Saturday, May 31, 2014

"He goes to college / gathers knowledge..."

The other day I walked through a library stack containing some century-old books.  And they smelled nice, "very nize."  There I stood, surrounded by books about early airships, dirigibles, and aeroplanes.  The scent of leather bound covers and the yellowed pages brought back the time Mark and I were in the Egyptian Wing of the British Museum with all those exquisite stone specimens of Ozymandian might.   Thank goodness temptation in the form of a hot scholar did not grace the stacks.  (Yes, I did start humming "Sexy Nerd" to myself....)

And Mark doesn't like the bookshelf in our bedroom.

(On a side note, apparently, old books smell nice because... sometimes they smell nice.  Very nice.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wes Hempel

I discovered paintings by Wes Hempel the other day.  I don't know why I hadn't run across Hempel's work earlier, as he's been painting for about twenty years, and he seems to be exploring a reworking of queer stories and myth in painting.  Maybe I hadn't heard about him before because he seems to be working from a Christian foundation, and not so much from a Neo-Pagan one.

Although there is a Judeo-Christian vibe to the paintings, they speak to my sense of being a gay man navigating life and spiritual issues.   I like the painting, "Stuck," where a strapping boxer is trying to take off his gloves so he can eat a feast spread out before him.   The only problem is that he has to take off his gloves before he can eat.  He almost appears to be trying to gnaw his gloves off at the wrist.

One of his paintings, "Reoccurring Dream" has a shirtless man standing in rising water in a white tiled room.  When I saw it, I had an aha! moment because it could have come out from one of my dreams.  

There was another painting where a strapping shirtless man is posed like a mother.  He's surrounded by small children, toys, and soccer balls, and he looks exhausted.   It looks exactly like a 1800's painting of a mother on display at the Portland Art Museum.  I like Hempel's image of a sexually desirable (but harried looking) father and how the two aspects interact (or don't)

Other paintings similarly feel as if they were telling my stories as a gay man.  I particularly like "Book of Shadows."

Hempel manages to paint beefcake that's more than beefcake.  The nude or semi-nude male body is a powerful and subversive image, and he manages to make his paintings subversive with erotic overtones, while managing to not stray into explicit or gratuitous images.  Well, maybe a little gratuitous.

When I think about images of NeoPagan Deity I usually run across, the gods imagined are oiled up with a strategically placed vines or wolf pelts draped across their loins as they gaze out of the picture with smoldering bedroom eyes.  Or they're body builders, tattoed or artfully dirty, holding up animal horns to their brows and pouting like underwear models.  Or else they're about to perform The Great Rite  with a buxoum, blonde, blue-eyed goddess.  And actually, I don't need to see depictions of two men performing The Great Rite because my spirituality is more than just a queer retelling of Heiros Gamos.   Hempel's paintings have embodied men navigating questions, they are working through something instead of being merely pleasing objects.

And they're easy on the eyes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

In Memorandum: Mary Stewart

I just read that Mary Stewart died.

I must have read "The Crystal Cave," "The Hollow Hills," and "The Last Enchantment" ten times in the 1970's, and would return to them over the 80's.  (Alas, I never much cared for her later work, "The Wicked Day.")  The series was my introduction to pre-Christian Britain, and I wished that I could find a cave with a shrine to "Miridden" near our house  (it would be years before I realized the proper pronunciation of Myrddin was "Mirthin").

What I remember liking most about the stories was how I identified with the boy Merlin, how Merlin's magic was a wonderful mixture of engineering and prophesy, how Merlin understood the psychology of his actions, and the historical underpinnings of England in the middle ages.  I thought she handled the whole Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot triangle well (although at that time I was more interested in the magic and intrigue than I was in mushy French romantic embroidery).

Her stories were the first books in what would eventually become the Arthuriana section of my library.  I'll have to take them down,  dust them off,  and reread them again.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tile Design of the Day

Here you go, it's a design I came up with sometime last year.  I never did convert it into something the Silhouette cutter-plotter could use, partially because I wanted the spiral parts in the middles to line up better than they did.  Oh well, back to the drawing board, I suppose.

The design is chiral, so putting it together into a solid could be tricky.  I'd probably want to start with just a square surrounded by four triangles and then go from there.  That would get me a snub cube pretty easily.  And a cuboctahedron.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Throwback Photo

Wow. I was going through photos and came across this one.  It's from 2007.  All I can say is, "Mark, honey, you were right: cutting my hair back was the smartest thing I did for that week."

I think this really needs some sort of caption contest or possibly to become a story prompt (the gala party, spies or lovers, waiting for the limo...)

To contrast and compare... here's a more recent photo.

Friday, May 16, 2014

MET: Iranian Chess Set

 I'm always interested in making my own chess set, so when I came across this set at the MET, I had to take its picture.
The rooks at the end are supposed to be chariots.  And the piece advancing on the left-hand side is a knight (the triangular thing is supposed to be the horse's nose).

