Friday, February 24, 2012

Painted Walking Stick

I suppose "Painted" isn't really a correct description - I was thinking of what to call this, and somehow "painted turtles" came to mind - they aren't really painted, are they? So Painted Walking Stick it is.

This Stick was made for a friend who has been very kind to me. I used to do woodwork like this long ago and this is the first real physical piece of work I have done in quite some time. My friend loves to walk in the woods & we have walked together, selecting walking sticks for our journey. She confessed to me that she has a love of proper walking sticks so I have made her one as a gift.

Selecting such a stick is a difficult process. I like to work with weathered and fallen wood which shows the beautiful traces of life & time - barkworm tracks, frost cracking, grain weathering, watermarks, etc. The problem with this is that I will begin working on a piece only to discover some deep flaw - like core rot, deep worm action or fungal stress - that makes the wood unpractical or too fragile to use. Many pieces are tested in the woods for hardiness and brought home only to discover they are unfit for working.

Another consideration in the case of a walking-stick or staff is that the wood must balance so that the stick or staff may be carried horizontally while walking without dragging or dipping. Some pieces have dense knots at places that throw the balance off and are discarded. This particular walking-stick was one of a batch of 9 that I retrieved from the woods (on my next trip, I will return all the unused pieces).

I begin by stripping any leftover bark that has survived the weathering process, then sanding with various grades of paper to bring out the grain and hidden marks; the stories of the wood. I like to use Winsor & Newton drawing inks for their transparency & jewel-like properties; they do not cover or clog the natural markings & grain in the wood. I stain and sand, stain and sand, blending colors with both wet-sanding & hand-rubbing in light washes to bring out & emphasize the markings. In some cases I will add small carvings; runes, symbols, lettering or whatever; for this particular stick (and person) I decided on using only the markings already in the wood. When the coloring is done, I finish with either a matte or glossy urethane sealant to protect the paint & wood from moisture & dirt. This particular stick has a matte finish.

There are three large frost/weathering cracks in this piece of ash which are very beautiful and do not affect the integrity or weight-bearing properties of the stick. I've been fooling with inlaying them with all kinds of wires, metals & so on but have decided the cracks are better as they are - mysterious passages into the interior of the wood - so I have only stained them. I did like the copper bindings on the exterior so I decided to go with them; they add a little class & flash to the stick and make the subtleties of the colors more apparent.

I fooled with adding all sorts of tops to this stick (wood & metal finials, inlaid metalwork, wrapped leather) but did not like any of them; some of them impressed on the hand and wouldn't be comfortable for actual walking-use (this stick is made to be used) so I have settled for finely sanding & rounding the top for smoothness. There's also some interesting core marks to look at.

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I'm very happy with the way this walking-stick turned out, especially in that it is my first such piece in a long time. I hope my friend will be as pleased with it as I am.

You can see larger pictures/closeups of this piece in this Flickr set.

With ink-stained fingers
I trace the paths that Life wrote
through this old gnarled wood

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

We Are Anonymous - new music

Greetings citizens of the internet

It's been quite awhile since I made some new music outside of virtual worlds, but I've been stimulated to do so by Misprint Thursday, whom I worked with before on the music/video "The Roof Is Gone" for Burning Life 2009.

Misprint has asked me to co-create with her on Indaba Music - a collaboration service for musicians. I'm really excited to work with Misprint again; she is definitely a "Go!" person and we work well together.

The musical tracks at Indaba turned out so nice that I decided to do a mix version of them while they await Misprint's vocals. I am a fan of remixed/extended/alternate versions of songs so this works well for me.

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The mix I have created is "We Are Anonymous," a tune for the loose affiliation of netizens making headlines lately. It follows my life-long interest in musique concrète & sound assemblage and includes many old sound-friends of mine, including the sound recorded off my own modem in the late 80s - the thrilling, dulcet tones of the SYN/ACK handshake.

The credits on this mix belong to Anonymous, as does the meme mashup graphic above. Both are freely released with a CC license to Anonymous to use & enjoy as they will. Music just wants to be free. F**k the #RIAA.

You can listen to the track in several places:

- Hosted through the generosity of marx Dudek: We Are Anonymous

- on Soundcloud: We Are Anonymous

- As a soundfile on Vimeo: We Are Anonymous

You can also download the high-quality MP3 from Rapidshare:

* A very few people have reported that "Rapidshare makes me sign up for an account before I can download." The Rapidshare interface is not the most intuitive, so here is a screenshot to help you:

The middle box (which I have outlined in green) is the download link - you should be able to get the song from here without signing up or in or anything. If you can't, please let me know - this has only happened to two people out of many*

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I had great fun doing the mix and am really excited to hear what Misprint does with the tracks at Indaba. We are also planning future musical collaborations using/remixing many of the tracks I did for raves in the 90s.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Author Joe Haldeman reads in Second Life

Famed science fiction author Joe Haldeman, multiple winner of science fiction's highest awards (the Hugo and Nebula) for his work, will be reading from his latest book at the main Library building in Thothica SL at Clemson University's Second Life sims Sunday, February 5 at 3pmSLT.

Earthbound is the third volume in the Starbound series and was released in December 2011. Joe has served twice as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America and is currently an adjunct professor teaching writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Joe Haldeman's Tangled Web Site

Joe's book, The Forever War (1975) is a seminal work in the "New Wave" of science fiction which moved out of the "hardware-bound" genre to explore the inhumanity of war and of bureaucracy and holds the honor of being the first title in the SF Masterworks series. The novel is widely seen as a portrayal of the author's military service during the Vietnam War and has been called an account of his war experiences written through a 'space opera' filter. It is also considered a response to the pro-militarism of Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

Earthbound explores the issues of power - how long would we last if all the power on Earth were turned off? No transportation. No communication. Nothing. How many would die in flights that had planes suddenly stop working in mid air? How many from cars that could not steer or stop anymore on our highways? How many in hospitals no longer able to sustain them? How many with no way of getting food or medicine?

Definitely deep and topical, this is the very best that science/speculative fiction has to offer; dealing with contemporary issues inside a science-fiction wrapper/metaphor backed by real science and research, Earthbound engages on multiple fronts. Haldeman is well-respected for his psychological exploration and approach to his material and makes for engrossing reading and speculation.

Don't miss this chance to hear one of science fiction's greats read from his own work.

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