Thursday, January 27, 2011

Zen ~ Joy

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves."      Buddha

~ taken last fall on an orchard walk with Bear ~

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Coen Bros

For the next three days my Studio in Video students will be watching O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a brilliantly entertaining movie by Ethan and Joel. First of all, Fargo is one of my very favorite movies, but being rated R I can't show it in school. O Brother is rated PG-13 so I can be fairly certain that no mum will call to complain that their little darling has been corrupted by my choice in movies.

And apparently, there's a bit of Homer's influence in the movie.

The opening credits quote from a translation of The Odyssey by Homer. The similarities between O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Odyssey are numerous, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. While the Coens did not originally intend to base the film on Homer's epic, Joel Coen has been quoted as saying:
“ It just sort of occurred to us after we’d gotten into it somewhat that it was a story about someone going home, and sort of episodic in nature, and it kind of evolved into that. It’s very loosely and very sort of unseriously based on The Odyssey. ”

While the overall plot is only vaguely similar to that of the Odyssey, there are certain "episodes" that closely mirror the poem's classical influence.

Great music, George Clooney, and a fun plot. What a great way to start my day!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter Inspiration

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost


Winter Morning Poem
Winter is the king of showmen
Turning tree stumps into snow men
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes
Smooth and clean and frosty white
The world looks good enough to bite
That's the season to be young
Catching snowflakes on your tongue
Snow is snowy when it's snowing
I'm sorry it's slushy when it's going

Ogden Nash


I made myself a snowball
As perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first it wet the bed.

 Shel Silverstein

~ the view off Mom's deck ~ Adirondack Mountains ~ Christmas 2010 ~

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Zen ~ Integrity

"The person of superior integrity
does not insist upon his integrity.
For this reason, he has integrity.
The person of inferior integrity
never loses sight of his integrity.
For this reason, he lacks integrity."

Hmmmm ... Bill O'Reilly, anyone? Matt Lauer, perhaps? My ex-husband for sure!

~ Bill ~
~ Matt ~
~ Not my ex, but it SO could be ~

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Woof ~ Royalty

Finally my mom has decided to include me in her blog. It's certainly about time.

Allow me to introduce myself. I was born Ms. Sophie Johnson, and I began life with my first mom (I think humans called her "Ann") in Tennessee. I was the cutest little bundle of white fluff with a little black nose and cute black shiny eyes. Along with mom there were two wonderful young men that lived with us in a big house where I was the one and only non-human. My life was wonderful, and I was treated as a princess should be treated.

Then my mom got sick. She was in bed for many weeks, and I stuck by her side throughout that whole time. She needed me to help her get through some very dark days, and I did a great job of comforting her. Eventually she got better, and one day we got into the car and drove for hours and hours and hours, and ended up in Western New York. It was spring so I had no idea what I was in for when winter came! Mom and I lived in a little cottage by the lake, and my boy Mike lived with us, too. We were very happy for a couple of months.

Until Mom got sick again. Very sick. So sick that one day she went into the hospital and I never saw her again. I worried so much about her ... I knew that she was sick and hurting and that she needed me but I wasn't allowed to go to her ... I was a nervous wreck. I was staying at my Aunt Jean's where only humans live, and then they sent me to Uncle Jim and Aunt Lynn's house where they are used to having animals around. I was terrified because I had never been without my mom, and I wasn't sure I wanted to even live anymore. It was especially scary because at this new place there was a huge dog and a cat living in the house. I certainly did not feel very special or pampered sharing a water bowl with another dog and - ugh - a cat.

So basically my original life crumbled and fell apart. My mom went to heaven and left me. Alone. Everything familiar to me disappeared, and I lived in a foreign world. My choice was to wallow in self-pity forever, or to move forward and learn to be happy in this new life. I chose the latter.

Let me tell you about my new family: First there is my dad (who is really my uncle). He loves me sooo much! He treats me properly, with lots of kisses and baby talk and extra attention. He takes a nap in his recliner most days, and I love napping with him. Then there is "Mom" (who is really my aunt). She loves me, too, although she expects me to behave more like a dog and less like a princess. However, she is the lady who arranges for my grooming and gives me baths and clips my nails and makes me "pretty". She buys me warm coats and pretty collars, and I love snuggling with her whenever she sits down on the couch and when she's in bed. Sleeping between Mom and Dad is the best! I am the only dog that gets to sleep on the bed at night so I feel special and its only right. Then there's my boy (who is really my cousin). He gets a little annoyed with my special bark which frankly I am quite proud of, but he also thinks I'm pretty cute when I prance around the house, and especially when I do mad-dog around the dining room table. During the day I like to sleep in his room on the clothes that are almost always crumpled on the floor. My new human family is not so bad after all. I sometimes feel less like royalty here, but all in all I feel very loved, and lucky that they took me in after losing my first mom.