The set is from around 1075 AD, and is "one of the earliest extant examples in the world."
What's funny is how this Bauhaus chess set (which I rendered in Blender a year or so back, based on a Bauhaus set I'd seen) looks similar.

It could be kind of fun to make a set with square and spherical sides.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MET: Incence Burner

Here's something from the MET.  I like this because of the intricate work. It's also hard to photograph unless you use manual focus because all the plexiglas cases at the MET reflect the lights and fool the autofocus.

Oh wait.  Maybe this is an inkwell.

In any case, it's simply covered with minute animals and vines.  I can't imagine making something like this by hand, much less without a 3D printer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother's Day Craft

I decided for Mothers' Day I would make a paper truncated icosahedron out of the Moroccan tile design I'd recreated.  Or, to put it another way, wrap a zig-zag of 90-degree bends around a soccer ball.

I fired up Inkscape and put together a unit based on four stars, thinking that I could rotate them 90 degrees and then stick them together; but this resulted in extra (I think) overlaps, and then I made a gluing mistake and wound up with a pile of junk.

What I didn't realize at the time was that I was catching something which not only was fatiguing, but which made me kind of stupid.  I probably could have made a four-fold unit work, but not without being very careful.  I wasn't too far gone, though, and I figured out that what I really wanted was three-fold symmetry.

Back to Inkscape, and voila!  I went back to the craft shop two days later and proceeded to get very confused.  I managed to glue things together in a less-than-elegant way.  By this time I was clever enough to recognize that I should put the star units aside and work on them when I had a less muddled head.

A few days of mostly sleeping later... I set out the star units.  From my earlier mistakes, I knew that I wanted to have a design where six-pointed stars (flat) would surround five-pointed stars (curved), that no five-pointed star could touch another five-pointed one, that a six-pointed star would be surrounded by a ring of alternating five- and six-pointed stars.  This was more difficult to keep straight than I anticipated, and I was glad that I had a left over unit to help me see the symmetry more easily.

Luckily, over the last year I've glued together enough hexagonal and triangular designs to know that it's easy to make most Platonic and Archimedian solids out of them.  So I knew what I wanted was possible.

The first thing I did was lay out four units and then look at them very carefully to make sure I wasn't doing something stupid.  The trick here is to only glue wholly overlapping stars, and not to glue the slightly overlapping bits, which would force the design to stay flat.  Gluing whole stars flat this way allows for cleaner gluing.

Next I glued parts so that they would over-lap and made five-pointed stars (you can see the white glue dots).  I put just a dot on the cells I wanted to glue; if I put too much glue on, the paper got a little mushy.

I held the overlapping cell spokes together at the X with my index finger and thumb so that the paper would line up.  I pressed down against the table to have flat joins.
When I was done I had half of the truncated icosahedron.  I took a photo of the half on an orange unit to show how the edges of the unit fold up and make three five-pointed stars.
Then I created another half with four remaining units.
The advantage of this was that I could sit one on top of the other and see how the six-pointed stars would overlap and join the two halves.  You can see how three of the six-pointed stars make tabs on one half that interlock between the tabs on the other half.
I came really close to making a gluing mistake here and almost glued a tab to a tab.  Luckily I caught myself before pressing things together.
The two halves joined at one tab.

When gluing a six-pointed star over another one, I would grasp opposite crossing spokes (where they made an X) to align the star, then work around the star to get a good coverage.  I think if I went more slowly, the stars would stay in alignment more than they did; in this case, there was a tendency for the stars to slide around a little.  (I wanted to finish while I still had the design in my muddled head.)

From this point, I worked along the edge of the halves.  Near the end, I used the eraser end of a pencil to poke through the design and pressed the eraser against the paper for a flat join.

I wanted the six-pointed stars to be on the outside of the icosahedron , One difficulty was that the spokes would sometimes catch on each other, especially where they formed little notches.

The next time I do this, I think I'll work a little more slowly and work up from one half instead of gluing two halves together.  Which requires completely recovering from this stupid cold thing.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Ghost Jay

I'm working on a secret project. I have tons of pictures about it that I want to post, but I can't until the secret project is finished and delivered.

 Late last night, Smokey appeared at the back door with a baby blue jay in his mouth. It was probably better than appearing with a half-dead bat. It was still alive, and he probably would have played with it for hours if I hadn't brought him in. In the optimistic hope the baby jay would live the night, I transferred it to a bed of newspaper and covered it with a paper sheet.

And now I wonder if baby jays have ghosts and how a ghost baby jay would conduct a haunting.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Silly Test Verse

Hang thou, oh my verse

This post is just six words long

Now is the winter of our discontent

When every maiden hopes 

You're a good man, Charlie Brown



Saturday, May 03, 2014

Cat and Blue Jay Hijinx

Darn.  I missed the part where the blue jay strafed Smokey and nearly knocked him off the railing.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The Ides of Spring

This year's Ides of Spring Thought:

I am the flower and its opening.  I am the promise in the dance.  My heart is my drum.  I am the dancing path to mystery.