prototype Exhibit. It will be open from the 17th to the 26th at JJ Market.
My sketchbook containing notes from Vithi's lectures and sketches related to the workshop has been uploaded to the Internet Archive.

10 December 2006
These are our pages from the catalog:

05 November 2006

Loy Krathong

November full moon shine.
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong.
And the water high in the river and the klongs (canals) .
Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong.
Loy Krathong is here and everybody's full of cheer.
We gather at the klongs
Each one with his krathong.
As we push away we pray
We can see a better day.

Jami has been singing this with her preschoolers the past week in anticipation of tonight's full moon, and the celebration of the Thai Festival of Lights. Now that Loy Krathong is upon us her one complaint is that they've ruined a perfectly good holiday with fireworks. It is a pretty good holiday. Lots of fire works, a sky full of lantern balloons, and the rivers and canals full of krathongs, which are little floating boats made from flowers and banana leaves pinned to a section of banana trunk. "Loy" means "to float," so the name of the holiday is actually "Floating Little Boats."

We bought this little krathong around the corner from our house, and then took it to the Mae Ping River on the other side of town.

All along the river banks a bamboo platform had been set up to allow people to get down to the water to release their krathongs. About twenty seconds after we'd released ours a little boy with a stick started to pull it out of the water, so I gave him a stern look, and he pushed it out further into the river instead.

A bamboo bumper helps keep the little boats from getting caught in the rocks. When you release the krathong you make a wish or say a little prayer. If the krathong disappears from view before its candle goes out then your wish will come true. I suppose if our krathong thief had succeeded he would have stolen our wish as well.

People were lined up all along Nakorn Ping Bridge throwing fireworks into the air or the river. Some of the smaller firecrackers would explode three times underwater, and the larger ones would keep bubbling up for several seconds, and you could feel the pulse from the explosion through the ground on the bank.

We're afraid our little marigold boat might have ended up in this log jam. Ironically Loy Krathong is celebrated to ask Mother River for forgiveness for polluting her waters. Maybe we should just restore wetlands instead.

Update as of 7 November 2006:

Our friend Eh has also posted on Loy Krathong. She was actually around for the parade (which happened Sunday night, the calender we had was not the most informative) and had an excellent view, perched on top of a fire truck (reminds me of A and A and I scaling fences years ago to get a good view of the Manhattan Halloween parade). In addition to shots of the parade she also found these nifty krathongs made of bread.

Another Nofolete

On our trip to Maesai this Friday I found yet another winged elephant (the Burmese side of the border is shown above, from inside Burma, looking towards Thailand, 20˚26'45.04" N, 99˚52'47.02" E looking almost due south if you're that curious). This one is a nice little bronze pipe with the wings embracing the bowl. If you look closely at it, however, the stalk of the pipe extends from below the tail (poor guy has what must be the worst case of hemorrhoids in the world), so in order to use it you are actually sucking on the elephant's anus. Is this handsome pipe actually trying to deliver a subtle anti-smoking message?