I do get frustrated sometimes with the other non humans in my life but usually they are not so bad. My "big sister" Mari is pretty decent about everything. Sometimes when I am eating and she sniffs me I have to snap at her and remind her "hey - 'Princess eating here - back off!" but then she just wags her tail and goes about her business. I am a little worried about her because she is an old lady, so when she coughs or has one of her weird sneezing fits I growl and bark and try to help. I love her despite the fact that she is not royalty at all. My kitty sister went to heaven a few years ago - she was old, too! She was a little scary to me, so if she approached me I try to nonchalantly walk away as if I just didn't care, but deep down I knew she was in charge of the entire house, both human and non. Cats are like that, you know.

Sigh. Then there was that beast Bear. He actually destroyed my beloved toy "Elly". Mom tried to fix Elly and re-stuffed her many times, but eventually we had to give up. Grrr. Bear could play really rough and be pretty rotten. He struck fear in my heart, but you know ... I really miss him. I have to admit he stayed back when I was eating - he really respected the food bowl hierarchy. He also made my mom happy because she would strap him on her bike and drag him along, and take him out to the smelly goat shed everyday. He was a good dog companion, and that got me off the hook. Lord knows I have no interest in acting like a dog. And when he left ... I thought my mom and dad would never recover from their broken hearts. I haven't left them, though, and I am here to take care of them, and I am able to comfort them, and so they are going to be okay.

Yes, my life is different than before, and sometimes I don't feel like I am being treated like the princess I am. I know I'll see my first mom in heaven someday so that makes me feel better. I am happy. I am loved. And I love my people.
~ in my beautiful Christmas collar ...

... on Mom's lap ~

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Milton Glaser

Glaser's "Light and Likeness" poster has been hanging in my art room since I evolved from itinerant teacher circa 1992. It was given to me by a colleague when I worked at the Falk School in Buffalo and the poster has since traveled with me to my various places of employment, including here in Room 214. Oddly enough, it was only recently that I learned anything about the artist.

This poster announcing a lecture on the subject of “Light and Likeness” by the designer Milton Glaser was produced for the Philadelphia Chapter of The American Institute of Graphic Arts. Medium: Offset Lithography. Photographer: Seymour Mednick. Size: 18 x 24.

From Wikipedia:

Milton Glaser (born June 26, 1929, in New York City) is a graphic designer, best known for the I Love New York logo, his "Bob Dylan" poster, the "DC bullet" logo used by DC Comics from 1977 to 2005, and the "Brooklyn Brewery" logo. He also founded New York Magazine with Clay Felker in 1968.

Glaser was educated at Manhattan's High School of Music & Art (now Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts), graduated from the Cooper Union in 1951 and later, via a Fulbright Scholarship, the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna under Giorgio Morandi.

In 1954 Glaser was a founder, and president, of Push Pin Studios formed with several of his Cooper Union classmates. Glaser's work is characterized by directness, simplicity and originality. He uses any medium or style to solve the problem at hand. His style ranges wildly from primitive to avant garde in his countless book jackets, album covers, advertisements and direct mail pieces and magazine illustrations. He started his own studio, Milton Glaser, Inc, in 1974. This led to his involvement with an increasingly wide diversity of projects, ranging from the design of New York Magazine, of which he was a co-founder, to a 600-foot mural for the Federal Office Building in Indianapolis.

Throughout his career he has had a major impact on contemporary illustration and design. His work has won numerous awards from Art Directors Clubs, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the Society of Illustrators and the Type Directors Club. In 1979 he was made Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and his work is included in the Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Israel Museum and the Musee de l'affiche in Paris. Glaser has taught at both the School of Visual Arts and at Cooper Union in New York City. He is a member of Alliance Graphique International (AGI).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Maria Loboda = Escargot

Contemporary artist Maria Loboda's work caught my eye this morning. I investigated her work and bio, and decided I need to remember her name. That does not always happen for me with contemporary artists -- some of the - um - "art" that is being produced and promoted today does not ring true with me in any way. I do try, I do wrestle, I do desire to be more sophisticated when making these decisions but I continue to struggle.

I suppose its a little like developing grown-up tastes for foods like escargot and scotch ... you have to keep trying to realize the richness that is out there to enjoy.

From Contemporary Art Daily ...

Versatile cultural references to literature, music and art alongside mysticism and folklore can be discovered in Maria Loboda’s work. A basic interest for the transformation of language and knowledge in specific objects as well as room ensembles crosses her work. In these themes Loboda refrains from focus on a certain era and instead investigates as a researcher throughout several fields. Loboda engages with the condensation of cultural history in artefacts and how they may materialise in our time.

In the first solo exhibition of Maria Loboda in the Krome Gallery, distinct powers and energies take effect. The examination of the sculptural power of language and writing system, the energy of forms, objects and materials, as well as their states and transformation, crosses the exhibition as fundamental topics. The title “In the autumn the electricity withdraws into the earth again and rests” is extracted from the Chinese I-Ching, the “Book of Changes”. In it, a central philosophy is the fundamental attempt to understand the world as a whole, which can adopt a variability of forms and states. The exhibition assembles new and recently developed work requiring metaphysical comprehension. As in previous works, Maria Loboda has followed the vital spirit of objects, their unconscious symbolism and poetic power. ...

Maria Loboda was born in 1979 in Krakow and currently lives and works in Berlin and London. She attended the Mark Leckey class for Interdiciplinary Fine Art Studies at Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Städelschule.

Another great resource on Maria Loboda can be found here.

Enjoy your grown-up art!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Twilight Watch

Mari is deteriorating rapidly. Her little spark is gone.

My heart is so freakin' heavy -- I just want to lay down next to her and stay there all day, but instead I am here at work, trying to concentrate. I can't concentrate on anything.

I feel desperate to find the vet that she has seen for years, Dr. Grant Hobika. He left the office where we take her and I'm not sure if he is still practicing, but I pray that he is. The last time we saw him was last year, and he was thinking about leaving that office because the owners wouldn't sell it to him. He discussed opening up his own place in a nearby town, but Google has given me nothing but the old place. Dr. Hobika is kind, reasonable and understanding, and it is clear he loves the pets he sees. He has known Mari for most of her life, and treated her for all sorts of active-lab-related issues. I want him to take care of her now, nobody else, just him. I am going to call and see what the office can tell me.

Focusing on details is a coping mechanism.

But the fact remains that Mari is preparing us for her departure.

Foolishly I thought I was ready - until now. Maybe it's partly related to having lost Bear just a few short weeks ago. My emotions are raw, and my heart is still broken from that devastating day. Conversely, Mari has lived a very full life, and has even outlived the average lab. Her energy, her spirit, her joy ... they have been her gift to us for nearly 14 years, and we have been blessed. But now I am spooked and panicky, and feeling unprepared and insecure.

They say you just know when it's time, and your dog will let you know. I am searching for the signal from Mari, but she just looks at me with her soulful eyes and a little wag of her tail. Basically her digestive issues are intermittent but not going away, and all she does is sleep and ask for the door (making it most of the time). 'No longer interested in her new squeaker turtle that she got for Christmas and not really eating much, but rather just curled up in a little circle on her bed and getting skinnier by the day.

~ the setting sun on Lake Ontario - Mari's favorite swimming hole ~

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gregory Crewdson

Mr. Crewdson creates amazing work. 'Haunting, even. I show a video to my students every year in which he narrates and walks the viewer through the process of creation.

From an NPR article about Gregory Crewdson:

January 16, 2006
Gregory Crewdson doesn't so much take pictures as makethem. Some critics say the photographer and artist is reinventing the genre by using film techniques to stage pictures.
Crewdson's carefully constructed tableaus generate more questions than answers:
• A man sits in a garage, the door gaping open to a dark and rainy sky. A car is parked haphazardly in the rain, its headlights focused on the man. He is surrounded by lawn turf, rolls and mounds of it. Half-buried in the turf is a rake. His face is weary, a little sad, maybe even disconsolate.
• A woman sits in the passenger seat of a car stopped in the middle of a deserted intersection. The driver's door is open. Mist, and the half-light of the sky, suggest that it's early in the morning. Above the car, the traffic light is yellow.
It's the moment between then and now that interests Crewdson — he likes that photography limits him to choose only one moment to convey a narrative arc. Each photo is polished and technically perfect, but still somewhat undone. The viewer must imagine what comes before and after.
Crewsdon says his pictures must first be beautiful, but that beauty is not enough. He strives to convey an underlying edge of anxiety, of isolation, of fear.
The 40-year old photographer works on sound stages, with set designers and lighting artists culled from the ranks of independent film crews. His outdoor photos are staged in ordinary-looking places, often rural Massachusetts towns like Pittsfield and Lee. He's been working in these small New England towns for 20 years.
The images, he says, come to him while swimming. He teaches at Yale University, and has a studio in New York; in the city, he swims in a pool. But Crewdson says he prefers to swim outside, in lakes and rivers. The world beyond the shore, he says, offers very little time for imagination, to get lost in unconscious thoughts — he finds that time in the water.

Beautiful Day

'Funny how a song can bring you right back to a particular period in your life.

There are songs that I can't even listen to because they remind me of a difficult time, and the sadness sweeps right back over me. Many songs that were popular when I was unhappily married the first time make me want to cry and I have to turn them off. Then there are the songs from high school ... memories of parties, sports bus rides, the static-filled art room radio, my bedroom stereo with the mountainous speakers. College songs are a mixed bag of good and (very) bad, and I can remember the exact reasons why I either love the song or hate it.

2001/2002 was an incredible span of time in my life...
August 2001: kicked out the bad guy
September 2001: you know what happened
October 2001: my dear Oma suddenly passed away
... divorce proceedings ... paperwork ... lawyers ... court dates ... raising my son alone ...
March 2002: my divorce was final
July 2002: I met the sweetest man
October 2002: my dear Dad suddenly passed away

Every song I hear from that period takes me back to that very bitter-sweet time in my life. Driving down the road and cranking the radio was therapy for me, and many songs were empowering. How can you sing along to Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive and NOT feel powerful??

On the way to work this morning, I heard U2's Beautiful Day, and I was brought back to a very specific day in the spring of 2002 when I was driving down the rural Niagara County roads singing along to the song and feeling excited about my new life unfolding before me. It was early spring, complete with muddy fields and dirty patches of snow - and beautiful sunshine.

The heart is a bloom 
Shoots up through the stony ground 
There's no room 
No space to rent in this town 

You're out of luck 
And the reason that you had to care 
The traffic is stuck 
And you're not moving anywhere 

You thought you'd found a friend 
To take you out of this place 
Someone you could lend a hand 
In return for grace 

It's a beautiful day 
Sky falls, you feel like 
It's a beautiful day 
Don't let it get away 

You're on the road 
But you've got no destination 
You're in the mud 
In the maze of her imagination 

You love this town 
Even if that doesn't ring true 
You've been all over 
And it's been all over you 

It's a beautiful day 
Don't let it get away 
It's a beautiful day 

Touch me 
Take me to that other place 
Teach me 
I know I'm not a hopeless case 

See the world in green and blue 
See China right in front of you 
See the canyons broken by cloud 
See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out 
See the Bedouin fires at night 
See the oil fields at first light 
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth 
After the flood all the colors came out 

It was a beautiful day 
Don't let it get away 
Beautiful day 

Touch me 
Take me to that other place 
Reach me 
I know I'm not a hopeless case 

What you don't have you don't need it now 
What you don't know you can feel it somehow 
What you don't have you don't need it now 
Don't need it now 
Was a beautiful day 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chris' Awesome Hot Pepper Dip

Thank you, Chris, for sharing with us!

Place the following in a food processor:
2 - 8 oz. cream cheese
1 C mayo
1 C shredded Mexican Blend cheese
1/2 C Parm. cheese
1 - 4 oz. chopped green chilis NOT drained
1 - 4 oz. can sliced jalapenos NOT drained (dbl. if you like heat) 

Mix the following:
1 C Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2 C Parm. cheese

1/2 stick butter

Combine Panko crumb and cheese mixture with butter and mix well.

Spread dip into a 2 QT greased casserole dish and top with crumb mixture.

Bake @ 375 for 20 min. until brown & bubbly.

Dog Age

Mari has been waking us up multiple times a night, asking for the door. I am doing a little "aging dog" research and I found this nifty calculator that figures the human age of your dog based on the breed. Here are Mari's results:

Dog Age Calculator Link HERE

Yup - 96 years old and that is using her age as 13 even though she will be turning 14 in June. When I typed in 14 years, the site told me this:

The calculation of your dog's age in human years is based on the dog's age at attaining puberty and expected life span. However, the specific dog age and breed you selected is currently not available on our PEDIGREE® Dog Age Calculator.


My old girl ... I'm trying to be patient with her despite the lack of sleep. She has been with me through many many things, including both joy and heartbreak, and I love her so very much. I really don't remember being an adult without her in my life. 

I pray that she never has to suffer or feel pain as I'm not sure my heart could handle that, especially right now. I also pray for wisdom so that I make good decisions in the coming weeks and months regarding her health.